The rest of the league is under a roster freeze when it comes to making trades with each other, but we know that in this expansion window teams can make moves with the Vegas Golden Knights. It’s believed this deal-cutting is already underway, and mainly the kind of dialogue here is going to be centered around proposing other pieces (likely picks and prospects) for McPhee to take in return for leaving an exposed roster player alone. For a Leafs-related example, think of something like sending the Knights a draft pick in order to stay away from Brendan Leipsic. Vegas could settle for a player like Rychel or Marincin instead, with an added future piece in hand.
But the Leafs aren’t a team with much to lose in these next couple days, so this is a poor example. I mean, they could do something like I proposed above, but I strongly doubt they will, since the value drop-off between guys like Leipsic and Rychel isn’t particularly steep, and neither of these players is really worth a lot in the grand scheme of things. A lot of these potential trades are about perceived value of a team’s 11th best veteran versus their 12th, and mistakes will be made.
Other teams are in a much tougher position, namely Anaheim and Minnesota, with the Islanders and Florida in trouble to a lesser extent.
Let’s take Anaheim as the prime case here. There are rumours general manager Bob Murray has an agreement in place with McPhee to keep away from Josh Manson, likely to the tune of a first round pick.
So we’ll focus on Manson, because he’s a player Leafs fans have been pining over for quite some time to potentially fill that heavy-minute shot-suppressor role to round out their top four.
We’ve already heard that teams are calling McPhee to talk about the costs for exposed players (apparently so much so that this TSN piece is actually named “McPhee is ready to create a bidding war for exposed players“). This means a quick-flip scenario.
McPhee said he had already started to receive calls from GMs on Sunday morning after the lists were revealed with inquiries about prices to acquire an exposed player from another team through Vegas. It’s a bidding war in which Vegas, the middle man, is the winner no matter what – with three whole days to watch the offers get better.
In the case of the Leafs, who are so desperately looking for an upgrade on the backend, this could mean prodding McPhee to see if he’d go ahead and select Manson (or someone like Jason Demers or Matt Dumba) and then send him right to Toronto. You’re basically trying to tell the Knights “Hey, we’ll outbid Anaheim’s side-offer to protect Manson if you claim him and send him to us.”
That’s all fine and good, but what you’re really trying to outbid is that offer plus the next guy in line to be taken. Keep in mind, Vegas is taking someone from every team, no matter the side-deal situation. [We should also note that McPhee has also said that no deal he had going into the roster freeze was finalized, so this kind of agreement isn’t out of the question.]
In the case of this hypothetical trio of Anaheim, Vegas, and Toronto in a bidding war, things could play out something like this:
- Anaheim offers a first-round pick to McPhee to avoid Manson
- Toronto offers a major package of futures to McPhee to claim Manson and flip him to them
What McPhee really has on the table, though, is Sami Vatanen plus a first-rounder from Anaheim in exchange for Josh Manson. Can the Leafs really outbid something like that? Would it even be worth it?
Try this name instead: Jason Demers from Florida, another right-handed top four option.
The Panthers have two very notable players on the block – Demers and Jonathan Marchessault. The former is a player they just locked up last summer to a longterm contract, the latter a 30-g0al-scorer on a sweetheart deal through next season. The Panthers likely don’t want to lose either, but the fact they left Marchessault out there signifies they’re not all-in on him shooting the lights out again.
If Toronto is a team calling to get a price on exposed players, Demers would be a sensible target. But it doesn’t make sense to try to make this deal now, because Vegas has every ounce of leverage and is in a position to start that aforementioned bidding war.
For the Leafs, the deal to be made for an upgrade on defence probably should’ve been executed before the expansion lockdown came into effect. They didn’t do it, likely because Connor Carrick would have then been a Vegas claim, and that meant a two steps forward-one step back situation. Now that the expansion process is in full swing, the cost of doing business has increased dramatically. It’s probably in the Leafs’ best interests to avoid trying to make something happen when they can only officially deal with one team, and instead wait until this whole thing settles.
With the entry draft slated for Friday and the usual whirlwind of activity that goes along with it, often setting the table for substantial moves down the road (think Subban, Kessel, Hall), there’s no reason to rush ahead and get caught up in expansion hype.