Last year, the Toronto Maple Leafs were making moves left, right and centre, becoming sellers as they looked to improve the team. As the deadline approached, they were able to move a number of players for prospects and picks.
This year, the Leafs were relatively quiet until they made headlines Monday by acquiring Brian Boyle from the Tampa Bay Lightning for Byron Froese and a conditional second- round pick in 2017.
The Maple Leafs wanted to add depth and make a push for the playoffs. They did just that when they acquired Brian Boyle. Boyle will look to provide a great veteran presence for the rookies while giving potential role players like Frederik Gauthier more of an opportunity to grow as a player.
For the first time in a while, it’s good to see the Leafs being buyers and add a player while in the hunt for the playoffs.
The important thing to take from this deal is just that, playoffs. Lou Lamoriello went all in to get a player with extensive playoff experience to help lead a young group of Leafs. He was well aware of where the Leafs are in the standings and is doing everything he can to get the Leafs to the post- season. Over the past few years, Boyle has appeared in 100 post- season games with the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning, including two Stanley Cup Final appearances.
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At six- foot- six, 244 pounds, he can be physical yet still provide some offense when needed. He’s strong on face-offs and had a winning percentage of 53 per cent, 51.4 per cent in the defensive zone with the Lightning. Boyle has also seen some time on the penalty kill, already averaging 2:49 against the San Jose Sharks in his first game with the Leafs. Overall, he’s a much-needed improvement over Ben Smith.
Mike Babcock likes players who compete every single shift. Lou helped his head coach out by getting a player who fits that description.
Not only that, this move will make the opposition think twice about pushing this team around. Matt Martin and Brian Boyle on the same line? Now add the speed and skill of Josh Leivo in the mix and the Leafs have a competitive fourth line unit that’ll get the job done. They have already played well together against the Sharks.
The Leafs made a splash by acquiring one of the top players on TSN’s trade bait list. While it wasn’t a blockbuster deal, it was a deal that made sense for the Leafs. They wanted to add depth while not giving up a whole lot in the process by trading a key piece for the future.
Byron Froese played well for the Leafs and Marlies, but it was going to be tough for him to crack the line- up on a consistent basis. He’ll look to get that opportunity with the Lightning. In addition, the Leafs traded away a second round pick. While it may seem high, it’s really nothing considering that the Leafs had three picks in that round this year before the deal. The Leafs will give up the highest of the three picks that they hold.
Like the Andersen deal last year, the accumulation of picks paid off for the Boyle deal. The Leafs added so many picks that they were able to move them for other assets that may prove to benefit the team. Since this draft isn’t as strong or as deep as the previous years, the Leafs can afford to give up one of the three picks.
For the moment, the Leafs have a number of great prospects that will be coming up shortly. Since they’re in the playoffs hunt, why not move some of the picks and prospects who have fallen down the depth chart for a player who’ll help the Leafs on that run.
In addition, if Boyle exceeds management’s expectations and they like what they acquired, it wouldn’t surprise me if they re-sign him as he fits into the plan perfectly.
The Leafs also acquired Eric Fehr, defenseman Steve Oleksy and a fourth- round pick in 2017 from the Pittsburgh Penguins for Frank Corrado.
This was an interesting move. After this season, Fehr has one- year remaining on his deal at $2 million. The Penguins were already pressed up against the cap, forcing them to move Fehr so they can have some cap space. The Leafs have over $14 million dollars in cap space, thanks to over $13 million of players’ salaries being placed on long- term injured reserve. For the Leafs, taking on that contract is nothing. Fehr has six goals and five assists in 52 games.
While the main area to address is defense, that’ll have to wait until the off-season. It would’ve been nice had they added a top four defenseman. However, that likely would’ve meant that they trade away a key piece. I can understand why they didn’t go through with the deal. They don’t want to mess with where the group is at. James van Riemsdyk’s name has been in the rumour mill all year and is an unrestricted free agent at the end of next year. Same with centre, Tyler Bozak.
Roman Polak and Matt Hunwick are unrestricted free- agents when the season is up. If they were to be moved then the Leafs would have a major hole to fill at the five and six spot on the blueline. The defense is already questionable, if those two players were removed, the situation would be much worse.
They added Alexey Marchenko, but it’s not enough for him to be a consistent player in their top four. Before Brendan Smith was traded to the New York Rangers, I thought that he would’ve been a good addition to the Leafs blueline as Babcock is very familiar with him from his days in Detroit.
However, just because the Leafs didn’t make a move for a defenseman doesn’t mean that they’re giving up. There’s still the possibility that they’ll make a move in the off-season, be it on Draft day, free- agency or any other day before training camp starts.
I also thought the Leafs should’ve made a move to try and acquire Anthony Duclair from the Arizona Coyotes. It’s been a down year for Duclair after posting 44 points in his rookie year. He’s scored three goals and nine points in 41 games this year before being sent down to the Tucson Roadrunners in the AHL. Even in the minors he has struggled, tallying eight points in 16 games.
While these numbers are alarming, no team should really give up this early on a player who has the potential to be a top- six forward. He’s probably just going through the dreaded sophomore slump, but Duclair has great size and skill and would possibly benefit playing on a wing with Auston Matthews. If there’s anyone that can try and turn Duclair’s game around, it’s definitely Babcock.
If the Leafs were able to acquire him, I would assume that the price would be low considering his production at both levels. It would be a win-win scenario. It could’ve worked for the Leafs. If not, they didn’t give up a whole lot for him.
It’s actually a good thing the Leafs didn’t too much and stayed quiet on deadline day. It shows that they have confidence in this group and they don’t need to do a major shake- up. They added depth into the bottom of the line- up to help with the final stretch as they near the end of the season.
What were your thoughts of the Leafs on Deadline Day?