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3 Questions the Maple Leafs Must Address During All-Star Break

Heading into the All-Star break and their pro scouting meetings, there are three key questions the Toronto Maple Leafs need to address.

The Toronto Maple Leafs find themselves at a pivotal crossroads in the current NHL season. Bolstered by the offensive brilliance of stars like William Nylander and Auston Matthews, the team has displayed an ability to score but faces pressing questions about the sustainability of their success. Heading into the All-Star break and pro scouting meetings, it’s time to decide, how big of a buyer is this franchise? And, if buying, who are they targeting?

Beyond individual brilliance, the team grapples with the challenge of securing playoff success and addressing critical defensive shortcomings. They hold the first Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference and there are three key questions the team must answer to navigate their path forward and achieve a balance between offensive prowess and defensive stability.

Question One: Is The Core Four Reliable Enough?

The Maple Leafs face a pressing question regarding Nylander’s exceptional performance and his huge new contract. They’ve essentially put all their chips in his basket, tying them to the core four again. While that won’t affect the salary cap this season, any trade is out the window that would have seen an unsigned Nylander potentially moved.

Brad Treliving confirmed the Maple Leafs will look at trades to bolster their defense and he talked about Nylander’s negotiations.

As unlikely as it was for the Leafs to move on from Nylander in a season they were challenging for the playoffs, if they had determined they weren’t heavy buyers, they might have been open to a deal. It’s ironic that the moment they signed him, insiders started asking if this was the year to push all in. Frankly, if there was real doubt this team was a contender in 2023/24, a Nylander move could have been a real possibility.

Now, any playoff hopes ride on Nylander, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and John Tavares. No major reinforcements are coming. And no big roster shakeup is happening. What small pieces can be added around these four to help them?

Question Two: Can Offensive Brilliance Alone Secure Playoff Success?

In the face of regular-season success driven by the offensive prowess of key players like Nylander, Matthews, and Marner, the Maple Leafs have to confront questions about their defense. The team’s reliance on high-scoring performances, often requiring four or five goals per game, contrasts with the norm of low-scoring affairs in playoff scenarios.

It must be asked, can the Leafs depend solely on offensive brilliance to achieve success in the playoffs? If the answer is no, they need to find a defenseman, maybe two. Who is it that can be a difference maker? One that, based on his play, ups the ability of this Maple Leafs team to limit shots and goals against?

Question Three: How Will the Maple Leafs Address Their Goaltending Dilemmas?

Beyond the defense, goaltending is a real question mark. Ilya Samsonov played well in his return, but there is no guarantee that kind of solid play continues. Meanwhile, the team is still without Joseph Woll. Martin Jones has been doing his part, but is the lack of uncertainty surrounding this trio problematic enough that the Leafs feel the need to do something?

This is especially important if additions aren’t made to shore up the blue line. The more chances against the Leafs leak, the more the goaltending needs to be above average.

The Bottom Line for the Maple Leafs Moving Forward

In the face of these pivotal questions, the Maple Leafs must have tough conversations over the break and come out with a solid plan they intend to stick to. Identifying first what they are — small buyer, big buyer, or seller — is key. From there, it’s about what they need and who they can get that will actually help.

Next: Oilers’ CEO Hints Team Won’t Shy Away From Huge Deadline Deal

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