This is something that pretty much goes without saying every year, but it’s really not worth getting involved in acquiring rental players at the trade deadline. The case and point can probably be made with Tomas Plekanec, who cost the Leafs a 2nd round pick for an outstanding 2 points in 17 games. The following season even the Habs wanted no part of him any more and he’s now doing a farewell tour of the Czech League before calling it a career.
Heading back a bit further, the Leafs acquired the infinitely more likeable, and more talented Brian Boyle for a similar price tag of a 2nd and go nowhere prospect. This yielded 3 points in 21 games, although Boyle has managed to stay in the league and put up a couple of respectable bottom six seasons in New Jersey.
We can criticize both of these acquisitions as “Lou moves” or Babcock driven decisions, and there is likely some comfort that filling out the bottom of the depth chart will be a priority for Dubas, considering his big bottom six/ bottom pairing acquisitions to date have been Par Lindholm, Tyler Ennis, and Igor Ozhiganov. With the Marlies poised for an earlier end to their spring, it’s much more likely that Trevor Moore, Mason Marchment, Carl Grundstrom, and Calle Rosen will be the names we seeing addressing the bottom of the roster depth. This is a good thing. Support this.
Anyway, that doesn’t mean that the Leafs organization shouldn’t address other areas and can’t benefit from some affordable depth. I just can’t imagine any situation where paying a 2nd round pick benefits the team that will be entering its tighest cap years and has seen their prospect pool drained, although largely due their own success.
|NYR||Kevin Hayes||Brendan Smith|
|FLA||Chris Wideman||Mark Pysyk|
|CHI||Marcus Kruger||Anton Forsberg|
|LA||Carl Hagelin||Jake Muzzin|
|Nate Thompson||Alec Martinez|
As of today, these are the teams that have absolutely no business even considering the playoffs. Other teams like Buffalo, Carolina, Edmonton, St. Louis, Anaheim, etc. will soon join this list, especially in the Western Conference there will be need for some separation from the pack to occur before a clear picture emerges.
The rental market seems to be dominated with forwards, and that’s not a particularly big concern for the Leafs unless they are looking at dealing one to address their pressing blue line needs and then backfilling through rentals.
You can probably exclude the Matt Duchene’s and Mark Stone’s of the world from the Leafs shopping list given that price will be high, and Pierre Dorion has comically proven an unwillingness to deal within the division, and that leaves a pretty short list of viable options.
Perhaps just Carl Hagelin and Ryan Dzingel (again limited by the Dorion division policy) hold appeal for forwards, while Nick Jensen is a defensive option the Leafs should consider inquiring about, assuming a 28 year old pending free agent defenseman from a draft lottery team isn’t being treated as a commodity worth more than 3rd round pick or a chance for Ken Holland to shop the Marlies.
Looking beyond just the Unrestricted Free Agent options from the Draft Lottery Bound teams, the selection doesn’t improve a whole lot and there haven’t been too many appealing names making the rounds. While Los Angeles has a few, it’s important for us to remember that this in not 2013, and these three players are much more responsible for where the Kings are today than they are the building blocks of Stanley Cup winning teams.
Brendan Smith is a throwback to the Detroit days for Babcock, and if a deal with the Rangers can include Nikita Zaitsev, there is value in considering Smith.
The reasonable options might be Anton Forsberg, who locks the Leafs/Marlies in with some goaltender depth heading into next season, as he’s a RFA or Mark Pysyk, who is a legitimate talent, who is having a bit of a down year and could be had for a modest price.
What/Who Should The Leafs Be Willing to Part With?
Draft picks are the currency of the trade deadline, and I guess the Leafs need to be prepared to have that be part of making any deal happen. With the exception of first round picks, and this years second round pick, trading picks shouldn’t be a barrier. Dealing the 2020 2nd round pick gives Toronto a whole year to recover it if they want to, and even if the deadline is slow for the Leafs, the offseason promises to be much more active, and the Leafs will need to take back returns that aren’t salary.
When looking at rentals, or similarly “shopped” players, the Leafs probably want to limit which Marlies are available as well, and players like Bracco, Liljegren, Rosen, Sandin, and Grundstrom would be too much to give up in a deal focused around short term help heading into the playoffs. On the plus side, that leaves a lot of other names to shop on the Marlies, and as far as other untouchable prospects go, I’d consider protecting Ian Scott, Joseph Woll, and then listen on anyone else.
As far as the Leafs actual roster, I’m going to boldly assume there isn’t much of a market for guys like Ozhiganov, Marincin, Holl, Lindholm, and Gauthier, but if there is, they can go without much worry as replacement level players by their very nature are quite replaceable.
The ideal options to depart are probably guys like Nikita Zaitsev, Garret Sparks, and Connor Brown. Unloading Zaitsev would be an absolute dream, and I’ve included him for that reason, but there seems like there would be an actual market for Sparks and Brown, and they could be 2/3rds of a deal for one of these rebuilding teams looking for young goaltending a top nine winger on an affordable deal.
We’ll save the Leafs rentals, Ron Hainsey and Jake Gardiner for a separate discussion, but I can’t imagine that they’d be a fit for non-playoff teams. Like I said, they’ll be a separate discussion, but selling early on Hainsey and Gardiner and reusing the assets might be the way to go.
I guess this comes down to are you so excited about Wayne Simmonds or Nick Jensen and believe that they will put the Leafs over the top now that you are willing to mortgage the future for them? And to what extent will you mortgage the future?
Most of the assets I listed that the Leafs could expose in order to get rental players aren’t going to be enough in the foolish bidding war that is the February trade market, so I’m going to conclude that instead of looking for trades, it makes more sense to be excited for the return of Tyler Ennis, for the continued development of Trevor Moore, and the eventual callup of Calle Rosen.
The Leafs are better off committing to what they have and boring the shit out of us on deadline day.