The Columbus Blue Jackets have been the biggest winners of the trade deadline so far, at least among sellers, having successfully moved defenseman David Savard to the Tampa Bay Lightning for first and third-round picks Saturday. Now, as TSN’s Frank Seravalli was first to report, the team has traded captain Nick Foligno as well, for another pricey return. After noting that several teams were in the bidding for Foligno, offering up first-round picks to get a deal done, Seravalli revealed that the Toronto Maple Leafs are the lucky club that will land the veteran forward.
The terms of the Foligno deal are very similar to the Savard trade, with a third team being used as a broker to retain salary. The Blue Jackets retained 50% Foligno’s contract, an expiring deal with a $5.5MM AAV, and traded him to the San Jose Sharks, who retained 50% of the remainder before passing him along to the Maple Leafs, leaving Toronto with just a $1.375MM hit. In exchange, the Blue Jackets receive Toronto’s 2021 first-round pick and 2022 fourth-round pick. The Sharks also receive a Toronto fourth-round pick in 2021 and send depth forward Stefan Noesen to the Leafs.
While the biggest buyers tend to get the most attention at the deadline, as the 2018-19 Blue Jackets can attest, this year’s Columbus team already feels like story of the 2021 deadline. In a market that was expected to suffer from salary cap crunches, border logistics, and a plethora of potential sellers, the Blue Jackets have turned two good-not-great players into a pair of first-round picks and two additional mid-round picks by getting creative with three-team deals to solve financial struggles. Both Foligno and Savard have been long-time Blue Jackets who worked hard and found great success, but to receive a first-rounder for either one would have been a surprise in a normal season, nevertheless in this strange market. GM Jarmo Kekalainen deserves all of the accolades coming to him for these trades, especially if Foligno re-signs in Columbus this off-season as many expect.
With that said, Foligno’s acquisition is still a strong move by the Leafs even at a high cost. Toronto is all-in this season and Folingo provides experience, leadership, work ethic, positional versatility, a strong defensive game, and some scoring as well. The 33-year-old also knows that this could be his best shot at winning a Stanley Cup and is sure to give it all he has. Foligno is the type of veteran depth addition that can often propel a team to a deep playoff run, especially when surrounded by other elite talent, of which there is a plethora in Toronto. Foligno has seven goals and 16 points in 42 games this season, as well as over 100 hits, and has shown in the past that he is capable of even more scoring and more physicality than he has already shown this year.
In Noesen, the Leafs add yet another forward option who can safely be sent to the taxi squad or AHL after clearing waivers earlier this season. The 28-year-old rental has over 200 NHL games under his belt and plays a gritty, hard-nosed style. Noesen is easy to forget in this deal, but could slide into a fourth-line role with Toronto if injuries strike. He was not being utilized by the Sharks this season, who will gladly move on and eat $1.375MM of Foligno’s cap in exchange for a draft pick.