The Toronto Maple Leafs were not expected to be a pre-Expansion Draft buyer given what appeared to be some difficult protection list decisions. However, they have made quite a splash with a deal filed just before the roster freeze set in. As first reported by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Toronto has acquired Jared McCann from the Pittsburgh Penguins, who had long been expected to protect McCann before rumors in recent days suggested otherwise. In exchange, the Penguins receive just a 2023 seventh-round pick and forward prospect Filip Hallander, who the team initially drafted and then dealt to the Maple Leafs last summer in the Kasperi Kapanen trade.
This is a savvy pickup by the Maple Leafs, adding an affordable forward coming off of a career year. McCann, who has always possessed great ability but has struggled with inconsistency, put it all together for Pittsburgh this season with 14 goals and 32 points in 43 games – an 82-game pace of 27 goals and 61 points. If he can replicate those number joining another skilled forward group in Toronto, McCann will be a beloved bargain at $2.94MM. With the ability to play center or wing and solid defensive tendencies, McCann can be utilized throughout the Maple Leafs’ lineup.
One concern for McCann is his lack of playoff scoring in three trips to the postseason. That should be especially alarming for a Toronto team that struggles under playoff pressure as it is. However, it never hurts to add a talented player and hope that his postseason luck turns. Eventually, something has to give for Toronto, right?
In Pittsburgh, this trade has to sting. The rumors swirling around the team suggest that they could be making some unorthodox expansion protection choices and this trade suggests that McCann was not going to be protected, despite a very strong season and a comfortable fit with the team. It also seems like GM Ron Hextall could have gotten more for McCann than a throwaway pick and a recycled prospect. Hallander, a 2018 second-round pick, is not a bad investment by any means, especially after a career year in Sweden. However, he also was deemed expendable by the last Penguins administration and now is back and still not likely to be considered a top-three forward prospect for the team. Yes, Pittsburgh needed to clear salary this off-season, but McCann’s affordable contract seems like the least of their worries and the return does not adequately justify the move.