5 Maple Leafs’ trade assets heading into 2024 deadline: The Countdown

Photo credit:Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Seney
1 month ago
Welcome back to another edition of The Countdown. For this week’s segment, let’s dive into what Toronto Maple Leafs’ GM Brad Treliving could end up trading before Friday’s trade deadline. Treliving has already been busy acquiring Ilya Lyubushkin from the Anaheim Ducks and the sense around the league is he’s far from finished.
Thanks to Kyle Dubas going for it a few seasons in a row, the organizational cupboards are quite bare so Treliving will need to be creative and package a couple of pieces if he’s going to land an impact player for the stretch run and hopefully beyond.
In no particular order, here are five trade assets the Maple Leafs may have in play before 3 pm est on March 8:

1. Nick Robertson

Robertson was recently squeezed off the NHL roster thanks to Martin Jones needing to avoid waivers, Lyubushkin joining the team and Calle Jarnkrok returning from injury. Robertson is still waivers exempt so it was the obvious choice, that likely didn’t feel too good on the young forward’s confidence.
Robertson has voiced his displeasure to management in the past and while he’s never requested a trade from the Maple Leafs, his agent’s apparently put the bug into Treliving’s ear. At 22 years old there’s still a ton of potential in the tank and Robertson’s shown off his electric shot and offensive instincts throughout this season, the only issue is he’s not been consistently producing.
So far this season, the former second-round pick has scored eight goals and 19 points in 41 games and if he’s being dressed on the proper line, ideally a second line and top power-play unit, Robertson has the potential to score 30 goals. Right now, when dressed, he’s playing on the Maple Leafs’ third line and he’s not suited for a checking-line role. In that same breath, Sheldon Keefe appears to have found one he likes with Tavares, Jarnkrok and McMann.
Robertson could be moved on his own for a defenceman or since the Leafs have such a cap/roster crunch, perhaps he gets packaged with another player for someone who can move the needle this season and beyond. *cough *cough Adam Larsson from Seattle.

2. 2024 First-Round Pick

Treliving’s open to moving the pick, even though the Leafs don’t have a 2025 first rounder, or any second-rounders for the next three drafts. As I said, the cupboards are bare. But still, the ’24 first has value on the trade market leading up to the deadline which is kind of surprising considering many scouts are projecting the talent in the draft class to fall off considerably after the top-12 picks.
Toronto’s pick is likely going to be low 20’s and who really knows what to expect with the pick as each draft selection is essentially a lottery ticket that more often than not, doesn’t pan out. Tyler Biggs, Frederik Gauthier, Stuart Percy, Jiri Tlusty… there have been some serious misses.
Moving the pick straight up for a player won’t work because of cap implications, so again, it’s likely Treliving is going to package a couple of pieces together and try to maximize the return. He won’t trade this pick for a pure rental so if it’s a pending free agent, expect to see a contract extension also announced, or, Treliving moves the first for a player with at least one season left on their contract, ideally two.

3. Easton Cowan

Before you throw eggs, I’m just mentioning that Cowan is a trade asset Treliving can dangle before the deadline, I am not saying he should be moving the Leafs’ top prospect. Cowan’s lighting up the OHL, setting records for a historic junior franchise in London and essentially everyone in Leafs land should be giving the team’s scouting staff some love for convincing management to take a flyer on Cowan with the 28th overall pick.
Cowan’s posted 83 points in 47 games and even though his World Juniors tournament wasn’t his best display of hockey, he bounced back immediately and now looks like a man playing a boy’s game in London. The Knights have a chance to go deep in the playoffs and Cowan’s speed, skill and tenacity are a major reason why.
IF, and it’s a big IF, Cowan does become added to trade talks, Treliving better be talking to Western Conference teams, far far away. You can’t trade him for Jakob Chychrun and have him haunting you in the division. There were some legs to Juuse Saros out of Nashville earlier this year, but Saros isn’t going anywhere. Cowan will more likely than not stay, and rightfully so as Treliving would be smart to keep him in the organization, especially considering how few top picks the club has moving forward these next three seasons.

4. Fraser Minten

Another one of the Maple Leafs’ top prospects who the team got a first-hand glance at the NHL level to start this season, Minten is a different player than Cowan as he projects to be more of a shut-down centre than an electric offensive threat.
Minten’s also having a stellar junior season with 41 points in 35 games, however, if it’s a toss-up between Cowan or Minten having to get included in a deal for a top-pair defenceman, Treliving would be wise to move Minten instead.
Like Cowan, the World Juniors wasn’t Minten’s best display of his skill set, however, considering he dressed in four games with the Leafs to start the year and was one of the main reasons why Sam Lafferty got traded to Vancouver, it’s obvious management is high on the player. However, if there’s a chance to land an Adam Larsson, Chychrun or Colton Parayko, perhaps Treliving pulls the trigger. With Holmberg, Kampf, Tavares, Domi and Matthews down the middle, Minten may be stuck behind a log jam with the Leafs and could be better off fetching the team a top-pair d-man.

5. Timothy Liljegren

When Treliving took over in Toronto he said he wanted to upgrade multiple spots on his blueline, what he didn’t say was who would be moving on from the Maple Leafs. Even though the Leafs GM is looking for a defenceman in trade talks, doesn’t mean one of his own won’t be dealt. If there’s a deal including a Leafs blueliner, expect to see Liljegren involved.
The former first-round pick fell hard his draft year and it feels like Leafs fans have always wanted more from Liljegren’s game. He shows flashes of brilliance and elite hockey IQ, and then goes and fans on a couple of passes, makes a bad read, or loses his man in front of the net. Liljegren’s been called out publicly by Sheldon Keefe more than once this season and with Lyubushkin in the mix, along with a couple of lefties who can play the right side, there could be a trade scenario presented to Treliving where he strongly considers the move.
Liljegren’s had Keefe as his coach for seven seasons between the NHL/AHL and if he hasn’t taken that next step yet, when will he? At $1.4 million against the cap and a pending restricted free agent, there’s value there on the trade market and it’s starting to feel like a change of scenery could be best for the player. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Liljegren and Robertson packaged together for an impact defenceman who can move the needle for the Maple Leafs, not only for the rest of this season but for a couple more as well.

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