The Toronto Maple Leafs have just one defenceman on their current 23-man roster under contract beyond this season in alternate captain Morgan Rielly, but according to TSN Hockey Insider Pierre Lebrun, the team appears to be taking a patient approach to contract negotiations.
Cody Ceci, Jake Muzzin, Tyson Barrie, Martin Marincin, Kevin Gravel and Justin Holl are all set to hit unrestricted free agency next summer, while Travis Dermott, currently on long-term injured reserve, is scheduled for restricted free agency.
LeBrun reports the team has yet to open contract talks with Muzzin and are waiting to see how Barrie and Ceci, both acquired in July trades, fit before moving forward in contract talks with any other of their blueliners.
"Yeah, that’s going to be the challenge for the Toronto Maple Leafs with their salary cap. Three of their top four on defence (are) pending UFAs," LeBrun said on Insider Trading. "Jake Muzzin, their best defender early this season, there have been no contract talks at all. Not this summer. Not early in the season between his camp and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Understandable, the Leafs had other priorities named (Mitch) Marner to take care of.
"Here’s the thing. Because Tyson Barrie and Codi Ceci are newcomers, I think the Leafs’ front office wants to take a little time and look at how everyone fits on this blueline. They can’t sign all three. They may not even be able to sign two. Prioritize the guy you are going to go after, perhaps in the new year, and go from there."
Through seven games this season, Rielly leads the team in ice time, averaging 24:10 per game, followed by Muzzin (23:16), Ceci (22:25) and Barrie (21:49). Muzzin has one goal and three points in seven games, while Ceci has one goal and four points. Barrie has four assists this season.
According to CapFriendly, the Maple Leafs currently have $65.59 million in salary committed to 11 players for next season.