They were able to do all this because of some crafty salary cap work. That, of course, is an obvious comparison point with the Canucks, but more on that later.
Thornton is not the player he once was. Never the fleetest of foot, he’s a pre-Dreadnought battleship in a world that’s moved on to Dreadnoughts like his new captain, John Tavares.
But he can still dish the puck and can probably still take advantage of the soft parts of opposing line ups, given that opponents will be using the best defenders against the Leafs’ top two lines, led by Tavares and Auston Matthews. He’s also a solid defensive player.
Simmonds is also not quite the feisty, aggressive winger he once was but there’s a reason that teams like the Canucks were also interested in his talents: he has an edge and remains a reliable two-way presence.
Vesey had a tough season in Buffalo last year, but then again, he was playing in Buffalo. The Leafs have bet he’s a player who can rediscover his scoring touch from his first three NHL seasons with the New York Rangers.
On the blue-line, the hope is that the underrated Brodie will prove to be a better fit with Morgan Rielly than Tyson Barrie was. Brodie had a fine year for the Flames. In fact, he and partner Mark Giordano were one of the NHL’s best two-way pairs last season.
The Leafs at times really struggled to defend in their own end and then break out the puck when they got the puck back, so Brodie’s acquisition is clearly an effort to right that ship.