For the sixth consecutive year under the Auston Matthews era,’ the Toronto Maple Leafs were eliminated in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. However, unlike in previous years the elimination this year left a positive feeling among many fans of “Leafsnation”. The Leafs managed to take the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning to a game seven and only lost the game 2-1. Unfortunately, the Leafs have not progressed past the first round since 2004 and have the longest reigning cup drought at 55 years, last winning the Stanley Cup in 1967.
As the offseason approached, there was much to consider for Kyle Dubas, General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The cap space available to all teams will be rising by only $1 million to a total of $82.5M for next season. One of the bigger challenges for Dubas will be heading into the 2024-25 season as Auston Matthews and William Nylander will be unrestricted free agents and require new contracts. Similarly, John Tavares & Mitch Marner will also be unrestricted free agents the following season (2025-26). While we may not know for certain what the amount available will be for teams to use in terms of cap space during that time, an inspiring precedent has been set by a veteran leader on this roster.
Mark Giordano, signed with the Calgary Flames in 2004 after going undrafted eventually becoming the captain of the team. After being exposed to the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft, Dubas and the Toronto Maple Leafs would bolster their blue line by trading for the Toronto native at the trade deadline. After 18 years, Giordano would play for the Leafs, a team he grew up watching. The veteran blueliner played just short of 20 minutes a night in the postseason and would become a free agent as the season came to an end. The Leafs wasted no time in extending Giordano to a two-year deal worth $800,000 annually, but the organization had offered the veteran close to $1M to retain his services.
For a player such as Mark Giordano to take a hometown discount to remain with the Maple Leafs should act as an example and as a precedent for the young players on this team. Giordano who is known as a leader not only by his teammates in the locker room but by players around the league conveys the message that this team can win. Furthermore, it could act as a blueprint for the younger superstars to accept contracts at somewhat of a discount to gain the ultimate trophy, the Stanley Cup. While Kyle Dubas and the Leafs will have their hands full, the extension of Mark Giordano is a positive start towards next season.