Leafs not afraid to move fourth pick to load up at draft

The idea of the Leafs trading their fourth overall selection to move down in the first round and grab a few more assets along the way has been gaining a little more traction over the last few days. It’s mostly due to what looks like the expansion of that group just outside Eichel and McDavid to now include names like Barzal and Provorov (on top of the usual suspects in Marner, Strome, and Hanifin). 

As the draft approaches, and rankings appear to get tighter, trying to pinpoint teams’ preferences is what will come to the forefront. For a team like the Leafs, where “drafting for need” means “drafting everything”, this could open up the doors for a trade from a lower-picking team trying to make a big splash for a player they really like.

Kyle Dubas wouldn’t rule out this sort of move, and actually indicated to The Star that the team might give it some serious thought over the next couple of weeks.

“It’s something we would definitely look at…If someone else was adamant about a player, we’re pretty comfortable with the players in that cluster…We need to be acquiring as many draft pick assets as we can, as many prospects as we can. If there was something that made sense, we’d be open to listening and having some thorough discussions on the fourth pick.”

This falls in line with what’s been a growing sense that Hunter and Dubas might want to “Belichick” this draft, or load up on picks by moving down a number of times if they feel they have an edge on teams by finding more value further down the order. And to be fair, if there are two people capable of doing it, they’re the ones to trust.

One intriguing target might be the Flyers at seventh overall. While a lower pick and later-round selection might not be enough to move the needle for the Leafs, Philadelphia holds the Lightning’s 29th or 30th pick (depending on the outcome of the Cup final) on top of that seventh slot. Toronto could move down and still nab a player like Barzal, Provorov, even Zacha, then have two picks later in the round to do more damage. 

This is definitely something to keep an eye on as we get closer to June 26th. It feels like it would be a risky move, given the optics of moving down from the highest pick the team has had in about a quarter-century, but this front office seems anything but safe or predictable, so we’ll see. 

By the way, admit it, the Crouse photo up top scared you a little.