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Maple Leafs offseason questions include van Riemsdyk, Bozak, Komarov

Status of free agent forwards, GM Lamoriello unsettled

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / NHL.com Staff Writer

TORONTO -- James van Riemsdyk took an emotional look around the Toronto Maple Leafs dressing room at Air Canada Centre on Friday, wondering if this was his last hurrah in his hockey home for six seasons.

 

[RELATED: Maple Leafs expected more from themselves in playoff run]

 

"It's definitely a weird feeling knowing it might be the final time walking out of this locker room as a [part of this organization]," the forward said. "But it happens sometimes and we'll see what happens."

Such uncertainty looms over the Maple Leafs, who had the most points in their history this season (105) but lost in six games to the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference First Round.

Van Riemsdyk is one of their six pending unrestricted free agents. What the Maple Leafs do with them will be part of what stands to be an active offseason for Toronto.

Here are five pressing questions that came to the forefront Friday when the players cleaned out their lockers:

 

What are the major roster decisions?

Though pending UFAs van Riemsdyk (294 points; 154 goals, 140 assists in 154 games) and forward Tyler Bozak (365 points; 136 goals, 229 assists in 136 games) have put up impressive numbers with the Maple Leafs, each said his future is unclear and that there have been no contract talks with Toronto. The belief among many Toronto fans is that both are gone.

Video: TOR@BOS, Gm5: Bozak snaps puck past Rask

The situation involving another UFA, forward Leo Komarov (122 points; 52 goals, 70 assists in 327 NHL games, all with Toronto) remains in flux. Coach Mike Babcock reiterated Friday that he likes Komarov's grit-and-sandpaper style.

Forwards Tomas Plekanec and Dominic Moore are not expected to return. Defenseman Roman Polak is the other pending UFA on the roster, and it's unclear whether he'll be back.

The most interesting decision could involve forward William Nylander, who was third on Toronto with 61 points (20 goals, 41 assists) this season and can be become a restricted free agent July 1. The Maple Leafs control his rights, but will they commit to a long-term contract?

 

Is there a rift between Babcock and Matthews?

When Babcock returned to Toronto from attending daughter Alex's graduate school commencement at the University of Michigan on Thursday, he received a text asking about a by Sportsnet that there was a rift between the coach and center Auston Matthews.

Babcock said he asked Matthews about it during exit meetings Friday.

"Auston was [ticked] off in the third period of our last game," Babcock said. "So were 23 other guys."

Babcock said he thinks he and Matthews have a good relationship.

"I feel like I push Auston to be better every day," he said. "I've made it clear to him that if I'm pushing him too hard every day, then come to my office and tell me."

Pressed about his relationship with Babcock, Matthews said, "It's been good. I don't know where these questions are coming from."

Babcock was questioned during the playoffs for not having Matthews on the first power-play unit. Five Toronto players (van Riemsdyk, 15:05; Marner, 13:32; Bozak, 13:19; defenseman Morgan Rielly, 13:16; and Nylander, 11:46) had more power-play time in the series than Matthews (11:27).

Marner (69 points; 22 goals, 47 assists) and Matthews (63 points; 34 goals, 29 assists) were the top two Maple Leafs scorers during the regular season and said Friday they would like to be linemates next season. Marner and Matthews played 72:46 together at 5-on-5 over 62 games in the regular season.

On that note, Babcock said it is too easy to commit to lines.

 

Did injuries factor into Matthews getting two points in the playoffs?

Matthews (one goal, one assist) said he had lingering bumps and bruises from the regular season and refused to use them as an excuse. But Babcock pointed to the back injury that caused Matthews to miss four games from Nov. 8-16 as a potential factor.

Video: BOS@TOR, Gm3: Matthews goes top shelf on Rask

"He's never been able to skate (at full speed) since then," Babcock said.

Matthews also missed six games (Dec. 10-20) with a concussion and 10 games (Feb. 24-March 20) with a shoulder injury.

 

Will Lamoriello be back as general manager?

Lou Lamoriello's three-year contract with the Maple Leafs runs out this offseason, and president Brendan Shanahan has not publicly committed to extending it.

Lamoriello offered little clarity on the matter Friday when asked if he would be the GM next season.

"My focus right now is doing what my responsibilities are and allowing that to take its course," Lamoriello said.

 

What is the Maple Leafs' most pressing need?

Defense. Defense. And defense. 

The Bruins exposed them there, scoring 28 goals in seven games (4.0 per game). Goaltender Frederik Andersen (3.76 goals-against average, .896 save percentage) was part of the problem, but not the biggest.

"We gave up too many quality scoring opportunities," Babcock said.

Rielly continues to improve, but Polak, Jake Gardiner, Nikita Zaitsev and Ron Hainsey struggled in the series. Rookie Travis Dermott struggled at times too, but much of that can be attributed to inexperience.

Hainsey signed a two-year, $6 million contract (average annual value of $3 million) with Toronto as a free agent July 1. Polak re-signed with the Maple Leafs on Oct. 22, getting a one-year, $1.1 million contract.

"We addressed the blue line last summer, but it didn't work out the way we'd hoped," Lamoriello said.

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