The Toronto Maple Leafs will look to silence the critics and embark upon a deep playoff run in the 2019-20 campaign. Here are 5 bold predictions for Kyle Dubas’ franchise.
It was a moment that will be regarded as dynamic-altering in nature — one that shall have long-standing ramifications on a multidimensional scale. With the July 1 afternoon turning into evening, the Toronto Maple Leafs sent Nazem Kadri, Calle Rosen and a 3rd-round selection in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft to the Colorado Avalanche for Tyson Barrie, Alexander Kerfoot and a 2020 6th-rounder.
With that, the Buds surrendered a surplus for a shortage, acquiring the much-needed defender that will allow them to seriously push for Lord Stanley’s trophy. As one general manager put it, “Now they’ve got cap space to sign their RFAs and they’re a legit contender with this defense.”
Of course, a swap of this variety comes with a cost. Kadri was the franchise’s longest-tenured player, serving as one of the league’s finest second/third-line centers on a bargain of a contract. Obtaining him will allow Colorado to relieve pressure from Nathan MacKinnon’s line, as Kadri boasts an offensively aware, defensively accountable game on a nightly basis.
Nevertheless, Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas made his move — proving, above all, that his organization’s primary concern is dealt with before the puck drops. A sure source of relief, indeed, for Leafs Nation.
Moving forward, let’s explore five bold predictions for the season ahead.
5. Auston Matthews will be named the club’s next captain
As it stands, the Maple Leafs are without a captain, but the looming question of the team’s future core — increasingly amplified by pressing trade talk — has ensured that debates over the club’s next ‘C’ bearer remain intact.
Multiple candidates emerge on this particular front. Center John Tavares is an obvious favorite, as the 28-year-old captained the New York Islanders in an admirable fashion prior to signing with the Buds on July 1 of last year. Morgan Rielly also serves as a popular option, as the defenseman’s off-ice leadership and constant community presence is a noteworthy compliment to his on-ice prowess.
But at the end of the day, Auston Matthews is the most probable frontrunner to land the esteemed letter. The 21-year-old center embodies all of the qualities of a captain in the modern game — competitive spirit and skill, progressively strong leadership and a capacity to act as the face of one of the sport’s most hailed franchises.
Of course, this is not to suggest that the aforementioned Tavares and Rielly are out of the running for the Maple Leafs’ captaincy. But after yet another disappointing first-round exit in the Stanley Cup playoffs to the Boston Bruins, fans remain desperate for avenues through which they can cheer their team on. The timing seems to be just about right — Matthews recently signed a five-year extension worth $58.17 million — so expect No. 34 to embrace an opportunity of this sort.