Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas has built a roster full of elite talent. Can they finally put it all together and go on a run for the Stanley Cup? Here's everything you need to know about the Maple Leafs heading into the 2019-20 NHL season:
The big question: Money, crime, drama ... can the NHL's biggest soap opera end with a Stanley Cup?
The Maple Leafs tend to get more attention than most teams, but the ongoing drama around their team for the past month has made the Leafs the talk of hockey.
Is Dubas in over his head, or has his constructed a one-and-done championship roster on a capped-out team?
Can Toronto, and its fans, trust Matthews after his idiotic decision not to inform the team about his charges of disorderly conduct back in Scottsdale, Arizona, as his employer had to find out about it on Twitter?
What happens if they have to play the Bruins in the playoffs again?
Is Frederik Andersen a Cup-calber goalie?
So many questions. Win or lose, it's never boring in Toronto.
Offseason comings and goings, cap situation
The six-year, $65.358-million contract handed to Marner was seen by some as an egregious overpayment for a player with one elite season, and by others as an understandable investment in a 22-year-old star. That financial stare-down affected Toronto's offseason, including the departure of defenseman Jake Gardiner to the Carolina Hurricanes on a four-year deal.
The Leafs also made two significant trades, shipping the toxic contract of Nikita Zaitsev to the Senators in a deal that sent defensemen Cody Ceci and Ben Harpur to the Leafs. They also dealt Nazem Kadri, last seen suspended (again) against the Bruins in the playoffs, to the Colorado Avalanche for Alexander Kerfoot and Tyson Barrie. Jason Spezza, meanwhile, arrived on a one-year, $700,000 deal to be the fourth-line center.
The Toronto Maple Leafs end the 2019-20 NHL season hoisting their first Stanley Cup since 1967. No, this is not a misprint. How's that for bold?
Breakout candidate: Andreas Johnsson
His rookie season earned him some Calder Trophy voting love, finishing eighth, but not the kind of widespread attention his 20 goals and 23 assists otherwise might have on another less loaded team. He needs a good start to his season; if he gets one, he might end up staying on Matthews' wing when Zach Hyman returns from injury.
Top-six scoring. Price tags aside, there are few teams in the NHL that can boast a collection of talent in their top two lines the Leafs can, with Matthews centering Johnsson and William Nylander, and Tavares centering Kasperi Kapanen and Marner. These are high-octane offensive dominators.
The bottom six. Kerfoot will be a decent replacement for Kadri, who was primarily sacrificed so the Leafs could land Barrie. But Ilya Mikheyev, Trevor Moore, Spezza, Frederik Gauthier ... let's just say that there are teams the Leafs have to get through in the East with slightly more accomplished and reliable depth at forward than Toronto.
Maple Leafs in NHL Rank
9. Auston Matthews, C
14. John Tavares, C
21. Mitch Marner, RW
Those pricey forwards help Toronto land the No. 3 spot in NHL roster, but the other categories lag behind: cap/contracts (No. 13), followed by owner/GM/coach (No. 14) and prospects (No. 22).
Pipeline ranking: 22
49. Rasmus Sandin, D
62. Nicholas Robertson, RW
Fantasy facts to know
The arrival of Barrie brings down the potential of Morgan Rielly. Barrie is an accomplished power-play quarterback in his own right, so it's not as if he won't share responsibilities with Rielly. Both will be fantasy relevant, but they will keep each other from the top tier of defensemen.
After Tavares, Matthews, Marner and a defenseman (Barrie or Rielly) are locked in, there is a spot up for grabs on the first power-play unit. This role is going to be an explosive one for offense -- whether its a forward or the other aforementioned defenseman. Get this person on your team, whomever it is. Nylander, Johnsson and Kapanen are the prime candidates among forwards.
Speaking of explosive opportunities, Hyman is expected to miss the first month of action or so. That means a wing job in the explosive top six is up for grabs for at least a short time. Once again, this is a player you want on your fantasy team. In a dream scenario, the same player gets the power-play role, but that might be too much to ask. -- Sean Allen