With less than a week to go until the trade deadline many teams have been evaluating their rosters and their chances at lifting the cup this spring. Many teams have already started moving players and picks trying to get better depth or selling pieces off for a rebuild come next season. The Toronto Maple Leafs are in an odd spot this year. If you look at the standings the team looks poised to make a run this post season, however you need to look between the lines to see a bigger picture here. We need to understand that the Leafs, yes have been playing well this season however they are still technically in the rebuild mode. So before they decide to blow the doors off and go after a big fish such as Rick Nash many things need to be planned out before a move such as that is made. First off do the Leafs need to add to the team now? What is the goal for this team? Just to make the playoffs or to win a round or two? Without knowing that we have no idea what the management might ultimately do come February 26. The Leafs have built a strong pool of prospects and picks and as good as the team is now who knows how the team will perform 1, 2 or 4 years down the road so do they want to waste possible assets on a team who like mentioned before is still rebuilding. In my personal opinion I don’t think a team like this would benefit from a “rental” player that will most likely sign with another team come seasons end when they already have core players Bozak, Komarov and van Reimsdyk already coming to the end of their respective contracts. So it is very possible that the Leafs may lose a few players to free agency as well as whatever assets have been given up for these rentals. This in the bigger picture is not the best of ideas to harm the future for one or two playoff series wins. Don’t get me wrong the city of Toronto would kill for a playoff series win, but would you rather have the cup or a participation puck? The Leafs have a roster full of players they may never use example Fehr and Soshnikov who have both been moved for draft picks, they can continue to do that and get better without sacrificing the future for one season.
Now you may ask so what on earth can they or should they do? Well the Leafs have no reason to look into the market for a winger it is a waste of time and they already have more than they can have use for. Where the Leafs weakness lies is mostly in their defensive game, Toronto needs a defenceman. Now I doubt the Leafs go full out and go grab an Erik Karlsson calibre d-man.
However they should look into several names that could be on the market at fair price come Monday. Probably the best fit for this team on the back end would be Mike Green, a smooth skating quick and offensive minded player would surely match this team however the price may be the problem. Mike Green is currently a 6 million cap hit and unless the Leafs find a way to get the RedWings to hang onto some of that salary I don’t know what they would give up to make this work, but if Detroit does hold some of that salary I could see a prospect and a 3rd or 2nd rounder going the other way however I think the price overall would be higher than the Leafs would be willing to pay.
There have been rumours of Ryan McDonagh also being on the trade block and again I don’t see what would benefit the Leafs to give up draft picks or prospects as I think again the Rangers will be looking for a high return. Now for affordable defenseman I don’t see many possible options for the Leafs. The strongest most available option would be Jack Johnson from the Blue Jackets, he isn’t the strongest in his own end but is still an upgrade on what the Leafs have in the 4-6 slots currently and with his cap hit and request to be traded back in January may just drop the asking price enough for the Leafs to make that work with a lower end prospect and a lower draft pick. Looking at in in retrospect the Leafs are much better off waiting to solve this issue in the offseason via free agency.
Looking to the other visible hole on this team, looking at the 4th line center seems to be an issue that can’t be solved. It has slowly started to steady with Moore at the center position but it can always change again like it did at the start of the season. Two options I had in mind could work for the rest of this season and possibly even next season. First is Derek Ryan from the Hurricanes he is a solid center that can win draws, play a defensive game as well as at times can also be surprisingly offensive. His cap is 1.45 and is very manageable with the space the Leafs have already cleared themselves and I can see them resigning a player like Ryan come the offseason when his deal expires. The other option that could work is Max Domi of the Coyotes, I know a deal such as this would be much higher with Domi being younger and still having a good upside to look forward to. He is an RFA at season’s end meaning the Leafs would still hold his rights and it all makes sense for him to play here since his dad Tie played a long time for this team and Max was born and raise in the area as well. It all works out for a deal in my opinion and I could see the Leafs giving Leivo a new home in Arizona if this deal takes place along with a 2nd and 5th round pick. I love the style of game Max Domi brings and I think it would be a great fit on this team with the checking and offensive game he bring that would come out more in a deeper lineup in Toronto compared to Arizona. This also gives the Leafs the ability to lock up hopefully at least one center with the high probability of Bozak leaving come seasons end.
Once you look at the Leafs and you see what is out there to be had it honestly does not seem like in any way the Leafs could benefit much from a deadline deal especially if that happens to be a rental player. However if they figure out a way to make a move for a player with term or some security then maybe that would work better than a rental at this stage of the rebuild. Last season the Leafs added Brian Boyle and as it may have strengthened the 4th line it in no way was what would push them towards a Stanley Cup and again this season I don’t see any deal that could happen that would push them to a Stanley Cup. That being said with Shanny and Lou running the ship and finding every loophole in the rules and CBA possible you have no idea what they might pull next so hang on, tune in and let’s see how this circus of a trade deadline goes. I just hope if I take the day off to watch I’m not disappointed again by all the deals coming the day before.