With the trade deadline less than a week away, we continue to take a closer look at each team. Where do they stand, what do they need to do, and what assets do they have to fill those needs?
The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of the most interesting teams at this year’s trade deadline. Unexpectedly competing for a playoff spot and ripe with young talent, the Maple Leafs would stand to benefit in the short-term with an addition or two at the trade deadline. The team’s reliance on rookie scoring may not be sustainable in the playoffs, and most front offices would worry that the team does not have enough veteran experience to right the shift if the team suffers a playoff setback.
The Maple Leafs, however, do not have the typical front office. President Brendan Shanahan and GM Lou Lamoriello are both notoriously shrewd and notoriously tight-lipped. All season the tandem preached that the Maple Leafs will not stray from its rebuilding plan, despite experiencing success so early in the process. So while the Maple Leafs may not make a big splash at the deadline and mortgage their future, they could bring in veteran help at low cost to lead their young players through the playoffs.
26-20-12, 3rd in the Atlantic Division
Likely staying pat despite early rebuilding successes.
Deadline Cap Space
$4.4MM – but with up to $17.8MM using LTIR relief, 49/50 contracts per CapFriendly.
2017: TOR 1st, 2 of TOR 2nd, SJ 2nd, and OTT 2nd*, TOR 4th, TOR 5th**, TOR 6th, TOR 7th
2018: TOR 1st, TOR 2nd, SJ 2nd, SJ 3rd, TOR 4th, TOR 5th, TOR 6th, ARI 6th***, TOR 7th, ANA 7th
* Toronto traded away the middle pick of the three 2nd round picks it owns in 2017.
** If Columbus Blue Jackets forward Scott Harrington gets claimed through waivers, Columbus receives Toronto’s 5th round pick
*** Leafs receive this pick if the Arizona Coyotes re-signs or trades Peter Holland.
Cap space is probably the biggest trade chip the Maple Leafs own. Using LTIR relief, the Maple Leafs can exceed the cap by $17.8MM. That means that they can take burdensome contracts in exchange for draft picks and prospects. The only limitation is how much ownership wants to pay buried players. Right now the Maple Leafs have $8.3MM tied up in three AHL players—Brooks Laich, Milan Michalek, and Colin Greening—and its unclear whether ownership is comfortable adding to that number.
The next potential trade chip are the Maple Leafs “B” prospects. Prospects like Nikita Soshnikov, Nikita Zaitsev, and Frank Corrado all get overshadowed by the strong play of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander, but hold their own on a surprisingly deep Maple Leafs team. The Leafs have received unprecedented production from its prospects. so now might be the time to sell high on players unlikely to crack the roster logjam next year
Finally, the Maple Leafs are known for trading away depth players that take playing time away from young prospects. This year forward Ben Smith and defensemen Roman Polak and Matt Hunwick could be moved to contenders in exchange for 2nd or 3rd draft picks.
Four Players To Watch: F Ben Smith, D Roman Polak, D Matt Hunwick, F Frank Corrado
1) Defense: Despite offering Roman Polak and Matt Hunwick to buying teams, the Maple Leafs still need to upgrade their defense. Rather than veteran minute-eaters, however, the Maple Leafs need a top-notch defender to ease the burden off of Morgan Rielly. The most obvious name available is St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, but St. Louis’s asking price may be too high for a rental. The Maple Leafs would need Shattenkirk to agree to an extension before parting with any substantial assets.
2) Experience – The Maple Leafs started the season as the 2nd youngest team in the NHL, and potentially got younger as prospects Josh Leivo and Alexey Marchenko have stuck in the lineup. Not to say that youth is detrimental, but having experienced players in the lineup can smooth over the inevitable bumps in the road. That is why playoff-bound teams fight to acquire playoff veterans at the deadline. The Maple Leafs could benefit from a veteran insurance policy in case the surprising rookie production dries up.
Overall, it is likely that the Maple Leafs make a minor move or two at the deadline, depending on what presents itself. Toronto is in a position to trade for veteran help, almost-ready NHL prospects, and anything in between. They do not have any major assets to offload, and are not looking to make a big splash at the deadline.