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Rick Zamperin: Where do the Toronto Maple Leafs go from here?

Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock, left, general manager Kyle Dubas, second from left, and president Brendan Shanahan, second from right. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Lynett

Now that we’ve all had time to digest the Toronto Maple Leafs’ latest playoff disappointment, it’s time to take stock of where this team is and, more importantly, where it is headed.

First, the easy stuff. The Leafs had a great regular season in 2018-19, being one of only nine teams in the National Hockey League to reach the 100-point plateau.

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Toronto’s roster has a lot of talent up front, highlighted by star players like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner (if he re-signs with the club, but more on that later), and John Tavares.

Morgan Rielly had his coming out party this season after registering a career-high 20 goals (tops among NHL defencemen) and 52 assists for 72 points, while the addition of Jake Muzzin from the L.A. Kings added more poise and physicality to the Leafs’ blue line.

Maple Leafs fans lament on Toronto’s defeat once more to the Boston Bruins

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Maple Leafs fans lament on Toronto’s defeat once more to the Boston Bruins

Now, for the hard part. After losing in the first round of the playoffs in each of the last three years, it’s safe to say that changes will be coming.

Some of those changes will be salary cap-related. GM Kyle Dubas is between a rock and a hard place — self administered, I might add — knowing that he is going to have to make Marner the team’s third-highest paid player behind Matthews and Tavares.

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That deal, whether it is a long-term package or a two- or three-year bridge contract, will impact how much money Dubas is able to shell out to impending restricted free agents Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson.

Do the Leafs have any shot at re-signing soon-to-be free agent defenceman Jake Gardiner, and do they even want to? Does grizzled 38-year-old veteran Ron Hainsey come back for one more season? And will Dubas consider trading Nazem Kadri and William Nylander?

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There are a ton more questions than answers at this point, but it’s safe to say that this off-season for the Leafs will be very interesting.

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