The fact that the NHL’s trade deadline was Monday hasn’t stopped some team executives from wheeling and dealing. The Philadelphia Flyers announced that they are acquiring defenseman Brennan Menell from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for future considerations. Again, the timing of this deal could be seen as curious due to the recent passing of the trade deadline. But the AHL, where Menell has played this season, actually has its own trade/loan deadline on March 28th, which could be a potential explaining factor for why this deal was made.
Menell, 24, signed in Toronto this offseason (after a trade from Minnesota for a conditional 7th, conditions that will not be met) coming off of a spectacular season playing for Dynamo Minsk in the KHL. In 2020-21 he had 38 points in 47 games for Minsk. He originally left the Minnesota Wild, where he signed as an undrafted free agent, for the KHL seeking a better opportunity to develop his game, as he told Michael Russo of The Athletic. (subscription required) That decision helped pave his way to becoming a group-six unrestricted free agent this past offseason. Menell signed with the Maple Leafs, who likely made the signing with the idea that Menell’s strong record of offensive production at the AHL and then KHL levels would translate to their organization and potentially their NHL team. The team signed Menell to a one-year, two-way deal worth $750k, a deal that included a $400k AHL salary for Menell, a not-insignificant financial commitment for a league where the minimum salary is just over $50k. But despite those hopes and that commitment, this season has not gone well for the player. He has only managed to play 20 games for the Marlies, and his scoring has seemingly dried up. He has one goal and five points in those 20 games, a significant decline from his last AHL season where he had 47 points in 57 games. Despite that decline, Menell gets a chance at a change of scenery with the Flyers, where he can potentially make an impact with their AHL affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, and show that he deserves a place in their organization before he is once again an unrestricted free agent.
For the Maple Leafs, this trade allows them to give a struggling player a change of scenery while also clearing up a coveted contract slot. The Maple Leafs are at 47 contracts out of the maximum of 50, per CapFriendly, but after this trade, they will be down to 46. With teams around the league looking to snap up NCAA free agents and Toronto even eyeing Europe for potential reinforcements, this move could help GM Kyle Dubas clear some room for any potential additions he wants to make as the Leafs enter a crucial stretch of their season. It also comes at a convenient time for the team, as the Marlies got some help in the form of a loan for Philippe Myers from the Nashville Predators, making the loss of Menell potentially easier for the team to stomach.
The trade was first reported by ESPN’s Kevin Weekes.