The Toronto Maple Leafs lost two-thirds of their top line when Joe Thornton and Auston Matthews were ruled out at the same time earlier this week, and now they might be looking for a little bit of a boost upfront. While Matthews isn’t expected out long with his minor issue, Thornton is out for at least a month with a fractured rib. Add in Nick Robertson’s knee injury from earlier in the month and it didn’t come as much of a surprise when Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported on Saturday Headlines that the Maple Leafs are looking around for an addition at forward.
It’s not that the Maple Leafs have no depth, as they showed when Adam Brooks stepped into the lineup and scored a powerplay goal against the Edmonton Oilers, but some of the newcomers haven’t been able to contribute much so far. Alexander Barabanov and Wayne Simmonds have both been held entirely scoreless through the first six games while Jimmy Vesey has two goals and no assists. When the Maple Leafs traded away Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson to clear cap space in the offseason, they hoped these players could pick up some of the secondary scoring load—so far, they haven’t.
Of course, Toronto is already performing a delicate salary cap dance this season, moving players up and down from the taxi squad whenever they can to try and bank cap space. It resulted in the loss of goaltender Aaron Dell when they were forced to place him on waivers and doesn’t leave a lot of flexibility to make a trade.
The team isn’t going to be shipping out one of their high-priced talents, meaning any improvement would have to come on the margins of the roster at this point. Perhaps one option would be moving a defenseman as high profile KHL signing Mikko Lehtonen and top prospect Rasmus Sandin can’t find their way into the lineup on a regular basis. Still, if they remove any of that depth the same issue could crop up quickly with an injury on the backend.