When acquiring Austin Matthews at the 2016 NHL, the Toronto Maple Leafs had a big piece that they wanted to build their future around. Mitch Marner arrived on the scene at around the same time to give Toronto two stars around whom they could build their team, and it seemed as though a Stanley Cup final appearance was only a matter of time away.
However, the Leafs are yet to get there and every season since it has seemed as though they were just one piece of the puzzle away from really contending. Last season, John Tavares arrived in Toronto, a huge deal where the Leafs gained a genuine star centreman to lead the second line behind Matthews on the first. However, even that wasn’t enough and the Leafs were dumped out of the playoffs in the first round by eventual losing finalists the Boston Bruins.
We are now in the summer of 2019, and Toronto have cashed in their chips once again in an attempt to find the missing piece of their puzzle. This time it’s a defenseman who comes into the team, in the shape of former Colorado Avalanche star Tyson Barrie. While his defensive work could do with some improvement, something the Leafs will have to be wary of when they choose his defensive partner, the Leafs have brought Barrie in to give them an additional force in attack. Barrie comes off a career year that saw him score 59 points from the Colorado blueline, while also quarterbacking their potent powerplay unit.
It is those figures what Toronto want, and the reason why they gave up their third line centreman Nazeem Kadri in the deal to get Barrie to Toronto. There is also a sense that this could be one last throw of the dice in Toronto as Barrie only has one season remaining on his deal. He will then be in the market for a huge pay rise, one that Toronto may not have the cap room to offer, no matter how much they want to without trading away another one of their stars.
If you take a look at what the bookmakers think then they are certainly behind Toronto’s chances this season now that they have added Barrie to their roster. The NHL odds on bet365 have the Leafs at +900 to win the Stanley Cup, and those odds put them as second favorites behind another team who were dumped out in the first round last year, the Tampa Bay Lightning.
There is little doubt that Toronto are now firmly in win mode and the signing of Barrie shows that they are opening the door to putting themselves in cap trouble next season. However, they do have the foundations in place for a long cup run next season, and signing Tyson Barrie could be the move that pushes them over the top. The Leafs play an exciting, attacking brand of hockey so Barrie is going to fit in perfectly and he could be the one signing that finally gets their name back on the Stanley Cup trophy.