Well, there’s the biggest trade the Leafs will make all year. In case you somehow missed it yesterday… the Leafs traded away this year’s first round draft pick along with F prospect Carl Grundstrom and D prospect Sean Durzi to land top-pairing defenceman Jake Muzzin.
Barring something even more drastic, moving the team’s first round pick and two prospects we had in the top 6 of our Leafs preseason prospect rankings (Grundstrom at 3 and Durzi at 6) is about as big a package as you could imagine the Leafs giving up.
But in another way to look at it, the Leafs gave up two players and a third soon-to-be player with 0 NHL experience for one with a lot of it.
I’m not going to break down the details of what Jake Muzzin is or what Carl Grundstrom or Sean Durzi or the first round pick could end up being. You can find that elsewhere and you’ll read a lot of glowing things about everyone involved. Durzi could end up producing in LA’s top four for years to come. Perhaps Grundstrom becomes the next Luc Robitaille. Maybe we’ll all look back on this trade in two years if Muzzin walks in free agency and long for the missed opportunity of that cool first round pick who’s tearing it up as a rookie.
But you know what doesn’t change? The Leafs made both the most significant UFA and RFA signing they’ve made in a generation within the past 8 months. Needing talent in the future doesn’t change that they’ve only got so many years in their competitive window, and missing out on maximizing that matters far more than making the team better when they may fall back into the middling category of teams.
If you mess things up in a trade about a prospect, you’ll get laughed at online and your fans will wonder what-if. But what if you lose a playoff series because you never addressed holes in your roster? What if 2018-19 is the best chance the Leafs have with two of their star players still on their entry level deals? That really is the crux of it, and not “what if the Leafs missed out on three players who never actually played a game for the team?”
And even if the Leafs did mess up in moving their first round pick? Well, you get another one next year. Their future is uncertain and cap decisions won’t be easy, but one less box needs to be checked off in the “affordable and good” defenceman category for next season.