Grading the Leafs trade deadline
Photo credit:© Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
By Jon Steitzer1 year ago
It’s seems like only yesterday it was the trade deadline. And now that we’ve had a mountain of time to reflect back on it, and consider the performances of the players who have shuffled around the league, it’s time to grade the Leafs on the same scale that restaurants select their meat on. Fun. The question was simple, how would you grade the Leafs trade deadline?
The team absolutely improved, there’s no question about that. Did they improve enough to vault themselves from contenders to cup favourites? Probably not, but it doesn’t seem like the opportunity to do so was there.When the most desired trade piece was a controversial player who has scored only two goals this season, you can’t fault Dubas and the management team for not making a true blockbuster trade.
The Leafs are grittier, more experienced, and better at keeping the puck out of the net than they were two days ago, which is as much as anyone could have asked for.While some people may be disappointed that Dubas didn’t pull a magic trick to add Taylor Hall, Jack Eichel and Mecha-Hasek from the Sabres in exchange for two seconds (which based on the Hall trade is what we must assume they would have asked for) it’s hard to not like the additions they did make.
In a vacuum, the Leafs had a really good deadline, and brought in players that really fit what they needed. Nash and Foligno are both very good defensively, something that can help the bottom six even if they don’t provide much offense. Hutton helps shore up the blueline and adds a stable option if injuries occur so that we don’t have to go back to Marincin, and Rittich is some excellent insurance in the crease behind Andersen and Campbell if they get hurt, and also has the potential to be the Leafs tandem going into next season.Of course, everyone, myself included, will be a bit disappointed that the Leafs didn’t go all in and go after Taylor Hall considering that it was a realistic option, and what they gave up for Foligno is a bit pricey considering they could have given up less to bring in Hall is what sours the deadline a tad bit for me, but I have no problems with the players coming in for the Leafs.
I’ll give it a solid B.
We said ahead of the deadline this is the year to go out and add, and the Leafs did! Just in terms of improving the roster Foligno is the big pickup, he will come in and change the way his line is able to play. It’s tough to say who he’ll play with right now but Foligno brings physicality and the hockey sense that once allowed him to be a 30 goal scorer.Then the Leafs add David Rittich, and there’s no more worries about the crease. Campbell is the #1 at this point in my eyes, Rittich can be a serviceable backup, and Fred pitches in what he can when he’s healthy. I don’t know if that means he plays 1 game or 10 in the playoffs, but there’s 3 guys the Leafs can start if the going is rough. If there’s more injuries in net, Hutchinson and Vehvilainen are about as good of a 4/5 as you’re gonna get.We might not even see all of Nash, Noesen, Suomela, and Hutton in a Leafs sweater, if the team stays healthy. With Nash and Noesen it’s clear the Leafs went looking for some shutdown players to secure the bag in playoff games. The value in that is being able rest Matthews and Marner when the Leafs have the lead, even if the bottom of the lineup is depleted by injuries.Toronto addressed their areas of need, the one drawback is what they gave up to do so. A 1st and two 4ths is a premium price for getting double retention on Foligno, and the Leafs moved a volume of late picks to collect their depth. I don’t think anyone will miss those picks if the Leafs have a deep playoff run, the question is whether or not the guys acquired are really an upgrade on the existing depth.
B+, too.I’m mixed on the Foligno add. I feel like the acquisition cost was high considering other deals over the last few days, but Foligno adds an element to the Leafs that has been missing since Kadri was traded: the type who understands the mental warfare of playoff hockey who wants to get under your skin. During last year’s play-in round against Columbus, I must have tweeted about how much he annoyed me at least 5 times, so I can only imagine what a thorn he was in everyone’s side on the ice. My main concern now is that the Leafs now have a lot of older players who aren’t speedsters in their bottom six, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but could be a problem against faster teams.I am absolutely here for Rittich as a Hutchinson replacement. Yes, Hutch put up decent numbers for the Leafs in his starts this year, but the Leafs played excellent hockey in front of him as well. I have much more confidence in Rittich making the saves he needs to make, than I do with Hutchinson.Hutton gets a giant shrug from me. Good defensive depth, although it gets in the way of Sandin/Liljegren jumping in to contribute.All this being said, the Leafs just went 9-0-1 while connecting on a dismal 2.9% of powerplay opportunities so I think they’re pretty good and may not have needed the big fish I originally wanted them to go for.
I don’t hate the deadline but I can’t really justify giving it anything more than a C, maybe a C+.The more we heard, the more it sounded like the Leafs passed on Taylor Hall, and not the other way around with his NMC. Instead, the Leafs went all-in on Nick Foligno, who is a fine player in his own right, but paying such a premium when other needle movers were available remains pretty mystifying to me. Especially given that Hall went for a 2nd and a tweener guy.As for David Rittich, I think other people are a lot higher on him than I am, and I wouldn’t expect him to get into more than maybe 5 of the Leafs remaining 15 games. Spending a third on him for the insurance is fine, but in an ideal world, you don’t even need to use him as long as Andersen is healthy once the playoffs roll around, so I just don’t see him having a demonstrable impact on this team.As for the Barabanov and Hutton trades, I’d be surprised if any of the three players involved are even playing in North American next year honestly. Hutton has some of the weakest relative corsi and expected goals numbers on the Ducks roster per NaturalStatTrick (which isn’t great given that they’re currently sitting third last in the NHL) and is arguably worse than even Martin Marincin. All in all, the deadline improved the team around the fringes with a guy like Nick Foligno, but the price paid was for a premium asset, and Nick Foligno just isn’t that. As for the rest, nobody else moved in or out of the deadline for is worth spilling all that much digital ink over.
It looks like I may be the only one who gives this letter, but what the hell. I grade this trade deadline an A for Kyle Dubas and the Leafs.This was the best Toronto could do this year, and really, it was the most active of any team in the NHL. Dubas added depth, leadership, grit, and even an extra goaltender to give themselves more stability if things go down hill. I can safely say that this was one of the most intriguing trade deadlines from Toronto in a long time and I’m happy with every single move that Dubas and the Leafs made.
The Leafs may never have a better shot at a Stanley Cup with this core and the bottom line is that Kyle Dubas went out and made his team better, addressing practically every apparent need.Foligno is the marquee addition and while he may not have the potential that Taylor Hall does to light up the score board, he brings a lot to the table for the Leafs. He is versatile, able to play multiple positions up and down the lineup, plays a strong defensive game, and adds more sandpaper to the Leafs forward group. Don’t discount the fact that Dubas and his staff got a great look at what makes Foligno an effective playoff performer just last summer.They also added insurance in goal with the acquisition of David Rittich. He isn’t exactly an all-star but he is a capable option that can help ease the load on Jack Campbell as Frederik Andersen continues his recovery.Adding further depth pieces like Riley Nash and Ben Hutton were smart moves too, further bolstering the depth of a group that has their sights set on a deep playoff run.
The Leafs were already the best team in the North division and they’re the only team in the division that went out and made any significant additions to their lineup. They also managed to keep their current roster and prospect pool entirely intact, ensuring the organization maintains a pipeline of young talent while the Tavares window is still open.
Kyle Dubas has put this team in a great position to go the distance in the playoffs. I’m not sure what more you could ask for.
I think the Leafs did well overall addressing their needs and made the existing team better. The key thing is that all of the trades did not see them give up one of their top prospects, so tidy work from Kyle Dubas and company there.Ben Hutton should give them defensive depth, they gained a weapon for the Marlies in exchange for Barabanov, got a solid goalie option in Rittich, and added more snarl with Foligno.
While we’re on the subject, the only thing preventing this from being a higher grade is the price they paid to get Foligno. Considering that the Bruins only had to surrender a second and a player to get Hall, it’s hard to deny that the Leafs overpaid by giving Columbus a first round pick. Granted, the Leafs did need to make some cap shenanigans to get it done, but it’s hard to deny that Toronto gave up a lot to get a useful player.Overall, I liked what they did at the deadline. Let’s see how the new pieces fit.
I feel like this was a complicated deadline because going into it hearing that the Leafs would be walking away with @Nick Foligno, @David Rittich, @Riley Nash, and @Ben Hutton as the return I would say that I wanted none of those players as my first choice, despite not really having a problem with any of them. Just none of them represent a first choice. None of them have the flash of Taylor Hall, and outside of Nash, none were really brought in as a bargain, but together they represent a solid upgrade to the Leafs roster that only cost them a 1st, 3rd, 2 4th 5th, and a conditional seventh round pick that might turn into a 6th. Considering that half of those picks can be recouped by trading bottom six forwards or Marlies overachievers who lack a true NHL upside, I think the Leafs are in a good spot.The fact that names like Jaden Schwartz, Mikael Granlund, Scott Laughton, and Alex Iafallo were absent from the deadline, make it a bit easier to give a generally favourable grade, but the question lingers, “why not an A?”Simple. While the Leafs bent a lot of rules, via salary retention, trading for a LTIR player, putting their own goaltender on LTIR to get things done, the two things the Leafs didn’t do, was get an absolute steal of deal, and the Leafs didn’t go off the board with a player who exceeded my expectations. Though the Anthony Mantha trade is a reminder of the high price for going off the board too.In closing, it was a pretty solid deadline. Foligno and Rittich might not be first choice selections, or the price paid for them, but Dubas accomplished a lot considering the perception that they didn’t have any money to work with, and were going to need to deal roster players.
Now let us know your grade for the Leafs in the comments.
Recent articles from Jon Steitzer