Leafs' "core four" believe they'll all be back next season: report

May 23 2023, 8:38 pm

Though change is sweeping through the Toronto Maple Leafs front office, the much-anticipated trade market for any one of the team’s star forwards might be dead on arrival.

According to Chris Johnston, the Leafs’ “core four” forward group of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and John Tavares are all expecting to be back next season, following conversations with team president Brendan Shanahan over the past week.

In the wake of Kyle Dubas’ shock firing as general manager of the team last Friday, Johnston described phone calls between Shanahan and “each of the Leafs’ top players.” While he didn’t name which players were spoken to, the aforementioned forwards, as well as defenceman Morgan Rielly, were likely on the list.

“Those players came away from those conversations believing that Brandon Shanahan’s intention is to bring the entire core four back,” Johnston mentioned on his self-titled podcast today.

Johnston made clear that it wasn’t a certainty that the Leafs wouldn’t be making a blockbuster move, but rather that the players had confidence in their front office to give it at least one more kick at the can.

“That’s not written in stone. And obviously, we don’t know [who] the GM is… Maybe the new GM has a different perspective on that. But I do think it’s interesting that as much as we focused on the possibility for change, maybe even the need for change, that those players actually believe that they’re going to be back together, at least at this point in time,” Johnston added.

Trading any of Toronto’s high-end players wouldn’t be an easy move for multiple reasons, one of which is that Marner, Matthews, and Tavares all make upwards of $10.9 million per season. While no shortage of teams would be interested in their services, it’s tougher to imagine a scenario where Toronto makes their roster better by shipping away a key forward.

“Kyle Dubas had opened the door on his last Monday press conference saying that ‘everything’ would be on the table if he was running the team. Well, Brendan Shanahan’s the top voice in the hockey department. And I don’t know if he gave assurances or promises — we might get into semantics here — but certainly those players I don’t think are bracing to be traded,” Johnston added. “Even as much speculation is out there, it just seems that they believe the organization wants to move forward with them as a core four.”

Adam LaskarisAdam Laskaris

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