By now, most fans have heard about the Maple Leafs most recent trade, but if you haven’t, here’s what transpired.
During the annual media day, the Maple Leafs traded Taylor Beck, Carter Verhaeghe, Matt Finn, Tom Nilsson and goaltender Christopher Gibson to the New York Islanders in exchange for forward Michael Grabner.
Upon first glance, the trade comes as a complete shock. Seemingly weird the Leafs were okay with giving up five prospects that could have had a future with the Leafs, for a proven NHL’er in the middle of his prime.
The trade goes completely against the rebuild, right?
Well, not exactly.
Prior to this trade, the Leafs were jammed with players they had under contract. Under the NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), the maximum number of players an NHL team can have under contract is 50. This includes the main team of 23 players and 27 prospects in the farm system. The Leafs had 49 players before the deal was made and now have 45 contracts.
The choice of these five particular prospects can mean only one thing: the Leafs decided that they did not have a place in the teams future plans. While Finn, Verhaeghe, and Gibson have shown glimpses of being solid players in the future, the problem is that these players have fallen down the prospect ranks and have become expendable.
With Gibson gone, his departure clears up the goalie situation down in the farm. Last season alone, the Leafs had three quality goalies with a legitimate chance in making the NHL in Gibson, Sparks, and Bibeau. A team can only keep so many goalies in their farm system and the development of one goalie cannot be hindered simply because there is too many players in the way. With Gibson out of the picture, expect Bibeau and Sparks to be given an increased role for the Toronto Marlies this year.
The Leafs have recently signed three players (Devin Setoguchi, Curtis Glencross and Brad Boyes) to PTOs with the intention of not only filling out the roster but also giving the best prospects more conditioning in the minors. Although it would be nice to see the likes of William Nylander, Kasperi Kapanen, and Connor Brown in a Leafs uniform this season, it is better that their development is not rushed for the sake of filling out a roster spot.
But out of all the potential reasons that this trade was made, the most logical one that I could think of was that this trade helps the team by possibly acquiring more assets at the trade deadline.
Think back to last season when the Leafs traded away Daniel Winnik, Mike Santorelli, and Cody Franson. All three players had one year remaining on their deals, on a team with no intentions of keeping them due to their new rebuild plan. While all three players were decent additions that could provide some offence, they were either heading into their prime or in the middle of it with good trade/rental value.
Franson and Santorelli turned into Brandon Lesipic, a 1st round draft pick, and Olli Jokinen (who was later traded for a roster player and a draft pick.) Winnik turned into two draft picks (one of which was traded to acquire Martin Marincin) and roster player, Zach Sill who would leave at seasons end. The first round draft pick eventually became two second round draft picks (Travis Dermott and Jeremy Bracco) and a third round pick (Martin Dzierkals.) Essentially, the Leafs moved three players away and got back five prospects and one draft pick. To me, that was a great start to rebuilding this team.
This season, a very similar situation has arisen but with more players fighting for a shot. In addition to Grabner, the Leafs have Glencross, Boyes, Setoguchi, Mark Arcobello, Nick Spaling, Matt Hunwick, P.A. Parenteau, and Winnik (who was brought back during the off-season) as potential trade chips that can turn into even more prospects and draft picks. While it’s no guarantee that all of these players will result in a quality return, this list shows the commitment the Leafs organization has to getting the team back to respectability.
What is Grabner’s place with the Leafs this coming season?
- He’s a former 30 goal scorer who’s place on the Islanders was lost due to the high amount of players trying to make the main team.
- The main qualities that he brings is speed and has a nose for the net.
- He is not likely to be used as a top six forward
- Role could be a third liner providing some secondary scoring
While my scouting report doesn’t seem very mind blowing, the main fact is that Grabner could provide the Leafs with a solid return should they choose to trade him at the deadline. At worst, he could bring in a prospect and a third or fourth round pick. At best, he could net the Leafs a second round pick from a contending team.
No matter which way you slice it, the Leafs made this trade with the intention of clearing roster spots and cutting ties with expendable prospects. They have also set them selves up with a chance to get good returns for pocket friendly contracts. Of course it is tough to see some of the prospects go, especially Matt Finn and Carter Verhaeghe, but sometimes we forget there is business side to running an NHL team and compassion must be put aside.
Although I am excited to see what Grabner has to offer during his time here.
The future of the Leafs has become more exciting and hopeful with each passing day. Today’s trade is further proof of that.