Let’s start off with an initial truth. A 7-2-1 start to the season doesn’t warrant a need for change. Even with the depth injuries the Leafs have suffered, they can backfill long enough, and keep on keeping on. Now that we’ve established the Leafs are doing well, we need to consider a couple of things, the first is that the Leafs have been rumoured to be seeking an upgrade to their secondary scoring. There’s also the fact that if trades are going to be made this year, they are most likely coming with a two week waiting period, which makes the trade deadline more of a true last chance day this year. Teams may wish to act soon.
We asked around the TLN crew to see whether there were any potential targets or players that need to be shipped out that the Leafs should be exploring…
When the Leafs signed Mikko Lehtonen it was much to the chagrin of the New Jersey Devils, who thought they were the front runners for the KHL’s top defenceman. We’re now 8 games into the season and Lehtonen is on the outside looking in, seemingly having lost Sheldon Keefe’s confidence in favour of Travis Dermott and Zach Bogosian. Rasmus Sandin is also waiting in the wings for an opportunity to play. It’s a logjam on the backend, and if our defencemen are going to refuse to get injured (which I’m all for), then something has to give at some point. So why not knock on the door of the team who also scouted him heavily just last season? My prime target would be Miles Wood, who outside of Zach Hyman may be the hardest working player in the league. The 6’2” Wood plays with an edge and is a relentless forechecker, with a surprising knack for offence. If the Devils would part with him for a package of Lehtonen and Engvall and perhaps a draft pick swap, I would be all over it.
I’m sticking to my guns and reiterating that Blake Coleman is the exact player the Leafs could use in their forward unit. Having said that, I am aware that he is on the last year of his contract and is playing for a team that not only gave up quite a bit of assets to get him, but is months removed from a Stanley Cup. So the odds of him becoming a Leaf via trade is slim at best. Instead, I’d look to back to L.A. and target a King that’s on the final year of his current deal in Alex Iafallo. The undrafted forward has progressed each year and his numbers have grown along with it. Last season saw him post a career high 43 points in 70 games. He’s currently playing alongside Anze Kopitar so he can certainly play in the top six if needed, but perhaps he may be best suited in a middle six role as a defensive forward. The Leafs would need to give up some assets to get a deal done and ask the Kings to retain half of Iafallo’s salary (his cap hit is $2.425 million), but he could be a great fit if a deal is made. It certainly helps that the Leafs and Kings have a good relationship.
The Leafs won’t have a ton of cap flexibility at the deadline so it would have to be someone cheap, and getting them from a Canadian team would cut down on quarantine time. Seems like the Leafs have a bigger need for Forward depth, so maybe Alex Chiasson from Edmonton? The Leafs have plenty of skilled forwards ready to step in, Chiasson would be a better fit in the bottom 6 with his size. He’s been playing with skilled players in Edmonton and hovering around 50% of the shot share, I just think he would bring a different dynamic to the Leafs 3rd/4th lines.
Trying to find a player that the Maple Leafs need is so hard. With Joe Thornton, Nick Robertson and Jack Campbell out Toronto still has enough depth pieces to cover their behind so everything doesn’t go down the crap shoot. I really don’t believe there’s anyone that the Maple Leafs need right now. They’re also so close to the cap that it would make it virtually impossible to get someone, unless they send a player out. And speaking of sending a player out, I don’t know if they should do that either. The only one I’d think about shipping out is Travis Dermott because he could be one of the players that gets claimed by Seattle in the expansion draft (if the Leafs end up keeping him and Justin Holl). If you trade him, and it doesn’t work out with Mikko Lehtonen, you’re okay because you still have Rasmus Sandin as your third-pairing defenceman.
When it comes to potential targets, I can’t help but think Dubas would stick with his tendency to go with what he knows, and that is former Soo Greyhounds. With that in mind I’m thinking Jared McCann might be a target for the Leafs. Pittsburgh is going to have an interesting year and are on the bubble to be a playoff team, perhaps they might be willing to part with the bottom six forward in the near future. He’d certainly check off the boxes of being a capable defensive forward and being able to provide some offense. The cap hit would be the sticking point and if the Leafs are going to search for a more significant addition later on, adding McCann could hinder that.
As for who the Leafs would part with, Dermott is the easy suggestion, he’s far from the Leafs only option. Engvall, Barabanov, Lehtonen, and possibly even Mikheyev might be moveable parts down the road.
Let us know your thoughts. Do you generally think it’s too early for this? Does a 7-2-1 record buy Dubas some time, even in the quarantine era? And of course, who should stay or go