We’ve now begun our week-long run up to the trade deadline, which is going to include daily in-depth looks at the Leafs and how things might shake out for them on the market in the coming days. Fun times ahead.
Today we’re going to talk inventory. What do the Leafs want/need? What do they currently have? Will they order pizza to the war room on deadline day? And if so, how many pies will have pineapple? Read on past the jump for the detailed breakdown…
Areas of Need
The Leafs are obviously still in the stage of this rebuild where they need a bit of everything, but their approach this year will likely be a even more focused than in 2015. Things have changed – most notably the “core”, as Phaneuf and Kessel were both finally shipped off. On top of that, this year the Leafs have their starting goaltender going to unrestricted free agency, while their “1B” has seen his game completely crater. So, yeah, while the big picture seems to be the same, there might be a slight shift in the type of targets the Leafs are going after this time around.
We’ve been beating this drum here at TLN for a while, but it’s evident the Leafs need to add to their goaltending prospect pool. Whether that’s making a run at a big-name prospect like Vasilevskiy or Samsonov, or trying to pluck a minor league goalie from teams with depth (Pittsburgh, Winnipeg), it’s definitely something the team needs to address.
Another area of need for the Leafs (maybe their biggest) is a legitimate top four defenceman but, admittedly, that’s not something we’re likely to see at this deadline. Then again, the situation between Jacob Trouba and the Jets is certainly worth monitoring. But either way, this is a need that might make more sense addressing when the trade market opens up even more at the draft…which brings us to our next need.
Toronto has made it clear they’re going to try to unload veteran rentals for draft picks, and even managed to get that started over the weekend with the Matthias deal. It’s basically been the theme of this entire season. But now they’re bordering on having too many picks.
The team is already holding 12 selections this summer, and given they still have eight pending free agents on the roster, even a conservative guess would have them looking at upwards of 15 picks by next Monday. For that reason, I think they need to make some package deals to either start nabbing picks for the 2017 draft, or start to move up in this year’s. It seems most scouts and draft experts see this upcoming draft as shallower than 2015, and that could mean it’s in the Leafs’ best interest to get up into the top sixty as much as possible.
Here’s where they currently sit in terms of draft picks in 2016, via General Fanager:
For the second straight season, the Leafs have sort of set the pace for the deadline, already making two deals this month. And while the Franson trade last year was quite notable, this year Lou shook the league with shipping out Dion Phaneuf in a nine player deal to get things started. It’s going to be hard to live up to something like that in the next week, but with Lamoriello, who knows.
In terms of what’s out there, like last year it looks as though first-rounders are going to be hard to come by. Perhaps even more so with the new lottery rules. As it stands, it’s difficult to imagine the Leafs having enough in their rental inventory to get another first-rounder before the deadline, but given the return for Matthias (a fourth), it’s reasonable to expect a second for P-A Parenteau. And if the team goes outside their pending UFAs to get creative, they could grab a decent selection for someone like Peter Holland, who’s been linked to Pittsburgh in the trade rumour mill.
No one really knows what to think of the goaltender market right now, so it’s tough to pinpoint what the Leafs might get for Reimer or Bernier if they decide to part ways with one or both in the next little while. Don’t expect much though. I’m thinking late-round picks.
Pictured below: Leafs’ capologist Brandon Pridham
It seems the Leafs will take all your short-term cap garbage if you can make it worth it for them in the long term. With even more contracts falling off the books this summer and the status for injury-riddled guys like Robidas and Lupul up in the air, along with a potential Cowen buyout, there are plenty of ways for Lamoriello and his staff to get creative at the deadline and draft. It’s nice to have those bottomless pockets, and the Leafs are learning how to use them properly, so don’t be surprised to see some more dead money changing hands in the next week.
A lot has changed in a year, and with the 2015 draft producing a good haul for the Leafs, along with their ability to trim away a lot of fat prospects-wise, they’ve now got a good cupboard of futures. But don’t expect them to part with any of their blue chippers like Marner or Nylander, or even their next-tier guys like Kapanen, Harrington, Johnson, Brown, or Leipsic. After all, this is a rebuild.
The new management group has done extensive work in shipping out a lot of what the old guard accumulated, so we could see remaining names like Percy, Loov, or Leivo tossed in on deals to perhaps sweeten a pick return. But overall we should see the Leafs continue to add more in terms of the future, not cut into their current crop.
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