Grading the Leafs trade deadline: Treliving underwhelms during frantic spring

Photo credit:© Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Arun Srinivasan
1 month ago
Developing an accurate trade deadline grade requires a two-pronged approach: you have to evaluate a team’s moves on a cumulative, static scale and then compare these transactions on a curve relative to the rest of the league. Brad Treliving’s first spring as the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs  revealed an overly conservative approach, where the acquisition costs for each of the four new players wasn’t prohibitive but nearly a dozen genuine contenders made larger strides.
Are the Maple Leafs a better team than they were two weeks ago? They are but only marginally and when you account for the fact that the Panthers made significant improvements by acquiring Vladimir Tarasenko and Kyle Okposo, while the Bruins bolstered its overall depth in trading for Pat Maroon and Andrew Peeke, it’s almost a moot point.
Ilya Lyubushkin makes sense for the current iteration of the Maple Leafs, considering the dearth of right-shot defensemen on the roster. Lyubushkin provides little offensive value but he’s a physical presence who is now attached to Morgan Rielly, even though he’s better suited against weaker competition. Lyubushkin avoided a major injury in his first game back with the Maple Leafs and though the 2024 sixth-round and 2025 fourth-round picks aren’t prohibitive, the soon-to-be 30-year-old fills a void, rather than genuinely elevating the team’s ceiling. When you consider that Chris Tanev — an elite shot blocker and the darling of the deadline — went to the Dallas Stars for in a three-team deal centered around a handful of fringe NHL prospects and a 2024 second-round pick, you have to wonder if Treliving completely misread the market.
It wasn’t Tanev or bust either and you have to commend the defending champion Vegas Golden Knights for a package that included a 2025 first-round pick, a 2025 conditional third-round pick and defenseman Daniil Maromaov. Hanifin is 27, fits the Maple Leafs’ core timeline and yet Treliving didn’t even bother considering sending a future first-rounder, maintaining his steadfast belief in the current group’s potential.
Joel Edmundson is better on paper than he is as an actual NHL defenseman in 2023-24. Edmundson is extremely physical and will throw players around in front of his own net, he can join the rush but he takes poor routes to the puck and more pointedly, is another left-shot defenseman when the Maple Leafs are worried about the right side. And here, a recurring theme emerges: the acquisition cost of 2024 third and 2025 fifth-round selections are fine for a player of Edmundson’s calibre and pedigree, but that’s comparable to the price that the Panthers paid for Tarasenko. Edmundson and Lyubushkin are both unrestricted free agents this summer — and look, if they help the Maple Leafs go on a deep playoff run, perhaps they’ll become mainstays of the era but hedging on overt physicality when there were better players for nearly the same price is maddening.
It wasn’t a complete failure. Connor Dewar can slot in immediately as the team’s fourth line centre and is effectively an upgrade on David Kampf, whose term was probably untenable in any potential trade discussion. Dewar is just 24 but he can immediately impact Toronto’s 22nd-ranked penalty kill, he skates well and he can play the wing if called upon. Treliving didn’t have to spend wildly either, sending a 2026 fourth-round pick and Dmitry Ovchinnikov to the Minnesota Wild.
We’re not going to recap the entire NHL deadline but it stands to reason that the Panthers, Oilers, Stars, Avalanche, Jets, Golden Knights and Hurricanes all got significantly better, while the Bruins, Rangers, Lightning can rest easy knowing they’re primed for contention. Toronto got marginally better to be sure, but it didn’t take any major swings, there isn’t a single game-changing acquisition and this late into the Auston Matthews-Mitch Marner era, preserving the future is a delicate but misguided notion.
Deadline grade: C

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