With the trade deadline now less than two weeks away, we will be taking a closer look at the situation for each team over the coming weeks. Where do they stand, what do they need to do, and what assets do they have to fill those needs? Next up is a look at the Toronto Maple Leafs.
As things stand, the Maple Leafs find themselves in the top three in the Atlantic Division, a spot many figured they’d be in at this point of the year. However, the road they’ve taken to get there has been an interesting one. Mike Babcock was let go as head coach early in the season while Toronto had been battling a backup goalie crisis between the pipes until recently when they picked up Jack Campbell. While they filled an important spot with that swap, they will likely be looking to do more before the deadline strikes.
30-20-8, third in the Atlantic Division
Deadline Cap Space
$5.834MM in a full-season cap hit (using LTIR), 1/3 used salary cap retention slots, 49/50 contracts per CapFriendly
Upcoming Draft Picks
2020: TOR 2nd, TOR 4th, CAR 6th, COL 6th, TOR 6th, SJ 7th, STL 7th, WPG 7th
2021: TOR 1st*, TOR 2nd^, TOR 4th, TOR 5th, TOR 6th, TOR 7th
* – If Toronto’s first-round pick in 2020 is in the top-ten, the Maple Leafs will keep this selection and transfer their first-round choice (unprotected) in 2021 to Carolina as part of the Patrick Marleau trade.
^ – Toronto will be required to give up their second-round pick in 2021 to Los Angeles if they re-sign Kyle Clifford or Jack Campbell is credited with six regular season victories with the Maple Leafs. If one of those happens, they will get back their third-round selection from the Kings.
Considering their top-paid players are almost certainly off the table plus the fact they’re down three picks in the top five rounds in the draft, Toronto’s options in terms of trade bait are a bit limited.
In terms of NHL assets, winger Kasperi Kapanen plus center Alexander Kerfoot have been speculated as potential trade chips. It’s not that the Maple Leafs are particularly displeased with them – they’re not – but with their salary scale being what it is, one of the few ways that they can free up cap space is to move one of their medium-salaried players. Kapanen in particular has come up as he hasn’t fared all that well since the coaching change and at 23 with two years left on his deal at a reasonable $3.2MM AAV, he’s someone that a lot of teams can afford. The fact that he’ll still be a restricted free agent at the end of his contract certainly helps as well. Kerfoot, 25, is signed through 2022-23 and will be an unrestricted free agent at that time. He has shown in recent weeks that he can also play on the wing which could be of interest to some teams as well. Winger Andreas Johnsson also could have been in the mix here but an injury sustained against Dallas on Thursday, one that head coach Sheldon Keefe indicated wasn’t a short-term one, likely takes him out of the equation.
One prospect to keep tabs on is Jeremy Bracco. The winger was second in the AHL in points last season but that wasn’t enough to garner him any consideration for a recall with Toronto nor has he received a chance this year. Accordingly, it was reported last month that he had asked the team to see if there was a better opportunity for him elsewhere. This is the time of year where organizations will be willing to take a look at someone like this so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him be on the move at some point. Winger Yegor Korshkov showed well in the preseason and could garner some interest as well.
Beyond that, there are some players on the fringes who could find themselves dealt. Defenseman Ben Harpur and winger Dmytro Timashov are believed to also have asked to see if there is a better chance to play elsewhere while winger Nic Petan, who has been quite productive in the minors, was made available earlier in the season. As contenders look to shore up their depth, one of them could be moved if GM Kyle Dubas feels they have enough depth as things stand.
1) Top-Four Defender: This was something that they likely would have been looking for before the injuries to Morgan Rielly and Cody Ceci but their departures have only made that void that much bigger. Their ability (or lack thereof) to pursue such an upgrade will ultimately lie with Reilly and Ceci’s health. If one of them is ruled out for the rest of the regular season, Dubas will be able to really dip into that LTIR reserve. If not, they’ll be basically forced to try to match money which puts the mid-tier forwards into play.
2) Penalty Killing Forward: Special teams can be critical in the playoffs and as things stand, Toronto would face off with one of Boston or Tampa Bay, teams that are well above average on the power play. Meanwhile, the penalty kill for the Maple Leafs is below the NHL average this season. Those teams are tough to shut down entirely but adding a fourth line piece that is particularly adept shorthanded could give them an important upgrade which could come in handy in one of those matchups.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.