TORONTO — After a busy shopping day in which the Toronto Maple Leafs improved their defense and solidified their goaltending situation, are they a better team than the one that was emotionally crushed after being eliminated 2-1 in overtime of Game 7 by the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference First Round two months ago?

That was the question posed to general manager Brad Treliving after a Toronto spending spree that landed three defensemen and a Stanley Cup-winning goalie on Monday.

There is no doubt that the back end has added quality with the signings of rough and tough Chris Tanev, potential power play quarterback Oliver Ekman-Larsson and penalty-kill specialist Jani Hakanpaa, who is plus-34 in his career. Indeed, that trio is a step up from the departing TJ Brodie and Mark Giordano, who each had noticeably lost a step on the back end of their respective careers.

Between the pipes, the decision not to bring Ilya Samsonov back has opened the door for 25-year-old Joseph Woll to land the starting job, which the Maple Leafs are confident he will after signing him to a three-year, $10.98 million contract that will begin in the 2025-26 season. Should the injury-plagued goalie falter or get hurt again, the signing of former Florida Panther Anthony Stolarz gives Toronto a second potential starter whose numbers in 108 career games (43-31-9, 2.69 goals-against average, .915 save percentage) are impressive.

Yes, Toronto’s shiny new toys certainly are reason for optimism for a fan base that’s watched its heroes win just one Stanley Cup Playoff series in the past 20 years.

But this is a team whose issue in recent playoff years has been putting pucks into the net -- its alleged strength -- not keeping them out. In the past 14 playoff games, the Maple Leafs have been held to two goals or less 13 times.

Treliving knows that. During his end-of-season media availability in May, he pointed to it as an aspect that was both frustrating and head-scratching.

That, in part, was why he refused to claim this roster is significantly that much better than the one whose players were on the wrong end of the handshake line yet again two months ago, this one coming after Boston's David Pastrnak’s OT goal gave the Maple Leafs an exit Treliving previously described as “disappointing” and “premature.”

For those reasons, Treliving chose his words carefully when asked about the state of the team.

“What is it, July 1? We still have a lot of work to do yet,” he said. “The work that went on between the end of the season and today, we executed on some of the things we wanted to work on. But I’m not looking at rosters today compared to what we ended the season with.”

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While acknowledging the newcomers both fill needed roles and are “tremendous people,” the GM was quick to point out that the season does not start until October.

“I’m happy with what transpired today but it’s only Day One,” Treliving said. “So we’ll continue to chip away.”

In the process, the biggest question remains: What is Mitch Marner’s future?

The 27-year-old has been made the scapegoat for repeated postseason shortcomings by Maple Leafs supporters who feel he should be traded in a perceived much-needed shakeup of the team’s highly publicized core, which also includes forwards Auston Matthews, William Nylander and John Tavares and defenseman Morgan Rielly. With Matthews and Nylander locked up long term last season, Marner would seem to be the top candidate to be moved since his contract is up at the end of the 2024-25 season.

Consider that almost half of Toronto’s NHL salary cap space is dedicated to four forwards -- Matthews ($11.6 million average annual value), Tavares ($11 million AAV), Marner ($10.9 million AAV) and Nylander ($6.9 million AAV) -- who are relied upon to score goals. Matthews’ AAV rises to $13.25 million next season, Nylander’s to $11.5 million.

Here’s the problem with trading Marner: how do you get anything near equal value back for a skilled offensive player who has 639 points (194 goals, 445 assists) in 576 regular-season games, an average of 1.11 points per outing?

The Maple Leafs have Matthews under contract for another four seasons. That’s the window of opportunity they must exploit. They are likely a more skilled team this season with Marner on the team than without, especially if they can’t get an equitable win-now return.

He also has a no-movement clause, so he holds the hammer in terms of whether he stays or goes. And if he opts to test free agency next summer, it will open up almost $11 million in cap space for a crop of potential unrestricted free agents in 2025 that could include forwards Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers, Mikko Rantanen of the Colorado Avalanche and Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

For his part, Treliving remains coy about Marner’s future.

“I’m not going to do play-by-play,” he said, responding to queries about Marner’s status with the organization. “Mitch is a great player. We’re lucky to have him.

“Like I said, I know there’s lots going on, lots of stories around it.”

Perhaps in an effort to curtail the scuttlebutt, Treliving referenced comments made by incoming no-nonsense coach Craig Berube at the NHL Draft at Sphere in Las Vegas on Saturday.

Quizzed about a meeting he had with Marner at a Toronto-area coffee shop several weeks ago, Berube replied: “A character guy, a great person, a great player, and I am looking forward to coaching him.”

And, in the process, finding a way to get he, Tavares, Matthews, Nylander and Rielly more productive at playoff time.

Otherwise, as improved as Toronto’s defense seems to be, this will still be a team that struggles every spring.

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