Once Tavares' 11m is off the books, even if he is resigned for 5m, the raises for the younger guys will balance out to being something similar as to what it is now. The defence is likely to start being an issue but they probably have 2-year window. Theg probably just need to phase out the Tavares contract really. That being said the difference between the Leafs and the Panthers offense in that series was Verhaeghe (3 goals) +a Nick Cousin goal. So, it's clear they could use a guy like Toffoli who can chip in as the 2/3LW. They should just let Bunting walk since Knies can probably replace his production. It's unfortunate we couldn't see more of Knies in the Florida series.
The Leafs definitely need guys like Robertson, McMann, and Holmberg to be competing for roster spots next year.
Don’t know I think theres a lot of problems:
basically all of the top players, except Reilly are RFAs/UFAs in the next 2 years.
DEFENSE: The only young dmen are lijegren (only played 6 out of 12 playoff games) and timmins (didn’t dress it all) and Schenn, Holl, Gustaffson are UFAs now, with Giordano and Brodie looking just plain old this playoffs and probably not worth resigning next yr and only Niemala probably 2 yrs away doesn’t bode well. Theres little cap to improve here and little commodities to deal for an upgrade. McCabe and Reilly are both abovbe average as a 1LD and 2LD, but wheres the quality behind them?
YOUTH: Holmberg looked serviceable, but Robertson disappointed again and 26 yr old McMann looks void of offensive production, as above, neither liljegren/timmins are looking like a quality top 4, mete/kral/benn/hollowell are looking like never-weres/will-bes, with villenueve/niemala probably 2 yrs or more away. Guys like Steeves, Abueze, Hirvonen might have some capability, but none look like good bets to be quality top 6 guys. Everyone else is probably 3 yrs away or more and with such few high round picks over the next 3 yrs, unrealistic to think that a lot of ELC will enable cap space.
And ultimately, if Keefe is going to play the top 6 24+ minutes a night and the bottom 6 less than 15 (in a longish OT game), than its irrelevant, but it hasn’t worked for a lot of years now.
Ultimately I think/believe they need to find a way to develop a TEAM, not just 2 forward lines and relying on annual imports on defense or for physicality/grit. Matthews and Nylander will easily eat the expiring monies of Brodie and increased cap, without a suitable amount of money to address RFAs or get a top 4 dman replacement for Brodie, so just thinking they’ll find cap space among the status quo or wait til Tavares expires wastes everyones careers. But ultimately if you’re trying to maintain status quo and just hope everyone will be better year after year, or “stay young”, you’re inviting same or lesser results.