Brad Treliving, GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs
Brad Treliving, GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs

After day one of unrestricted free agency, GM Brad Treliving discussed the additions of Chris Tanev, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Jani Hakanpaa, and Anthony Stolarz, the re-signing of Max Domi, Timothy Liljegren, and Matt Murray, and the work remaining this offseason.

Opening statements on the signings of Chris Tanev, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Jani Hakanpaa, Anthony Stolarz, Max Domi, Matt Murray, and Timothy Liljegren

Treliving: To recap, we made some signings today and some re-signings over the last 24 hours. As I said the other day, one of the things we really wanted to focus on today — and not just today, but over the course of the summer — is augmenting our defense. We thought we did that today.

I spoke about the edition of Chris at the draft and what he is going to bring to our group and our room. He is the consummate pro. There is the ability to play hard minutes against top players, and his penalty-killing ability.

The addition of Oliver Ekman-Larsson—Oliver has the ability to play both sides, left and right. He moves the puck. He is competitive and long. He can play on both special teams. We are excited about bringing him into the fold.

With Jani Hakanpaa, he is a penalty killer. One of the areas that we wanted to address, looking back at last season, is our penalty kill. That is an area that Jani really shines in. You saw that in Dallas over the years, and specifically this past season.

We have a group of defensemen. I would rather have too many than not enough. We will try to sort this out in the coming days. Today is a day to add players, but you build your team over the course of the summer. There are certainly some areas that we still want to address and augment.

Not to ramble on here, but I do want to touch base off the top on some of the signings.

Getting Max Domi back was a priority. We had Max and [Tyler Bertuzzi] who were both UFAs. There was a lot of discussion since the season ended with both. We are excited to get Max done.

Max is a versatile player and one that, all along, wanted to be in Toronto. It was just about finding a deal that worked for both sides. He is just a competitive kid. We all know Max. He wears his heart on his sleeve. He is able to jump around the lineup and do different jobs. We are excited to [keep him].

Timothy Liljegren—We still think there is so much upside with Timothy. Over the last couple of weeks, we have worked on getting an extension with him. He was a player with arbitration rights, and we had a pretty good idea of what the arbitration case would look like. I know everyone looks at the qualifying number, but the QO and the arbitration number are two different things. His representative and Brandon (Pridham) worked hard on that one.

When I look at the defense right now, I think it has a good blend. You have some puck movers. You have some size. You have some penalty killing. The addition of Oliver gives you another option on the power play. We have lefties and righties.

I know everyone wants to look forward and wonder what this means for other guys on the roster. Defensemen are so hard to get. It opens up different options for us as we move forward in the summer. It certainly gives the coaching staff a lot of options with a lot of different guys who can do a lot of different jobs.

Getting Joe Woll done and extending him—we looked at the comps and getting a year out ahead of it. We have a lot of faith in Joe. We think Joe is going to have a really good career and a really good, important season ahead of him. It was a priority for us to see if we could get ahead of that. Joe was excited to engage, so we are excited to get Joe done.

We are adding Anthony Stolarz. He is a Stanley Cup champion now. The goaltending will work itself out. We have added Matt Murray as well. Matt is coming off of double hip surgery last year. We wanted to have depth at the position, and we certainly don’t forget about Dennis Hildeby as a young, developing goaltender. We think we have added some depth there.

We have a couple of other things that aren’t out there that are just in the hopper in terms of some depth signings that we will look to finalize in the coming hours.

Treliving on the Nick Robertson trade request

There is a report out there that Nick Robertson has asked for a trade. What are your comments on that, as well as the state of the forward group overall? 

Treliving: As far as Nick is concerned, he is an excellent young player. I am not going to get into play-by-plays. I haven’t seen the reports. I have certainly known that there was some frustration with Nick on his behalf, but we look at Nick as an excellent player. There is great opportunity for Nick here. We need him to be a good player for us.

I am not going to get into any speculation or public back-and-forth. We will just leave it at that and continue to move forward.

Regarding the forward group, today is just one day. We have added some players on the back. We have added depth in goal. You are not going to get everything done in one day. We will continue to look at ways to augment the forward group.

We think we have some young players coming, but we certainly don’t want to start jamming young players in if they are not ready. I know everybody gets excited about the Cowans and Mintens. I hate naming names because you leave someone out, but we have some players with the Marlies as well.

At the end of the day, they have to show they are ready to play in the men’s league. That is what training camp is for. We think they are great young players, but we certainly don’t want to put them in a position to fail. We have lots of summer left. We have lots of training camp and preseason left to make those decisions, but we will certainly be looking at our forward group moving forward.

Treliving on Anthony Stolarz signing

What made Anthony Stolarz an attractive option for you?

Treliving: As we looked out at the market, there were a couple of things. For most of his career, he has played as a backup to some top-level goaltending. There wasn’t a lot of net there. There wasn’t going to be a lot of starts.

He is big. He is athletic. Goaltenders, as we all know, take some time to mature in their game. I think he has done that. He has been around an elite-level goalie with Bobrovsky. Although he hasn’t been in the net, he has been on a real good team this past [playoff]. He has been through those experiences. He is really technically sound.

With Curtis Sanford and Cutis McElhinney, we started this process of looking at how we build out our goaltending position. It starts with Joe and the faith we have in Joe. He doesn’t have a lot of experience, but we think his development curve and upside are tremendous. How do we partner him with someone to give him the best support?

As we looked around the market, Anthony is a player we focused on. We were happy to get a deal done.

Treliving on the Joseph Woll extension

At the end of the season, you were talking about Joe Woll and different ways of training this year so that he could become someone who can play 45-50 games. Now that you have signed him to the new deal, how confident are you in his ability to take on that role? Is there anything you were able to identify to put him in a better position for next year?

Treliving: It shouldn’t be taken that we thought Joe had to train harder or differently. He is a very conditioned athlete — a highly conditioned athlete. Not to piss off anyone in the goalie union, but sometimes the goalies aren’t the best athletes. Now, I am going to hear about that. But he is a highly-trained athlete.

We just wanted to do a deep dive. He has had some injuries. Sometimes, injuries happen, right? Sometimes, they are unavoidable. You can say it is bad luck. When you look at some of the things that he had, if we go back to this year, he had a high-ankle sprain. It had nothing to do with what he did or didn’t do training-wise. Those things do happen.

He cranked his back in Game 6 in the playoffs. Again, nothing that I would say is preventable in terms of his preparation or anything like that. Some of these things are bad luck.

I feel really comfortable with the work we have done with Joe and the review our sports science department has done. He is doing the right things. He is training properly. He is a really committed athlete who looks after himself. He has been in the facility daily, really, since the season ended.

I feel really confident. He is a young player, and we think there is great upside. We wanted to get him some support in terms of a partner and depth at the position, but we have all the faith in the world in Joe.

Now, to everyone in the goalie union, that was a joke. I don’t want letters and phone calls.

Treliving on the Oliver Ekman-Larsson signing

What made you comfortable with a four-year term for Ekman-Larsson?

Treliving: Ultimately, to get the player. We would all like them at one year and $400k. That is not the reality. You go in and have to be disciplined in the marketplace. Supply and demand.

We looked at a bunch of different options. All of the players (we signed) were players we had a lot of interest in. You spend a lot of time gauging who is actually going to get to free agency. If they are there, once you start, do they want to come to your city and your market? All of those things play a role in it.

Ultimately, you work to see what deal it is going to take to get the player. Certainly, there are some deals every year that every team would walk away from if it doesn’t fit, but ultimately, you do a deal that you feel is going to land you the player or is required to land you the player.

Take note of who the player is. I have a history with Oliver. He is a smooth player. He moves well. Good legs. The first thing to go on a player is the mobility or the skating. He is a fluid player. At the end of the day, we were comfortable with the four-year term.

Treliving on the Mitch Marner situation and John Tavares’ contract status

Is there any update at all on Mitch Marner and where things may go from here?

Treliving: No update on Mitch. I appreciate the question. As I said the other day, I am not going to do play-by-play. Mitch is a great player. We are lucky to have him.

I know there is a lot going on—a lot of noise around it—but today, we are focused on free agency. I appreciate the question, but I think Craig alluded to it in his last press availability. He is excited to coach him. We move forward.

We are not going to address it. There is no update there. Mitch is training, preparing, and getting ready for the season.

Where do things stand with John Tavares? We saw what happened with Steven Stamkos leaving Tampa today. Is there any update from you and John regarding a possible contract extension now that he is eligible for one?

Treliving: Same answer, really. I am not going to get into any contract discussions that may or may not be happening. We do our business behind closed doors.

John is preparing. I had a good visit with John once he got back from the World Championships. He has been around the facility.

Our focus right now has been the draft and free agency. We will continue to bang away at all the files.

Treliving on Craig Berube’s role in the new additions, the big money thrown around in free agency, and activity in the trade market

How much of a say did Craig Berube have in some of the moves made today?

Treliving: Craig and I have had many discussions since he came on board. I also include the coach in many discussions. Ultimately, with the staff—the pro scouts, the R&D department, our video department—you go through your meetings from the end of the year on in terms of identifying not only players but particular needs and ways to address those needs.

I have had a lot of discussions with Craig reviewing players with him. Ultimately, management and the scouts have got a strong voice in that. It is counterproductive to show up and hand the coach a bunch of players. I think he has to have some dialogue.

I think it is really important to get Craig’s opinion on players. He has been here all week with us at the draft. He has been in the room with us leading up to free agency. It is important to have his voice involved and get his read on things. Ultimately, you have to lean on the people who watch these guys every day and the information that you garner from your staff to make these decisions.

How active were you in trade negotiations over the past week or so? Was the focus solely on the draft and free agency?

Treliving: You are doing it all. You are looking at the trade market. You’re always looking at the trade market in terms of cost certainty. When you are trading for a player, you know what the contract is. When you get into free agency, it gets expensive. In a lot of cases, you pay a premium on those contracts. You are always looking at the trade market.

We had lots of discussions. Those go on every day. That is normal course. Certainly, it picks up as you get closer to the draft, at draft time, and on the draft floor. We made a couple of deals in terms of draft picks and accruing draft capital, pushing a second into next year, and then there was the work we did today.

Bigger picture, what do you make of the market today? There was about $1 billion worth of contracts doled out. The cap has gone up, but what do you make of the money being thrown around today?

Treliving: A lot of cash, yeah. It is a competitive league. People are trying to improve. You hear it all the time: The cap is going up. I heard it a lot from the agents. They reminded me. The cap is going up.

It is a competitive industry. There were players out there to fill holes in the roster. As we have all said, there is always a big signing or two in free agency. You are looking to supplement your roster. You are trying to build the bones of your roster through the draft and trades — those traditional avenues — and then when you get to free agency, it is an opportunity to supplement your roster and fill certain spots. From year to year, depending on the free-agent class, the interest varies.

There were some really good players available. We saw teams be aggressive. A lot of players changed teams today. I haven’t had a chance to look at all of the things that have gone on, but we are coming out of four or five years of a stagnant cap. You have seen some cap growth. You have seen some good players on the market. You have seen some teams get aggressive. It’s not anything unexpected.

Treliving on the current roster vs. last season’s playoff roster

How much better do you think this team is than the one that dressed in the playoffs?

Treliving: We are at July 1. We have work to do yet. We have lots of work. We completed a lot of the work between the end of the season and today, executing on the things we wanted to execute on. But I am not looking at rosters today versus what we ended the season on.

I think we have added some depth in net. We have added some depth on the blue line. We have added some right shots. We have added some players who do roles we need them to do and are proficient on both special teams. Solid people, the Tanevs, the Hakanpaas, the OELs. These are tremendous people as well.

We don’t play until October. I am happy with what transpired today, but it is day one. We will continue to chip away.

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