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Three players playing for their future with the Leafs this postseason
For the remainder of the season with the the Toronto Maple Leafs, what you see is pretty much what you’re gonna get.
The trade deadline is long gone, there’s few prospects likely to join the team’s roster, and there’s just 15 contests remaining before the games begin to count for real.
Toronto seems all but destined to face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the playoffs again, with many fans lamenting that there’s not much to play for in the regular season.
But that couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to the postseason.
Outside of the Leafs looking to secure their first playoff series victory since 2004, there’s also the internal roster battles of players one way or another competing for a roster spot on the team moving forward.
Toronto currently has the fourth-best odds (9.63) at winning the Stanley Cup Sports Interaction, trailing only the Boston Bruins (4.48), Colorado Avalanche (7.21), and Carolina Hurricanes (8.42).
At 6.53 to advance to the Stanley Cup Final, Toronto also has the third-best odds in the Eastern Conference to win three rounds, trailing just the Bruins (3.11) and Hurricanes (5.61).
And how close they get to that goal could dictate what the Leafs’ makeup could look like next season.
Here’s three players who could make or break their future in Toronto based on their postseason performances this coming April (and maybe even beyond)?
Cap hit: ($3.5m, expires 2023)
Stats: 67 GP, 7 G, 20 A, 27 P
Acquired back on Canada Day (along with Tyson Barrie) in 2019 as part of a high-profile trade for Nazem Kadri, Alex Kerfoot’s time in Toronto has been the true definition of an up-and-down tenure. Kerfoot actually finished second on the team in scoring in the 2021 postseason, putting up six points in a seven-game first round loss to Montreal.
But he’s also had struggles putting the puck in the net over the last few seasons, hitting the ten-goal marker just once in his time in Toronto. With Kerfoot set to hit free agency this summer, it’ll be interesting to see if the Leafs have any interesting in bringing him back into the fold next year.
Cap hit: ($2.0m, expires 2023)
Stats: 66 GP, 2 G, 12 A, 14 P
Justin Holl has been a staple of the Leafs’ defence corps for the last four seasons, after first making his debut in the 2017-18 season. He’s currently third on the team in minutes played per game, trailing only TJ Brodie and Morgan Rielly amongst Leafs defenders.
But at 31, Holl is right around the age where many NHL defenders see their games hit a heavy drop off, and Toronto is facing a big decision when it comes to his contract for next season. With Toronto having six other regular defencemen already signed under contract for next season, this could finally be the year Holl is the odd man out.
Cap hit: ($1.875 million (75% of original salary retained, expires 2023)
Stats: 8 GP, 3 G, 2 A, 5 P
Unlike the two other Leafs on this list, Ryan O’Reilly doesn’t exactly have years of history in Toronto for the team to judge his performance on. Breaking his finger just eight games into his tenure in Toronto and currently on the injured reserve, the 2019 Conn Smythe and Selke Trophy winner is set to hit free agency this summer.
Coming into Toronto on the final year of a massive seven-year, $52 million contract, O’Reilly really has all to play for when it comes to this postseason. Could he sign a team-friendly deal in order to stick around with his childhood team? Will Toronto be willing to cough up the money and move a couple other pieces around in order to keep him in place?
Only time will tell.
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