Connect with us

Toronto Maple Leafs

Maple Leafs Quick Hits: Yes or No on ZAR, O’Reilly & Holl?

Before the regular season begins, the Toronto Maple Leafs need to make some decisions about UFAs. Who will they try to bring back?

Perhaps there’s just a lull that’s the same for every NHL team. However, it seems really quiet for the Toronto Maple Leafs at a time during the offseason when I might expect more action. Perhaps I forget how this works in June.

The Maple Leafs have a ton of work to do in what seems like not so much time to do it. Specifically, in terms of this post, I will look at three unrestricted free agents the team will likely consider. Among those players who finished the season with the team, which ones should the Maple Leafs seek to sign or let go?

Related: Maple Leafs Unwise to Seek Doan’s Help in Matthews’ Extension

Considering Aston-Reese, O’Reilly & Holl

In this post, I first want to look at Zach Aston-Reese (ZAR). Last season was his first in Toronto. Second, I want to look at Ryan O’Reilly (ROR). O’Reilly came at the trade deadline and the team hoped he might be the tipping point for getting them over the hump. Third, I want to look at Justin Holl. Holl has played with the Maple Leafs for the past six seasons.

For the sake of this post, let’s assume that the three players in question would like to return to the team. That might be a far reach, especially for Holl. Although he’s said he’d like to return to Toronto, given his reception and the fact that he has been a bit of a whipping boy among Maple Leafs’ fans, you’d think he’d take a chance to leave – almost anywhere perhaps – if he gets a comparable contract offer. It’s had to have been a rough ride personally on some nights.

For each player, I will present the reasons for and against bringing them back for the 2023-24 season.

Player One: Zach Aston-Reese – Should the Toronto Maple Leafs Re-Sign Him?

There are a number of reasons to re-sign Aston-Reese. These include:

Reason One: He Has a Strong Forecheck Game 

Aston-Reese’s effective forechecking style creates advantages for the Maple Leafs by applying pressure on opponents and disrupting plays.

Reason Two: His Physicality

The team benefits from Aston-Reese’s physical presence, as his hits create space for teammates. He adds a level of grit to the lineup.

Reason Three: His Net-Front Presence

Aston-Reese has the ability to battle in front of the net, which leads to scoring opportunities and screens for his teammates. He enhances the team’s offense and defense.

Reason Four: He’s on a Cap-Friendly Contrat

Re-signing Aston-Reese at a projected cost of under $1 million lets the Maple Leafs allocate resources to other areas of need while maintaining a capable forward.

One Potential Drawback

Reason One: Does He Take a Spot of an Emerging Prospect?

Are there promising prospects within the Maple Leafs’ organization, such as Bobby McMann or Matthew Knies, who could make Aston-Reese expendable if they demonstrate potential and fit his role?

Related: Could Phil Kessel Be a Valuable Addition to the Maple Leafs?

Player Two: Ryan O’Reilly, Should the Toronto Maple Leafs Re-Sign Him?

There are a number of reasons to re-sign O’Reilly.

Reasons One: The Impact of His Playoff Performance

O’Reilly’s experience, leadership, and championship resume add value to the team, particularly during the playoffs.

Reason Two: His Potential Fit 

If O’Reilly is willing to accept a shorter-term contract with a lower average annual value (AAV), he could still contribute to the Maple Leafs’ lineup. He does seem to bring out the best in John Tavares.

Reasons Why O’Reilly Might Be Headed to Free Agency

Reason One: His Contract Limitations

If O’Reilly is offered a significant contract, projected at $5.5 million annually over four years, it might be tough for the Maple Leafs to make that fit inside their salary cap constraints.

Reason Two: His Skating Speed and Roster Needs

O’Reilly is good, but he isn’t speedy. The team might see its potential in adding more speed to the lineup. If so, that could affect O’Reilly’s potential role and lead him to seek a better fit somewhere else.

Player Three: Justin Holl, Should the Toronto Maple Leafs Re-Sign Him?

There are a number of reasons to re-sign Justin Holl:

Reason One: His Defensive Consistency

Holl has shown the ability to be a solid defensive defenseman, particularly in controlling the puck on breakouts.

Reason Two: He’s a Right-Handed Defenseman

Holl has value as a right-handed defenseman who can kill penalties. That makes him attractive to almost any team. Right-handers are rare.

Reason Three: He Potentially Has a Cap-Friendly Contract

With an estimated salary cap hit of around $2.5 million, Holl could provide a cost-effective option for the Maple Leafs (or another team) looking to bolster their defensive depth.

Reasons Against Re-Signing Justin Holl

Reason One: His Inconsistent Performance

Holl does make the occasional mistake or lapse in his positioning. These raise concerns about his ability to consistently perform at a high level.

Reason Two: Are There Emerging Prospects?

The emergence of prospects Timothy Liljegren and Conor Timmins on the right side of the defense could make Holl expendable. If there’s a younger and as trustworthy defenseman who might play the spot, the team will open up opportunities for these prospects to make an impact.

The Bottom Line

As the offseason progresses, the Maple Leafs must make important decisions about Aston-Reese, O’Reilly, and Holl. Each player presents a unique set of reasons for and against their re-signing. 

Ultimately, decisions rest on the Maple Leafs’ long-term goals, roster plans, and the availability of other options in free agency or within their organization that are just as good (and perhaps much cheaper). 

We’ll see what the team will do in a few weeks.

Related: Prediction: Conor Timmins Will Have Breakout Season in 2023-24



  1. Roy James Peters

    June 12, 2023 at 10:03 pm

    I say yes to Zach and Ryan and big no to Holl he is for the last few years played worse every year Holl is fast on the downslide, he never was great but now he is a big liability on defense.

  2. Al Mac

    June 12, 2023 at 10:26 pm

    Yes to Zach and ROR, no to Holl.

  3. gfinale

    June 13, 2023 at 5:16 am

    Judging by fans’ comments in these various Leaf articles, unless the Leafs trade one of their corpse-4, there’s likely to be a mutiny. So, assuming that happens and probably if it doesn’t happen anyway, No, No, No. Holl has seemed to get an attitude on him where he’s not listening and instead screwing up. Of particular note is when he thinks he’s Rielly and carries the puck deep into the opponent’s end but then stands there doing nothing! The Leafs don’t need 2 defensemen who frequently get caught up the ice and giving up odd man rushes. He should stick to the blue line but doesn’t and I’m sure he’s been told. It’s the second year these issues with him have occurred and it’s time he moved on. O’Reilly will plain be too much for what he’s worth. His demeanor at the end hinted that he’s going for the money and not interested in being a Leaf. Hopefully, especially with the big trade coming up, the Leafs will have more cap to bump up on some of the bottom 6 and ZAR would be one, probably the main one. Giordano was poor in the playoffs. If he can’t find a way to strengthen better this summer then he’s not going to be that good during the regular season and cannot play next playoffs!

  4. Pingback: Peter Laviolette Takes the Helm as New York Rangers' Head Coach

  5. Pingback: Senators Sold: Speculation Starts Involving Key Team Decisions

  6. Pingback: Time to Re-Sign Samsonov and Make Him Maple Leafs Starter

Leave a Reply

More News