Photo: Dave Nonis, probably?
It’s pretty fantastic that the Toronto Maple Leafs are expected to begin receiving offers on their potential trade pieces as early as next week.
To recap, we’ve heard much over the past few days about which Leafs players will be available. Cody Franson, Tyler Bozak, Mike Santorelli, Daniel Winnik – all of them are expected to garner good interest and equally good offers as the March 2nd NHL Trade Deadline approaches, and I’m sure a number of other Leafs players will generate some buzz as well. TSN’s Darren Dreger has mentioned Joffrey Lupul and Korbinian Holzer as two more players potentially on the move.
For those counting at home, that’s six players – or about a quarter of your NHL roster – that could be on their way out the door.
The Leafs, as you know, aren’t very good. They have too many players signed to too long of contracts that pay out too much money, and they aren’t performing. They’re up against the salary cap, have limited roster flexibility, and have some key pieces to re-sign in this summer. If you haven’t figured out that the Leafs will be sellers yet, well, hurry up.
On the bright side, Toronto happens to be in a unique position as they likely hold more trade chips than pretty much any other team in the league. Off the top of my head, I can only think of the Arizona Coyotes as a team with a similar number of players they’d be interested in/would like to move.
Besides sheer number of tradeable assets, Toronto also has two high-quality pieces that should be available if someone wants to cough up a huge ransom for them. It’s been widely discussed that Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel, if they were to be traded, would more likely be moved in the offseason when the salary cap tends to be more fluid for potential trade partners. Sure, but what if a desperate contender wants in on that action now?
It’s possible that, if they recognize their season is already done, the Leafs could aggressively begin selling off pieces right away. Not in three or four weeks, but now. Let’s have a fire sale.
It burns me too, Tobias.
The Leafs could benefit in a number of ways by deconstructing their roster like, today.
First, they’ll set the market. Go after the teams that want to make deals, such as Anaheim, Los Angeles, and Nashville, and push them on the idea that paying up now for a player like Cody Franson improves their team a whole month earlier than the other teams will. If you can get a good package, that sets a precedence, and you can go ahead and ask for more good packages for your other players (though Franson is likely your most valuable trade chip… maybe Bozak or Lupul get you a comparable offer because of term).
Second, selling now makes you a worse team a month earlier than it would be. That’s good news when you’re definitely, 100% in the Connor McDavid sweepstakes. The worst possible thing a franchise looking for a quick rebuild could do is hold on to their trade assets, suddenly go on a run, win every other game for the remainder of the season, and turn that sixth overall pick into a sixteenth overall pick – I don’t care how deep this draft is.
Whether the Leafs’ front office likes it or not, this season is a lost cause. It was a lost cause weeks ago, really. It’d be best if everyone stopped lying to themselves and started getting proactive on the trade front.
Set the market, play the market. Shed some salary, acquire some valuable assets for the future, and start rebuilding the proper way.