Seeing Tomas Plekanec in a Leafs jersey is going to take a little getting used to. But even the truest anti-Habs fan can appreciate what he’s going to bring to Toronto.
The @MapleLeafs announced that the hockey club has acquired forwards Tomas Plekanec and Kyle Baun from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Rinat Valiev, Kerby Rychel and Toronto’s second round draft pick in 2018.
— Leafs PR (@LeafsPR) February 25, 2018
Plekanec automatically gives the Leafs so much more depth at centre and though he can’t produce anywhere near the 50-60 point range that he once could, he’ll be a great fit into the bottom-six. Assuming he ends up on the fourth line with Leo Komarov and Kasperi Kapanen once Auston Matthews returns from injury, he makes the fourth line one that can seriously produce. Dominic Moore has been a decent fourth centre, but a line of Komarov-Plekanec-Kapanen looks a lot more like a third line for most teams around the league.
Some are iffy about what was given up to get Plekanec and that’s understandable. But breaking down the trade, it doesn’t do any damage long-term whatsoever. Kerby Rychel is a left winger and Rinat Valiev is a left-handed defenceman. The harsh truth is that neither had a future with the Leafs.
Up front, Rychel isn’t going to slot in over Hyman and Marleau or prospects like Carl Grundstrom or Andreas Johnsson. The cluster of wingers in Toronto’s system means Rychel was never going to have a permanent spot and at 23 years old, it’s best to use him as a trade piece exactly as the Leafs did.
Valiev is a bit more difficult to give away, considering how well he’s played with the Marlies this season, but at the end of the day, it’s the same situation as Rychel. Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner and Travis Dermott all fill up the left side with others like Andreas Borgman, Calle Rosen and Andrew Nielsen all developing in the minors. Valiev has potential to play in the NHL, but it wasn’t going to be with Toronto.
In terms of the second-round pick, it’s not too much to give up. The Leafs still have their own first-round pick as well as San Jose’s second and third in the bank, so moving the pick just puts them on pace with where they’d be if they didn’t move any picks to begin with. Now that Toronto is starting to contend, the accumulation of picks matters less than it did two or three years ago. The Leafs are flooded with prospects both in the minors and overseas, so moving a second-round pick isn’t hurting them.
Kyle Baun (yes, Toronto did get a second player in this deal, though it’s easy to forget), will just be an easy contract to let expire at season’s end. He’s already 25 years old and isn’t going to stick in the Leafs’ system long-term.
But back to Plekanec. He’s already put up 24 points in 60 games this year with a disastrous Canadiens team and can potentially produce more coming to Toronto. He’s tied for sixth in points among Habs’ forwards and looking at other fourth line centres around the league like Mark Letestu and Matt Cullen who were on the trading block, this deal makes the most sense.
On Sportsnet’s 31 Thoughts Podcast, Elliotte Friedman said Luke Glendening to Toronto was very possible.
Glendening has three more years left on his deal at $1.8 million and that’s just too much term to give a 28-year-old whose career-high is 21 points in a season. So in comparison, Plekanec is a great add, especially with Montreal retaining half of his $6 million salary.
According to Eric Engels from Sportsnet, the possibility is there for Plekanec to return to Montreal for next season.
Hopefully though, Plekanec at least considers sticking around in Toronto. Of course, we haven’t even seen him play with the Leafs, but with Auston Matthews and Nazem Kadri as the only two main roster centres likely to stick around, Plekanec could be a good fit to fill a centre spot next season as well.
This deal was one that just works out great for both sides. The Leafs get a great rental and Montreal gets to reload.