2019 Toronto Maple Leafs Odds to win Stanley Cup with Expert Predictions
The media up here in Canada where I live talks too much about the Toronto Maple Leafs at the best of times. Even a couple thousand miles away from where Torontonians assume is the center of the universe, as I am. But the amount of talk about the team was ratcheted up to a whole new level this summer thanks to the contract impasse between the team and star winger Mitch Marner. The team went far too long in a standoff with William Nylander last year, and Marner is a more important and talented player, so all eyes were on what would happen. And Marner's deal seemed like it would be a key deal to get the backlog of star young restricted free agents moving back onto the ice. His deal would perhaps set the market.
In the end it got done - sooner and probably for a bit more money than people expected. And now the Maple Leafs have their core in place. They have a ridiculously strong group of forwards now wrapped up for years to come. But have they done enough on the back end to take the step from a dangerous team to a true contender? They have already proven that having more firepower than an opponent isn't enough to win a playoff series. But proving that is only half the battle, and fixing it is the tougher part.
Toronto Maple Leafs Offseason Moves
Besides Marner, GM Kyle Dubas signed new deals with middle six forwards Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen. Both of those deals were good ones for the team. But Dubas was far from done after the signings. He was very active in wheeling and dealing in the summer. He had traded for Jake Muzzin last year to improve defensively, and he kept on going on that front. In one of the bigger trades of the summer, he sent center Nazim Kadri, who had rejected a trade to Calgary earlier in the summer, and Calle Rosen, to Colorado for defender Tyson Barrie and forward Alexander Kerfoot. Barrie is the centerpiece of the deal and will likely play with Muzzin, being the offensive flash to Muzzin's stay-at-home discipline.
After that, Dubas mostly worked to deal with payroll issues to free money for Marner and the rest of the roster. He was able to send Nikita Zaitsev's awful contract to Ottawa because the Senators are more worried about getting to the salary cap floor than the ceiling. In return, they took on one year of Cody Ceci, a defender who is overpaid but is capable. They traded backup goalie Garret Sparks to Vegas for the big contract of David Clarkson, a lousy deal originally negotiated by Toronto back in 2013. Injuries have kept Clarkson out since 2016, and he won't play again, so the Leafs can put him on long-term injured reserve and get cap relief. They also sent a first-round pick to Carolina to convince the Hurricanes to take on the contract of Patrick Marleau. The Hurricanes immediately bought out the aged star.
Add it all up, and add in the addition of veteran Jason Spezza on a
reasonable deal, and the departure of defenseman Jake Gardiner in free
agency, and you have a team that has gone through a fairly significant
re-jigging since the end of last year.
Toronto Maple Leafs NHL Outlook
They have definitely taken steps forward. But there is a lot of uncertainty. How much will Kadri be missed? Can Marner handle the pressure of being an $11 million man? Can Tyson Barrie fit in with his new team - one that is very different than Colorado, and is in an entirely different media reality? How can Muzzin do with an offseason to adjust to the team? Can Nylander get back on track after struggling badly post-holdout last year? What does the third defensive pairing look like in the end? There is a lot of upside here but a lot of work to do to achieve it.
Toronto Maple Leafs Schedule
There are plenty of chances for this team to prove what they are early in this season. In October they play the defending champion Blues and Tampa Bay in back to back games, and also play Washington and Boston twice each. Those six games will tell us a lot about how effective these changes have been and how much work the team has left to do before the playoffs start again.
Toronto Maple Leafs NHL Futures Odds
Toronto is tied with Vegas as the second choice to win the Stanley Cup at +1200, behind only Tampa Bay at +700. They are tied with Boston as the second choice to win the Stanley Cup at +700 and are the second choice to win the Atlantic Division at +275. Their season point total is set at 101.5, with balanced action. They are -350 to make the playoffs compared to +290 to miss them.
2019-20 Toronto Maple Leafs Predictions
This is a better team on paper than it was last year. But it was a better team on paper last year than it proved to be when things mattered in the spring. The team really trailed off later in the year, and coach Mike Babcock seemed to be having serious problems keeping everyone on the same page. I am still skeptical that this core has what it takes - in terms of mental toughness, not talent - to make a big run. This is a strong team, but not strong enough to justify the Stanley Cup or Eastern Conference price. They still need to prove what they can do before I will trust that they can do it. It's a "show me" season for this team.
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