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Team Reset

Maple Leafs add Tavares, eye deep playoff run

Free agent acquisition strengthens center depth with Matthews, Kadri

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / NHL.com Staff Writer

After the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, NHL.com is taking a look at where each team stands. Today, the Toronto Maple Leafs:

The Toronto Maple Leafs signed free agent center John Tavares to help them advance past the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2004.

An unrestricted free agent, Tavares signed a seven-year, $77 million contract July 1 after hearing pitches from the Maple Leafs, New York Islanders, San Jose Sharks, Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins and Dallas Stars. The 27-year-old center, who grew up in the Toronto area, was selected by the Islanders with the No. 1 pick in the 2009 NHL Draft and played nine seasons for New York.

 

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"I think with where the Maple Leafs are at as an organization and as a team, and obviously the connection of those feelings that I started to get being from here and what an opportunity this could be, it just felt like it was right," Tavares said.

With the departures of veteran free agent forwards Tyler Bozak, James van Riemsdyk and Matt Martin, Toronto will look to young forwards, including 23-year-old Andreas Johnsson, to play significant roles.

Here is what the Maple Leafs look like today:

 

Key arrivals

John Tavares, F: The Islanders captain since the 2013-14 season, Tavares had 84 points (37 goals, 47 assists) in 82 games last season and led New York in scoring in seven of his nine seasons. He'll join Auston Matthews (63 points; 34 goals, 29 assists) and Nazem Kadri (55 points; 32 goals, 23 assists) to form one of the most formidable cache of centers in the NHL … Par Lindholm, F: The 26-year-old signed a one-year, entry-level contract May 17. Lindholm finished fourth in scoring in the Swedish Elite League last season with 47 points (18 goals, 29 assists) for Skelleftea AIK and is projected by Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock to have the inside track to be the No. 4 center. … Tyler Ennis, F: The 28-year-old signed a one-year, $650,000 contract July 7 after he had 22 points (eight goals, 14 assists) for the Minnesota Wild last season. … Josh Jooris, F: The 28-year-old signed a one-year, $650,000 contract July 1. He has 55 points (23 goals, 32 assists) in 213 NHL games.

Video: John Tavares on his new deal with the Maple Leafs

 

Key departures

James van Riemsdyk, F: The 29-year-old signed a five-year contract with the Philadelphia Flyers on July 1. He had 294 points (154 goals, 140 assists) in five seasons with the Maple Leafs, including 45 power-play goals. … Tyler Bozak, F: The 32-year-old signed a three-year, $15 million contract with the St. Louis Blues on July 1. Deemed expendable with the addition of Tavares, Bozak had 365 points (136 goals, 229 assists) in 594 games with the Maple Leafs. … Roman Polak, D: The 32-year-old signed a one-year, $1.3 million contract with the Dallas Stars on July 1. Polak had 12 points (two goals, 10 assists) in 54 games last season after having surgery to repair a right leg fracture sustained in Game 2 of the 2017 first round against the Washington Capitals … Tomas Plekanec, F: The 35-year-old returned to the Montreal Canadiens after agreeing to a one-year, $2.25 million contract July 1. Acquired in a trade with the Canadiens on Feb. 25, Plekanec had two points in 17 regular-season games with Toronto … Dominic Moore, F: With so much depth at center, Toronto opted to allow Moore, 35, to leave as an unrestricted free agent. He had 12 points (six goals, six assists) in 50 games last season.

 

On the cusp

Andreas Johnsson, F: Named MVP of the Calder Cup Playoffs after he had 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists) in 16 games for the champion Marlies. … Garret Sparks, G: The 25-year-old was named the AHL's top goaltender after going 31-9-2 with a 1.79 goals-against average and league-leading .936 save percentage. He's expected to compete with 35-year-old Curtis McElhinney to back up Frederik Andersen.

Video: TOR@BOS, Gm7: Kapanen dekes out Rask, pots SHG

 

What they still need

A top-end defenseman appears to be the one glaring absence in the Maple Leafs' blueprint to becoming a Stanley Cup contender. A player to watch is puck-moving Travis Dermott, 21, who had 13 points (one goal, 12 assists) in 37 games after he was called up from the AHL.

 

Fantasy focus

Tavares has dominated any talk when it comes to forecasting the Maple Leafs this season. A more overlooked angle of the signing is the positive impact on fantasy-relevant defensemen Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner. Each is ranked within the top 30 fantasy defensemen by NHL.com, but the positive effect of Tavares could give them a boost at even strength and on the power play. Gardiner is coming off an NHL career-high 52 points (five goals, 47 assists) in 82 games and has added value from the possible motivation of becoming an unrestricted free agent after this season. Rielly also had an NHL career-high 52 points (six goals, 46 assists) and has an even higher ceiling with one of the best one-two center combinations in the NHL. -- Rob Reese

 

Projected lineup

Zach Hyman -- John Tavares -- Mitchell Marner

Patrick Marleau -- Auston Matthews -- William Nylander

Andreas Johnsson -- Nazem Kadri -- Kasperi Kapanen

Josh Leivo -- Par Lindholm -- Connor Brown

Morgan Rielly -- Ron Hainsey

Jake Gardiner -- Connor Carrick

Travis Dermott -- Nikita Zaitsev

Frederik Andersen

Curtis McElhinney

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