Brad Treliving, Maple Leafs draft

Ahead of the NHL Draft in Vegas, Brad Treliving addressed the rampant speculation about a Mitch Marner trade (or contract extension), his priorities this offseason, and his overall view of the 2024 draft class.

There is so much speculation about Mitch Marner and his status with the team. With the ability to extend him on July 1st, do you expect to do that?

Treliving: I am not going to speculate on anything. I want to make it really clear: Mitch is a star. Mitch is a superstar in the league. He has been that since he entered the league. He’s been that ever since he put on a Maple Leafs jersey.

We said at the end of the year that we weren’t happy with how the year ended. That is not Mitch. The focus isn’t on Mitch. As an organization and as a team, we felt we should’ve gone further than we did. When that happens, you have to look at everything. It is no different than the other 31 teams here. We are going to try to make our team better.

I am not going to speculate on that. As I said, he is a star. As we do with any player, we will not get into speculation of that nature, but certainly, he is a special player.

Does the noise around Mitch Marner’s situation necessitate more conversations to keep things square between the two sides? Does it get in the way a little bit?

Treliving: I try to have a really open dialogue with the players all the time. What I can’t do — sometimes there are reports and rumours out there, and I get it. But I’d caution us against paying too much attention to the noise. We can’t react to all the noise, right? You just can’t.

Mitch knows what I feel about him as a player. In this line of work we are in, the great thing about playing in the market we are in is people’s passion. When things don’t go the way we all want them to go, we see the passion. You have to stay steady on the wheel.

We communicate that, but you sometimes can’t control all of the outside noises. You can’t control what rumours are out there. You can’t just react to them.

He knows where I am at and my feelings about him. We were all disappointed at the end of the season, but it is on more than just one person’s shoulders or two people’s shoulders. Our team didn’t achieve what we wanted to achieve. We move by that and look forward.

Mitch is a star. Very few players come into the league and do what he did from day one. He is a special player.

How would you label what you are doing with Mitch? You can’t control which teams phone you, but is it about keeping the options open? There was a report that you are very aggressively trying to trade him.

Treliving: I am not going to speculate. I didn’t see what was reported today. I am sure there will be reports tomorrow. I am not going to get into all of that.

I’ll just come back to what I said. Great player. We will continue to move along and see how we can improve our team. We can’t get wrapped up in the noise.

Have you identified a number-one priority between now and July 1st?

Treliving: I think there are a lot of priorities. I don’t think it is a secret. Our defense is an area we would like to see if we can improve. It is easier said than done, but that is certainly an area we have been focused on.

If you look at the trade market since we’ve finished the year, the difficulty is that the types of players you are looking for usually aren’t available in the trade market.

That is an area right now. We have some cap space, but you look at the holes we have to fill, and it goes quickly. We are trying to be as prudent as we can to look at the defense… I wouldn’t say, “Look at it first,” but look at it first before we commit too many cap dollars anywhere else.

Are you looking to add multiple NHL defensemen via trades or free agency?

Treliving: The math would say so. When you say add, it could be guys we have. When you look at it, we have four guys under contract and one guy who is restricted. We have to add bodies, whether that is guys whose contracts are expiring and bringing them back.

If you look at our defense, you guys all follow it. We would like to help the right side of our defense. Now, at what cost? Can you do that through the trade market? You could probably trade for one, but are you creating another hole somewhere else?

Long-winded answer. I would say we are looking to add more than one.

How does it feel to have your first full offseason as GM of the team?

Treliving: It has been too long. It feels like it has been a long offseason thus far. We have a lot of work to do this summer. That began right after the season ended, bringing Craig (Berube) in, working through the coaching staff changes that have been made, and then working on the roster.

This week, you are dealing with the draft and doing a lot of the framing and a lot of the work that goes into building your team over the course of the summer. Keep in mind this is one week. We all get focused on the draft over the next few days and the start of free agency, but we don’t play until October. We will continue to work and look at all avenues to try to make our team better between now and puck drop.

Some big-name goalies have swapped teams. How do you go about approaching the net?

Treliving: It is certainly an area. We feel we have a really good goalie in Joe Woll — a really good goalie. At the end of the year, we also talked about his unfortunate instances of getting injured. You study that. Is there a pattern?

Touch wood. Sometimes, with goaltenders, you look at it — is it hips? Is it groins? He has had some things that have just happened. Sometimes, you get injured. We want to help him stay upright.

No question, I don’t see an internal candidate that we are going to promote with Joe. Whether that be the trade market or free agency, we certainly have to look at the goaltending.

What are the odds you will keep your first-round pick?

Treliving: I don’t know… I am not opposed to moving it. I would say, as we sit here right now, it is more than likely we are making the pick.

We would certainly look at it if it fits a player who can fill a hole in our lineup right now. I don’t think that is likely. The next step with that is looking to possibly acquire more draft capital. We will see.

I think it is probably more likely right now that we are going to make the pick.

There is a lot of uncertainty in this draft past number one. What kind of depth do you see once you get to the mid-teens through to the end of the first round?

Treliving: You probably summed that up best. Everyone has a different list, but in the last number of years, you may have a different order in the top five or top 10, but 32 of the teams probably have eight of the guys there. I think it could be all over the place right now. There are some really good players.

When you have a situation like that, it lends itself to having some “fallers.” There may be someone you have higher than someone else does. Therefore, I think there are going to be players available… Now, we are at 23, and when you get down to that number, I think there are players that are high on people’s lists who are going to get him at 10-15.

We are comfortable with the group of players we have there right now. As it is with every draft, until the names start coming off of the board… I am pretty confident that I know who is going number one. After that, it will be interesting to see how the board falls.

How are things going with some of your pending free agents?

Treliving: I haven’t gotten anybody signed yet. They are going, right? We all know the players. We have some players we’d like to retain.

We have to focus on the defense, right? If you want to give yourself as much flexibility on the blue line, every dollar that you spend up top may take away from that. That is not to say we wouldn’t sign a forward. It is like any other negotiation out there.

We will continue that over the course of time until Monday or whenever the 1st is. There are certainly some players we would like to retain. You have X amount of dollars. You have X number of seats. You just have to see if the math works.

Would you be looking to create more cap space?

Treliving: There are all sorts of ways, but you don’t want to necessarily make yourself worse, either. We will keep working away at the puzzle, but certainly, there are players on our team who are unrestricted and we would like to sign. We will see if it is a fit for both sides and if we can get a deal done.

Where are you at with your RFAs, Nick Robertson and Timothy Liljegren?

Treliving: Liljegren and Robertson — nothing to report there, similar to what we talked about with our UFAs.

The difference between the two is that Lily has arb rights. As you look at it, the qualifying offer is one thing. What the arb case could be is another. We have been in touch with his camp to see if there is a number that can work. That is certainly the consideration — the higher the number is, you have to see how it fits into the puzzle as well.

We are in ongoing talks with their representatives, yeah.