Assessing six trade targets that the Leafs did not acquire

The 2022 Trade Deadline is well in the rearview mirror and as the dust settles, we are left with the playoff push that will surely make things interesting the rest of the way.

On deadline day, a total of 33 deals were made with the Leafs only making one minor swap. There are also the two big swaps that saw the Leafs add Mark Giordano and Colin Blackwell, while also acquiring Ilya Lyubushkin a few weeks prior and sending Travis Dermott to the Canucks for a third-rounder. It’s clear that Toronto has made some adjustments to their lineup and appears to have made some improvements in areas of concern despite not acquiring a goalie.

While the Leafs did add three new pieces into the fold, there were numerous others that they were connected to but ended up not acquiring either due to a high asking price from the selling club or shifted interest to other targets. A vast majority of these players did find new homes on trade deadline day while a few remained with their original club. It is these players that will be the focus of today’s piece as we access whether or not the Leafs made the right call in not acquiring said players.

For this one, we will be looking at some of the big names that had confirmed reports saying the Leafs had an interest. That means we won’t be looking at players who were potentially up for grabs but were not proven to be connected to the team (ex: JT Miller, Jakob Chychrun, James Reimer). We will also be avoiding players who became available on deadline day and ended up elsewhere, such as Kaapo Kahkonen.

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While it is still too early to tell for certain if the Leafs were wise to not make the move, the assessment will be based on what the player went for, how they have played thus far, and if there would have been a fit. We will revisit this topic in the offseason once the fallout of the campaign is behind us and we know how the players did with their respective clubs.

Marc-Andre Fleury

Traded to the Wild for a 2022 conditional second-round pick

If there was one area of concern that Leafs fans wanted to be addressed, it was goaltending and Fluery was by far the biggest and best name available leading up to the deadline. There were talks between Toronto and Chicago about a potential swap that also included Brandon Hagel (more on him in a bit), but the trade never materialized because the Leafs did not want to part ways with both Matthew Knies and a first-round pick. The reason is that Kyle Dubas was planning on signing Knies to an ELC in the coming weeks along with his strategy of not giving up a first for a rental player.

Fleury ended up with the Wild for a conditional second which turns into a first-rounder if Minnestoa makes it to the third round and he wins four games. I’m sure the Leafs would have made the move if the Blackhawks lowered their asking price, but not doing said move was the right call. The decision will be more justified if the likes of Jack Campbell, Petr Mrazek, and Erik Kallgren can put up above-average numbers the rest of the way.

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Brandon Hagel

Traded along with a 2022 and 2024 fourth-round pick to the Lightning in exchange for Boris Katchouk, Taylor Raddysh, and a 2023 and 2024 first-round pick

Hagel was a player that Frank Seravalli mentioned the Leafs had their eyes on back in February, and while the chances of getting him seemed low, the interest was strong enough that the aforementioned trade in the previous section was discussed. Having to surrender a top prospect and a first-round pick was a tough pill to swallow which is why the deal never materialized. It is no doubt frustrating to see Hagel get traded into the division, though the package Tampa Bay had to surrender to acquire his service was pretty steep, even if the first-round picks will likely fall in the latter half of the draft (although they are both top 10 protected).

He was no doubt going to cost a lot due to his cheap contract, being under team control for two more seasons, being an RFA once it was done, and showing steady improvement. This is a player the Leafs would no doubt have loved to acquire, but a hefty asking price makes the decision to not acquire him the right call. While Blackwell is older, he provides a similar value and his AAV is below the league minimum.

Josh Manson

Traded to the Avalanche in exchange for Drew Helleson and a 2023 second-round pick

Dating back to late January, the Leafs had their eyes peeled on Manson as he made a lot of sense in terms of playstyle on the defensive end. Not only was he a right-shot, but he has a two-way playstyle, has some snarl in his game, and could have provided some stability to the blueline. This is a player that the Leafs would have loved to acquire, but Manson reportedly would not waive his NTC to accept a trade to Toronto.

This is a scenario where the Leafs had no choice but to pass up on the player. Considering that all Colorado gave up was a defensive prospect and a future second-round pick, I am certain that he would have been donning the Blue and White by now had he been willing to make the move north of the border.

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Luke Schenn

Was not traded at the deadline

In late February, Elliotte Friedman made an appearance on The Jeff Marek Show and discussed that Schenn was a player the Leafs had interested in but had not engaged in talks. He is a player that I wrote about a few times on here as a potential fit and while he makes a ton of sense, the need to acquire his services likely went down after the trade for Lyubushkin occurred. Not only has the latter done well so far on the second pairing, he even got an opportunity on the top pair alongside Morgan Rielly for a few games.

While the Leafs did not trade for Schenn this time around, I would imagine he is someone they circle back on in the summer depending on what happens with their pending free agents. It appears to be a case of Dubas scouring the market for all potential options before landing the desired target.

Justin Braun

Traded to the Rangers in exchange for a 2023 third-round pick

Speaking of which, Pierre LeBrun pointed out that contending teams like the Leafs had Braun as a backup plan in the event that a trade for the bigger names did not go through. While not the biggest name available, his underlying numbers are solid enough and provided enough value defensively that made him an ideal fallback option. The Leafs definitely went big fish hunting and got the ideal target in their price range with Giordano costing two second-round picks, so passing up on Braun was the correct decision.

The Rangers had their priorities in other areas and didn’t have enough capital to make improvements to the defensive core so it made sense why they were the team that ended up with Braun. I imagine Dubas will not be losing sleep over losing the sweepstakes.

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Ben Chiarot

Traded to the Panthers in exchange for Ty Smilanic, a 2022 fourth-round pick, and a 2023 first-round pick

Chiarot needs no introduction, as he was mentioned numerous times as a player connected to the Leafs and one that many were clamouring not to get. Not only was he more of a hindrance on the ice, but he was prone to taking penalities, had bad underlying metrics, and would have cost too much because of his sandpaper playstyle on the backend. Considering that Florida had to surrender an unprotected first to acquire his services (and then gave up another to bring in Claude Giroux), the Canadiens were able to get a lot out of a player who has a net-negative value.

Not only was the physicality that Chiarot provided addressed with the Lybushkin trade, but the Leafs were able to get a better, albeit older, defenceman at a lower cost in Giordano. Not biting on Montreal’s ridiculous asking price for the 30-year-old defender was easily the right choice. Let’s hope that the Leafs don’t try and sign him if he were to become a UFA this summer.

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