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New players

It’s already been a busy and productive summer for Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Kyle Dubas, and I currently feel optimistic about the potential of next year’s Leafs.

The first-round playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning stung a bit more for me than past year’s losses. I think this was mostly because I thought that was the best seven-game performance the Leafs have given in a playoff series in the past six seasons. But with roster changes comes the potential for even better future playoff performances going forward.

I’ll start with the goaltending changes. Despite the risk of both goalie acquisitions made this offseason, I feel like this new tandem has the potential to surprise some people. Despite not being able to find his footing in Ottawa, and having some injury-filled seasons, Matt Murray is a previous Stanley Cup winner with the Pittsburgh Penguins and is only 28 years old, two years younger than departing goalie Jack Campbell. Sure, in the past couple of seasons, he’s had a goals-against-average over three goals per game, but that was with a Senators team which hasn’t been going through a rebuild. In his five seasons with the Penguins, however, his goals-against-average comes to about 2.5. To put that in perspective, Petr Mrazek finished last season with a goals-against-average of 3.34 and Jack Campbell finished the season with a goals-against-average of 2.64. With help from the team’s medical staff and a better defence core in front of him, Murray could potentially find the form which made him a Stanley Cup winner with the Penguins, as well as better consistency. The Leafs also added goaltender Ilya Samsonov. The 25-year-old goaltender is a former first-round pick of the Washington Capitals. Yes, he struggled this past season, putting up a goals-against-average of 3.02 in 44 games played. But, he’s only a couple of seasons removed from having a 0.913 save percentage and a 2.55 goals-against-average. Having only played a few seasons in the NHL, I feel like the best is yet to come for the young Russian goalie.

The Leafs’ general manager has also improved the team’s depth of defencemen, by resigning trade deadline acquisition Mark Giordano and also adding Jordie Benn and Victor Mete to the team. For a team that has struggled with defence in the past, it’s important to continue to invest in that position.

Another notable signing was that of forward Calle Jarnkrok. The Swedish forward, throughout his career, has averaged about 13 goals per season, so he should help the team’s bottom two lines. Jarnkrok is also a versatile player, as he can play as a centre or a winger, just like current Leaf Alex Kerfoot can.

Lastly, on the forward core, the Leafs added a Stanley Cup winner from this year’s Colorado Avalanche, Nicolas Aube-Kubel. For a team that hasn’t had much playoff success recently, it is important to have players in the locker room who know what it takes to win.

While the Leafs still have some work to do, as Rasmus Sandin still needs a new contract and they are currently above the salary cap, the moves they’ve made so far this summer have given me hope they’ll have an even better season in 2023.

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