Leafs' Latest Moves Could Place Them Among Stanley Cup Favorites Next Season

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 22: Tyson Barrie #4 of the Colorado Avalanche fires a shot against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Pepsi Center on December 22, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Toronto Maple Leafs v Colorado Avalanche | Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

With little cap room to maneuver with this offseason, many thought the Leafs would have to make significant cuts in order to retain the services of coveted restricted free agent Mitch Marner. But after striking gold with a trade late Monday with the Colorado Avalanche after already swapping Nikita Zaitsev for Cody Ceci, Toronto has put themselves in a prime position to contend for the Stanley Cup next season.

Toronto's weakness has been their defensive corps for the last few seasons, but the Avs deal -- they sent Nazem Kadri, Calle Rosen, and a 2020 third-round pick to Colorado for Alex Kerfoot, and a 2020 sixth-rounder, and Tyson Barrie -- their back end has become much more formidable over the past 48 hours.

By putting their embarrassment of offensive riches to work by moving Kadri, the Leafs were able to acquire a stud defenseman in Barrie to fill a much-needed vacancy on the right side of their top defensive pairing.

Now, the Maple Leafs' lineup looks virtually impenetrable with their stars up front as well as on defense, to say nothing of solid goaltender Frederik Andersen. Without adding free agents, the Leafs have managed to have an already successful offseason, and their newly improved defense may be the extra jolt this roster needs to finally make it over the hump.