7 players likely to be off the Leafs' roster next season

May 18 2023, 7:17 pm

The Toronto Maple Leafs are at a crossroads.

Following the team’s crushing playoff exit at the hands of the Florida Panthers earlier this year, a change appears just around the corner for the team this offseason.

Much ado has been made about the Leafs’ core-four forward group and whether there’s a necessary trade to be made with one of Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Auston Matthews, or John Tavares.

But outside of those forwards, there’s a major roster overhaul coming over this summer out of necessity. Ten different players have expiring contracts with the possibility to hit unrestricted free agency, and it’s next to impossible to find a way to bring all of them back.

Here are seven Leafs players who look like they’ll be departing this summer, with reasons behind why each player is likely to be on the outs.

1. Michael Bunting, LW/RW

Last contract: Two years, $850k AAV (expired)

2022-23 stats: 82 GP, 23 G, 26 A, 49 P

Why he’s likely out:

For the last two seasons, Michael Bunting has been Toronto’s worst-kept secret, scoring 46 goals and 112 points on a contract paying just $950,000 per year.

But Bunting’s days of being one of the NHL’s bargain contracts are over, and he’s one of the hottest commodities on this summer’s free agent market.

The cash-strapped Leafs simply likely don’t have enough space to fit in a player like Bunting’s contract, and he’ll likely be cheered on when he returns to Toronto after cashing in a much bigger payday somewhere else.

2. Ryan O’Reilly, C

Last contract: Seven years, $7.5 million AAV (expired)

2022-23 stats: 53 GP, 16 G, 14 A, 30 PTS (split between St. Louis and Toronto

Why he’s likely out:

If Ryan O’Reilly was able to play for free, there’s a decent chance he’d be back with Toronto for another go-around. Toronto was able to afford his big contract through a bit of creative manipulation through the trade market, meaning Toronto was on the books for a cap hit of just $1.875 million this past year following his acquisition.

But the 2019 Selke and Conn Smythe Trophy winner showed this go-around with Toronto that he’s still got quite a bit of juice left in his legs, and like Bunting, is likely commanding a dollar value too rich for the Leafs to afford.

3. Justin Holl, D

Last contract: Three years, $2 million AAV (expired)

2022-23 stats:  80 GP, 2 G, 16 A, 18 PTS

Why he’s likely out:

It seems like we’ve gone through this song and dance before, where fans proclaim there’s no way Toronto could possibly bring back Justin Holl before seeing him on the roster again for next season. But with Holl actually having his contract expire — while being yanked from Toronto’s playoff roster for three games in a row this postseason — shows that perhaps his time with the Leafs really is coming to an end.

4. Wayne Simmonds, LW/RW

Last contract: Two years, $900,000 AAV (expired)

2022-23 stats: 18 GP, 0 G, 2 A, 2 PTS

Why he’s likely out:

This one isn’t exactly a surprise, with Wayne Simmonds playing just 18 games over the course of this past season while appearing in zero playoff contests. A job in hockey likely awaits Simmonds should he choose to remain in the sport, but there doesn’t seem to be a path for him to return to being a regular in Toronto’s lineup.

5. David Kampf, LW/RW/C

Contract: Two years, $1.5 million AAV (expired)

2022-23 stats: 82 GP, 7 G, 20 A, 27 PTS

Why he’s likely out:

If nothing else, a change of scenery might make sense for David Kampf after two seasons in Toronto.

He’s served as a viable middle-six option for $1.5 million over the course of the last two seasons but hasn’t particularly stood out as an exceptional talent. Returning is an option, but Toronto might be best at offering his contract spot to a younger player on a slightly cheaper deal.

6. Matt Murray, G

Last contract: Four years, $6.25 million AAV (expires 2024)

2022-23 stats: 26 GP, 3.01 GAA, .903 SV%

Why he’s likely out:

When the Leafs first traded for Murray last summer, the biggest concern was whether or not he’d be able to stay healthy through the course of the season. Spoiler: he wasn’t able to, suffering three major injuries over the course of one season.

Murray has just one year left on his contract, but a buyout would cost the Leafs just $687,500 over the course of next season. It’s an option Toronto is likely to seriously consider as they look ahead to the future.

7. Erik Gustafsson, D

Last contract: One year, $800k (expired

2022-23 stats: 70 GP, 7 G, 35 A, 42 PTS

Why he’s likely out:

Would you sign with the Leafs again if you were Erik Gustafsson? After coming over as part of the Rasmus Sandin trade earlier this year, Gustafsson ended up playing just nine regular season and two playoff games for Toronto, partially due to the birth of his child, and partially due to being bumped out of Sheldon Keefe’s regular rotation.

While Gustafsson could have a spot on the team next year, it’s likely he’ll chase a bigger role somewhere else.

Adam LaskarisAdam Laskaris

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