It’s the new year and we’re nearly in the back half of the NHL season, which makes it officially not too early to talk about the trade deadline (which is February 25th, by the way). At least I think it’s not too early. Either way I want to write something about trades because it’s been a while, so let’s get spitballing about kicking tires or what have you.
When we’re looking at players Dubas could go after in the next few weeks, obviously we have to keep it limited to players from teams who are not in contention, most notably with rentals. For instance, Artemi Panarin is an insane talent and is on an expiring deal for the Jackets, but considering they’re contending for the division and want to make a run, I doubt he moves. On the other hand, the Blues are a favourite topic because they’ve gone completely over a cliff and have some decisions to make on valuable players.
From perusing the potential rental market and seeing who’s being talked about by ‘insiders’ on trade bait boards and such, here are a few intriguing options I could see the Leafs taking a gander at.
Wayne Simmonds (PHI)
Last season: 75GP-24G-22A
This season: 39GP-11G-6A
Hit: 3.97M until this summer
This is a potential move that’s been talked about a lot in the last few months as a natural fit for the Leafs, especially now that the Flyers are essentially finished and will likely be looking to unload expiring contracts. Simmonds’ game is going to be in decline due to the fact he’s crested the dreaded 30-year-old mark so he doesn’t make sense as a longterm option, but his scoring and net presence make him still worth gambling on for a run as a pure rental.
Colton Parayko (STL)
Last season: 82GP-6G-29A
This season: 37GP-7G-3A
Hit: 5.5M until 2022
Parayko is most valuable player on this list by a long shot and would require a ransom to get from the Blues. But unlike most of the other options mentioned here, this is the type of move that changes the look of the Leafs in a big way over the long term. You’re giving up a ton in a deal like this, but potentially creating one of the better top pairs in the league over the next few years in Rielly-Parayko.
Gustav Nyquist (DET)
Last season: 82GP-21G-19A
This season: 41GP-10G-24A
Hit: 4.75M until this summer
Nyquist is another pure rental since his boxcars will probably price him out in the summer, and he’ll likely be expensive asset-wise due to such a hot start. But he’s historically a good scorer, and the Leafs are relatively weak on the left side in that regard. Nyquist can play either wing too, which has value.
Jared Spurgeon (MIN)
Last season: 61GP-9G-28A
This season: 38GP-4G-15A
Hit: 5.5M until 2020
Just a solid true top-four righty defenceman who has a manageable $5.5-AAV cap hit that expires in 2020. Like Pietrangelo below, you take on the extra year and likely lose Gardiner in a money crunch, but the Leafs really need to shore up the right side and Spurgeon’s timeline buys you a better look at internal options like Liljegren and Sandin down the road. The problem here, compared to Pietrangelo in St. Louis, is that the Wild are within striking distance of a playoff spot and aren’t dead in the water and needing to hit the reset button…yet.
Alex Pietrangelo (STL)
Last season: 78GP-15G-39A
This season: 26GP-4G-7A
Hit: 6.5M until 2020
The ideal target, in my opinion. The package needed to get him doesn’t shake your foundation like a move for Parayko, and like Spurgeon it gives the Leafs time with some of their prospects while giving you a run now and stopping the bleeding that will surely come next season, especially if Gardiner leaves.
Justin Faulk (CAR)
Last season: 76GP-8G-23A
This season: 38GP-2G-10A
Hit: 4.83M until 2020
Again, a contract expiring in 2020, not a pure rental. Faulk might have become a little overrated in the last couple years, at least in my opinion, but he is only 26-years-old right now and the Canes would likely be selling low if they moved him in the next couple months. If the price is right, I’d be fine with the Leafs making a move like this. Also, there’s been some talk the Leafs have targeted him in trade talks as recently as this past summer.
Ryan Dzingel (OTT) and Michael Ferland (CAR) kinda sorta
Okay these guys aren’t big names at all but I’m mentioning them because Dzingel is a real good scorer (already 15 goals this season) and both were specifically mentioned in 31 Thoughts this week.
“Another question for contenders: how long does Ottawa wait for commitments from Matt Duchene and/or Mark Stone? The Senators have also talked with Ryan Dzingel, another pending unrestricted free agent…Also in the same boat? Carolina’s Micheal Ferland. There’ve been talks, and if he doesn’t sign, he goes on the market. He’s got edge, and contenders will look.”
Contenders will look, eh? The Leafs are contenders. And while they can’t afford to part with pieces needed for someone like Stone or Duchene, Dzingel and Ferland are far cheaper rentals that improve their left side, Dzingel rather substantially. Dzingel is a burner that really fits with the Leafs speed well, while Ferland is a more heavy presence that can also score (11 goals this season, 21 last), but represents what a lot of people have been calling on the team to acquire for “grit” and such heading into April.
Now, if I had to put odds on one of these players being dealt to the Leafs, I think we’re most likely to see a small move for a guy like Ferland as a little boost to the team’s depth for the playoffs. Simmonds has been talked about a lot as well, so that’s another one I could envision. Parayko and Pietroangelo move the needle for Toronto the most, obviously, but those big moves don’t happen mid-season often. Though, the McDonagh deal from last season does give me hope, and the Leafs are trying to keep up with the Lightning, so perhaps they take a page out of their book and do something bold. Regardless of who gets added, I’d be quite surprised if Dubas doesn’t swing a trade or two before the end of next month, the question will be of what magnitude.