The trade deadline frenzy is officially upon us, and this year’s edition promises to be a very exciting one for Leaf fans. In years past, there were little to no exciting moves made as the team seemed “confident” with what they had. This year will assuredly not be the case, as the scorched earth plan is now coming to fruition and is only going to grow more with each passing day.
The Leafs have made some moves already, but the work is far from over. There is a lot that will be going on for the next six days and beyond, so let me help you get up to speed with what has already occurred and what to expect in the coming days.
What Have The Leafs Done Already?
The Leafs have jumped ahead of the pack by already making three trades as of February 23. It started with the Phaneuf blockbuster, which I discussed at length about. Then, for the last two days, Matthias, Polak, and Spaling were shipped off to new homes in exchange for draft picks, a prospect, and salary cap dump.
The Matthias deal represents his value, in my opinion, perfectly. Despite providing valuable depth scoring (17 points in 51 games), the pending UFA wasn’t going to bring much of a return back regardless. Nonetheless, the 4th round draft pick could be a valuable asset as the Avalanche (the team who acquired Matthias) are in a tight race for a playoff spot.
Should the Avalanche miss out on the playoffs, the value of the pick increases. Even if they do make it in, it could still turn into a useful player down the road. As for Colin Smith (the prospect acquired), he could be a depth player for the future or a player to add in another deal to entice a team.
The Polak/Spaling trade, on the other hand, was a huge win for the Leafs. Both players were at the tail end of their current contracts and were not going to stick around past the rebuild. Polak played well enough despite his role, while Spaling struggled mightily, which is why the return of the two second-round draft picks is quite impressive.
Even though they are both future picks, they still have tons of value to become quality NHL players. Why do you think the Leafs turned Nashville’s first round pick into three second round picks? The value of the trade will become more apparent three years from now.
Raffi Torres was also involved in the deal, and he is simply salary dump as he has one year left on his contract. He is being loaned to the Sharks AHL squad and will not be used by the Leafs at any point.
What’s Left to do?
The Leafs, like I said earlier, still have a ton of moves left to make with six days remaining before the deadline. According to James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail, the Leafs still have nine UFAs left on the roster. This includes Parenteau, Boyes, Grabner, Arcobello, Clune, and Reimer.
A majority of these aforementioned players will most definitely be traded before the deadline, but it is unclear at this point when and where they will go.
The other thing that the Leafs need to determine is whether or not players such as Holland, Froese, and Kadri will have a place on the roster long term. While Rielly appears to be the only player safe to stay, most of the other Leafs are under consideration to be moved.
One other thing worth mentioning is that the Leafs hold on to 29 draft picks between the 2016 draft and the 2018 draft, with 12 picks for this year alone. You can almost guarantee that the Leafs will be looking to acquire more and as many as they can, especially considering that the team had to give up two third round picks to the Red Wings and Devils for hiring Babcock and Lamoriello, respectively.
What Will Most Likely Occur
Players such as Parenteau, Boyes, Grabner, and Arcobello will be on the move. These players are considered rentals and have done enough to convinces GMs of contending teams they are a valuable asset short term. These teams will be happy to offer up a draft pick and/or a prospect who will no longer have a place on the contending roster. While it could be a short-term win for that team, the Leafs could benefit from it long term.
The Leafs will likely also acquire a bad contract that is nearing the end of its term. This is because, following the recent Polak/Spaling trade, the Leafs have nearly $8 million in cap space, which could open the door for more moves involving expiring contracts, such as Bryan Bickell.
Here is a list of these players mentioned and where their value may stand:
- Parenteau: A second round draft pick and/or a near-NHL ready prospect
- Boyes: a fourth-round draft pick and a player on an expiring contract
- Grabner: a fourth/fifth round draft pick and/or a prospect
- Arcobello: a third round draft pick and/or a prospect
What May Occur
Holland, Bozak, and Kadri are rumored to be involved in separate trades that could bring back the Leafs a solid return, especially for the latter mentioned Kadri. Holland was rumored to have been involved in a potential deal with the Penguins, although there is no concrete evidence to back up the claim at this point.
There is a separate rumor that involves Kadri, which is very intriguing, to say the least. The rumor has Kadri traded to the Blues, with the potential return up in the air. One source says the Leafs will get a defenseman, Kevin Shattenkirk, in a one-for-one deal. Others are suggesting the Leafs get a return that would include players such as Robby Fabbri and Colton Parayko.
While the rumor does sound exciting, especially considering Parayko, it is only a rumor at this point. The likelihood of Kadri being shipped off is low at the moment, with the former first round draft pick improving his all-around game in a big way this season. He could be moved down the road, but not this year.
Bozak has had a great season in the absence of Phil Kessel and has proven to be an important all-around player for the Leafs. He has been rumored to be on the move in the past, but he it is not clear if he will be moved. I am on the fence for him: won’t be surprised if he gets moved, but won’t be too shocked if he stays.
Reimer could see himself traded by the deadline if the Leafs decide not to extend him. He will obviously have some suitors that are in need of a starting goalie, but it is not known who has the best shot at acquiring him and where his trade value currently stands. He is a darkhorse for this deadline.
Winnik finds himself in an interesting scenario as he is on a two-year contract instead of heading for free agency in the summer. He could be moved this deadline, but it would have to be to a team that is willing to keep him long term. While it is possible Winnik could be on a new team by February 29th, it is just as likely he will remain a Leaf the rest of the season.
What Moy Not Occur
Players such as Clune, Lupul, and Greening will not be moved because of either their role, health, and their limited playing time. Robidas and Horton are currently on LTIR and don’t count against the cap, so moving them makes no sense.
Despite many of the fan’s pleas, Bernier is unlikely to be traded because of his poor start, high salary, and low playing time as of late. He may be a candidate for a trade next season in a “pump-and-dump” effort, but not this season.
Players such as Michalek, Cowen, and Hunwick appear to have a long leash attached to them for various reasons, so the chances of them being moved this year is slim. The same goes for Komarov and Gardiner, who have upped their value to the Leafs and have done enough to stick around a few more seasons. The only way these players are moved is if a team presents the Leafs an offer they can’t refuse, so it is safe to buy a Komarov and Gardiner jersey.
Finally, JVR, Corrado, and Marincin appear safe and are due to have an increased role down the stretch. Age and potential are the main reason for this, and trading anyone of these three now makes no sense.
Don’t even think about Rielly and the other prospects being moved too. They are locked up and will be with the Leafs for a long time.
The Leafs have a ton of pieces that they are willing to move and have six days to move them. The possibilities for this year’s deadline are endless and filled with wonder and excitement. Regardless of who gets moved and when they will be gone, the implications of this deadline will be looked back on down the road, as this year is very important for the good of the rebuild.
In the meantime, hang on to your seats and enjoy the ride that is the rest of the week. It will be a fun one for sure, and hopefully, be the difference maker for the Leafs when they eventually return to glory.