“I think you go through those experiences, and like any team that’s won before, you go through a lot of stuff you wish that maybe you wouldn’t have.” — Leafs star Auston Matthews after Game 5 elimination, round 2
“It feels like every team that wins and goes on a stretch of winning kind of experiences this (first). Obviously, this is not what we wanted to do.” — Oilers star Connor McDavid, after Game 6 elimination, round 2
The Toronto Oilers. The Edmonton Maple Leafs. The Maple Oilers.
Throughout the summer, hockey fan bases in Toronto and in Edmonton will mock each other. They’ll laugh at each other’s teams, and how, once again, despite having so much top-end talent, they each crashed out of the playoffs before the middle of May.
But, really, it’s like the Spider-Man memes, with identical superheroes, all pointing at each other.
Toronto and Edmonton. Our problems are the same. Two teams that have high-priced talent at the top ends of their rosters, and then have to fill in the blanks when it comes to depth positions. Both are in cap jail going into next season, with very little in terms of flexibility — so they need to be creative in order to get just that much better for 2023-24..
(Or trade the superstars that have defined their teams for the better of the last decade.)
The Leafs have Auston Matthews and John Tavares scheduled to earn more than $21.6 million combined next season. Forward Mitch Marner clocks in at a salary of just under $11 million.
The Oilers have over $30 million tied up in Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse this year, and don’t have any major expiring contracts (as in, guys making north of $2 million a year). They have to figure out what to do with role players like Derek Ryan, Mattias Janmark and Nick Bjugstad, who will all hit the open market in July. And, defenceman Evan Bouchard is in line for a significant raise from his $863,333 cap hit this past season.