At the 2023 NHL Draft, Brad Treliving discussed a quiet 2023 draft for the Maple Leafs, free agency fast approaching, progress on his contract talks with the team’s pending UFAs, and re-signing David Kampf for four years.
Why do you think we saw so few trades on the draft floor?
Treliving: It was unique. It was a unique draft in the sense that after a certain level, people had their own lists. I think they felt strongly about the picks.
We were excited to get Hudson [Malinoski]. We spent a lot of time trying to acquire more picks. Coming in, that was probably our number one priority — to see if we could manufacture some more picks — but it was difficult. Ultimately, nothing happened.
People have talked for a while about the depth of this draft and the strength of this draft. It was hard to pry any away.
People felt strongly about players in certain areas. Our number-one objective was to see if we could manipulate some picks. Hudson was the guy we were focused on seeing if we could slide down a little bit and get him at a different spot. When that didn’t materialize, we made the pick.
The Oilers gave away two players for free, basically. As a manager, when the cap is what it is, is it frustrating how difficult it has become to move players for value under the cap?
Treliving: We have seen it now for a while. At the end of the day, let’s call it what it is. There has been no cap growth. Salaries continue to rise. There is no cap growth. Something has to give. That is just the reality of it.
Teams have had to make hard decisions. It is difficult, but five years ago, we were at an $81.5 million cap. We are going to be at an $83.5 million cap. It is just a function of the business.
What compelled you to extend David Kampf, and are you progressing on any of your other UFAs?
Treliving: Since I have gotten to Toronto, we have a lot of UFAs. We have had lots of discussions with them. We like the players. We haven’t found numbers that work right now for us or the player. You have to be really careful of falling in love with the player where all of a sudden the number gets to where it’s not manageable.
With David, two things: I like David a lot, the staff really likes David, and it’s a premier position. If you look at the market to try to find centers, it is difficult. We felt it is a manageable number with his age and where he can play in the lineup. He has played a lot of time in that 3C spot. There is some versatility to him. We found a deal that was able to work and did the deal.
What is it like having the draft this close to free agency this year?
Treliving: We might stay [at Bridgestone Arena] and do the free agency together (laughs). It is what it is, but it is tight. We will go back from the draft and regroup, but it is what it is. We have known the schedule for a while. But it is tight. No question.
Is it especially challenging with the number of pending UFAs you are dealing with?
Treliving: It is a challenge. We knew the rules coming in. I knew what the situation coming in.
The difficulty right now, and I think you see it league-wide: Look at the number of pending UFAs and look at the number of signings. Again, we like our players. Prices are high right now.
It has to fit. We have a situation to manage. We have some guys higher up the food chain that require contracts. We have to be smart about how we look at things. That is league-wide right now. You are not seeing a lot of signings. We will see what happens over the next 48 hours.
Are we going to be twiddling our thumbs on July 1? Is there going to be a lot of July 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th activity?
Treliving: Could be. I have seen it before. I have been around enough to know that as close as free agency is now, we still have a lot of time. Things can change.
What you have seen in this marketplace with a lack of cap growth… Five years ago, by July 2nd, you could hang the “Gone Fishing” sign up. It is done. I think you are going to see an elongated timeframe.
The first step in that is going to be the non-QOs that will come out in the next 24 hours. I think you could see that period, probably, slip into later into July. You just have to see how things go.
Do you anticipate qualifying all of your RFAs?
Treliving: I’d love to tell you that. I do have the list. I just don’t have it in front of me now. We will get that out shortly.
The buyout window ends tomorrow. Is there any anticipation of a move there?
Treliving: Not right now. The buyout window ends tomorrow. There is a second buyout window if you have any arb cases. We don’t anticipate any activity on that front tomorrow.
Does the tight cap situation underscore how handy it is to have a presence like Brandon Pridham in the front office on your staff?
Treliving: I think Brandon Pridham is one of the MVPs of this organization. When you look at coming in here, there are a lot of positives about this job. When you look from a staffing perspective, Brandon is right at the top of the list.
I have had a long relationship with Brandon. He is the best at what he does in the league. To have him there is really, really important.
What was it like not being a part of the draft floor until midway through the first round?
Treliving: It was interesting. The wife told me from watching on TV that I came in a little hot. I came onto the stage and nobody was around me. Too many coffees. I was ready to go.
It was what it was. The situation was what it was. We dealt with it. We were able to get things done. It was what it was.
Where were you at the start of the draft?
Treliving: I was up in a suite.