According to The Score, Toronto Maple Leafs President Brendan Shanahan has been given the authority by Maple Leafs Sports and entertainment to re-build the struggling club. It was reported that Shanahan wanted to begin the process earlier, but ownership was unwilling to give the go ahead. The current state of the leafs have caused the mentality to change.
According to various sources, the Leafs now consider a new core to build around, which includes the likes of Morgan Reilly, Jonathan Bernier, James van Riemsdyk, Nazem Kadri, and William Nylander. Jake Gardiner is a maybe in future plans.
Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel are both not included in these future plans, meaning the Leafs goal at this moment is to shed salary and build through the draft. This means about another 5 years of suffering for Leafs fans.
To look at the positives of the situation, the team does have assets that they can sell for a high price. IF done properly, the team can sell these established players such as Phaneuf and Kessel, shed their salary, and receive up and coming youth for the future. This is easier said than done, which brings another question to this wild season, will it be Dave Nonis who leads the re-build as the Leafs GM?
He has been responsible for putting the team in the current situation they are in, giving huge contracts to Clarkson, Phaneuf, Kessel, and Bozak. Because of these high cap hits, the Leafs don't have the room to sign current stud defender Cody Franson, who is guaranteed to walk in free agency this summer. The Maple Leafs do have an option in their system to replace Nonis in Mark Hunter, who built the juggernaut London Knights of the OHL and was hired this past off season.
It is the best decision to tear down the roster and start from scratch, as much as the fans will hate this. Years of mediocrity have forced the Leafs to realize that a proper re-build is needed. One thing that needs to be fixed in order for this process to become successful is a better draft record, as the Leafs have not had much success.
Leafs #1 Prospect William Nylander
So in the coming weeks leading up to the Trade Deadline we will see who stays and who goes, and the bigger names on the roster are more likely to be traded at the Draft in June. To all my fellow Leaf fans, we are back to only having hope.