How the Leafs can make the most of a buyers market

Jon Steitzer
1 year ago
I’m going to hit you with the analogy that no one asked for and it’s the tale of two Christmas lists. My eight year old’s Christmas list consisted of specific Lego sets either new or discontinued, obscure items that needed to be ordered from small online vendors that would take two months to ship, and the hottest video games of the moment. My three year old’s Christmas list consisted of three words, “dinosaurs and cars.” Thanks to some great advice from my boss who informed me that most stores start their Boxing Day Sale pricing on Christmas Eve, I felt comfortable taking my chances that most retailers would still have Dinosaurs and/or Cars available.
The purpose of that painfully dull anecdote is to contrast the behaviours of a seller’s market (my eight year old’s Christmas), and a buyer’s market (my three year old’s Christmas). Trends that can certainly emulate NHL teams at the trade deadline. And according to Elliotte Friedman on the Leafs Morning Take the NHL is very much leaning towards a buyers market, and that can have a huge benefit for the Leafs.
With sellers very concerned about being stuck with players they weren’t able to trade at the 11th hour, there is a huge benefit to teams like the Maple Leafs to walk in like five minutes before closing at a garage sale and see how much they can walk away with for a couple of dollars. More and more this is my preferred approach for the Leafs, but it the idea of a buyers market doesn’t universally apply.
Heading back to the Christmas analogy, there are a finite number of new in the box discounted LEGO sets, they aren’t easy to come by or if they are easy to find it’s because you’ll have to pay through your nose to get them. Say hello to your Travis Konecny, Timo Meier, and Jakob Chychrun dream acquisitions. If you want the very best of what is on the market or you have a very specific need that can only be met this way, unfortunately this is still a seller’s market.
Now let’s skip past all of that and look at the plethora of names that can readily be listed off as potential answers to the Leafs need for secondary scoring. There’s Gustav Nyqvist, Patrick Kane, Ryan O’Reilly, Jonathan Toews, Conor Garland, Brock Boeser, James van Riemsdyk, Max Domi, Evgeni Dadonov, Sean Monahan, Vladimir Tarasenko, Ivan Barbashev, Jack Roslovic, Adam Henrique, and I feel like I’m both missing some names and limiting myself to the incredibly obvious names out there. I mean there are 16 playoff teams, but are we certain there are homes for all 14 of these players on playoff bound teams. Even excluding the players with term, there are more than enough players on expiring contracts capable of playing in the top six that lottery bound teams will want to unload. If you don’t care who you get out of Toews, Tarasenko, Nyqvist or Monahan, is it worth paying a premium to get the first pick?
While much is made of the defensive market, it’s equally goofy. Luke Schenn, Vladislav Gavrikov, Joel Edmundson, etc. are not names that you get in bidding wars over. They are players that you sit back and wait until that “yeah, I’ll take a fifth round pick for Ben Hutton” moment and then you pounce.
To some extent the San Jose Sharks are establishing the buyers market early by quickly unloading Ryan Merkley and Matt Nieto with on the surface looks like anything they could get for them. Neither is a premium player, but Merkley has upside and is cheap, and Matt Nieto is a perfectly usable bottom six forward. Jacob MacDonald on the other hand is a player who definitely exists and Martin Kaut is more than likely a whiffed on 1st round pick that San Jose must be crossing their fingers on being a late bloomer. In Leafs terms this feels like trading a worse version of Jordie Benn and a better version of Max Ellis. Not that I’m saying the Leafs should have traded for Merkley and Nieto, the deal would be unnecessary, but it’s hard not to like the way the market looks.
So that brings us around to what the Leafs really need to look at as far giving up, and with 2 3rd round picks this year, Kyle Dubas should be feeling like a Dollar Menu Millionaire. Prospects like Abruzzese, Hollowell, and Kokkonen should all fall into that “good enough to show teams got something for their player, but not too painful for the Leafs to move on from” category and be considered primary trade chips as the Leafs try and pull off the greatest rental heist since my friend found someone’s Blockbuster card sitting on the sidewalk.
I don’t think it comes down to being that simple or the prices being that good, but there definitely seems to be an advantage in wanting even an archetype over wanting a certain player. Having some flexibility can go a long way in having a good deadline, but also still having a good draft.
My final thought on buyers vs. sellers markets is that you’d really imagine that most years it should workout to being more of a buyers market. In theory you’d figure the 16 playoff bound teams would have more capable General Managers than the 16 lottery bound teams. There are certainly exceptions to that as Ken Holland has fallen ass backwards into a generation talent and Steve Yzerman has to dig himself out from the roster of the last Ken Holland team, but for the most part, you’d think the playoff team GMs would have the advantage, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Hopefully it at least does for Kyle Dubas and the Leafs.

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