Leafs trade deadline ideal targets: Carson Soucy on D, Conor Garland, Tyler Motte and Max Domi on F, and Marc-Andre Fleury on G
By Ryan Hobart8 months ago
The trade deadline can be a messy time to navigate for an NHL team. There’s gallons of snake oil for sale at prices worse even than actual oil prices. It’s your last opportunity to bring in external talent to improve your chances to win the ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup. After several years of missing that mark, the Leafs are getting increasingly desperate at the deadline. Last year’s @Nick Foligno trade was quite the disaster, mostly due to unfortunate injury, but he was injured when we got him so that seems like it was a really bad risk calculation in hindsight. At the time it was not good either, but certainly not as bad as it looks in the rear view mirror.
This time, it seems like the Leafs are once again chasing big targets like @JT Miller, @Mark Giordano, and @Hampus Lindholm. It seems that they didn’t learn anything from last year, in that regard. It was worse when it sounded like they were in on @Ben Chiarot. Thankfully that didn’t work out.
The Leafs have two big problems right now: bad goaltending, and no one to fit in on @John Tavares and @William Nylander’s line. @Alexander Kerfoot worked for a while, but the offense dried up and Keefe decided to look to other options internally, none of which have worked out thus far. Goaltending could fix itself is @Erik Kallgren keeps playing like this, and @Jack Campbell gets back to form when his health returns. You could move Kerfoot back and hope that works. But this is the trade deadline, it’s way more fun to imagine making 10 trades to make marginal improvements at every position. So that’s what we’re going to do.
Using Evolving Hockey’s Goals Above Replacement model, we can pretty easily compare the Leafs’ existing roster in comparison to the biggest targets on the market at this year’s deadline. While the actual business of making hockey trades and evaluating internal assets takes a lot more than a few publicly available charts, it can still be a good place to start.
It’s been pretty obvious that @Travis Dermott is likely going to be an odd-man out when all the moves shake themselves out. As mentioned, Giordano and Lindholm acquisitions seem to be at the forefront of the Leafs’ mind right now. I have a couple of different suggestions.
Sorting by the rate each player generates “Goals Above Replacement”, per the Evolving Hockey model, there’s some obvious players that Toronto could acquire to bolster their D. I called out @Carson Soucy in the title, as the Leafs seem intent on improving their defense in the wake of the @Jake Muzzin injury. @Brett Kulak would also be a good target, but a trade with Montreal might be slightly more difficult than with Seattle, so Soucy is the more likely target.
@Colin Miller also rates very highly in this model, but with injuries nagging him lately, he’s a bit of an ill-advised target.
If the Leafs do want to bolster the right side, @Justin Braun is a pretty good target, but he’s primarily a bottom pairing D, and the Leafs already have @Ilya Lyubushkin if they want that. They also have TJ Brodie, who isn’t a star in this model but has been playing a pretty important role for the Leafs.
|Calvin De Haan||21-22||CHI||D||55||1058.4||-0.337||0.195||0.031||-0.079|
With 12 spots, and 3 different positions, there’s a lot more possibilities for change on forward. The biggest issue the Leafs have right now is finding a left winger to play with @John Tavares and @William Nylander. It would also be nice to improve on the 4th line, as both @Jason Spezza and @Wayne Simmonds seem to be falling out of favour.
Trading for one of the Canucks’ big forwards like @Conor Garland, @JT Miller, or @Brock Boeser would be very fun. The Canucks are probably looking for a king’s ransom for any of them, but Garland is playing the best and would probably be the cheapest to acquire as well. @Max Domi or @Rickard Rakell would be other players that you could go after to solve the 2nd line’s offensive drought.
They could bring in either @Arturri Lekhonen or @Tyler Motte for the bottom 6 to build on the existing approach of slowing other teams to a halt with @David Kampf’s line. Likely you’d also have @Pierre Engvall on the way out as well, to make roster space and cap room. Similar to Colin Miller, @Johan Larsson is an ill-advised target as he’s still on his way to returning from injury.
I’m not going to make much of @Nicholas Robertson’s poor numbers here after just 9 games. If the Leafs can keep working him in and out of the lineup for his development that’s great. He will likely improve if given the chance. If not, then some more time with the Marlies is in order. Either way, that determination is not possible with such little ice time so far.
This model also loves @Alexander Kerfoot, because his scoring levels have been very high. We should be a bit skeptical of that, given that his on-ice shooting percentage is 12.26%.
Imagining that @Erik Kallgren is suddenly @Dominik Hasek is fun, but practically that’s not likely. The Leafs could bet on him, and bet on @Jack Campbell returning to form, but the idea of acquiring @Marc-Andre Fleury is really interesting. He’s had a good season for a bad Chicago team, but his $7M cap hit makes him a difficult trade. Chicago would definitely have to retain half of his salary, which means the trade asset cost would be massive.
Other than Fleury, there’s no one on the trade bait list that would be worth going after.
It’s pretty obvious that @Petr Mrazek should be on his way out, after a terrible run of form when given the reins when Campbell went on IR. If they can manage to throw him to a team looking to get future assets for taking bad contracts, like Chicago or Arizona, the may have the wiggle room to fit in Fleury.
I’ve had fun imagining the idea of the Leafs adding Garland, Domi, Motte, Soucy, and Fleury. The best part is, it’s even possible under the salary cap if Muzzin stays on LTIR. If not, that severely limits what the Leafs can do. So, let’s hope that Muzzin’s health improves but he’s OK with staying off the team until playoff time for the salary cap implications. As conniving as that is, other teams have done it, so why shouldn’t the Leafs take advantage of a similar loophole?
So far, they’re saying that they want Muzzin back and playing games heading into the playoffs so that he’s up to speed when the playoffs start. There’s certainly some risk in keeping him out, but the potential acquisitions they could make as a result seems to outweigh that risk, to me.
If they could pull off my dream scenario, they’d end up with something like this:
|Michael Bunting||Auston Matthews||Mitch Marner|
|Conor Garland||John Tavares||William Nylander|
|Tyler Motte||David Kampf||Ilya Mikheyev|
|Alex Kerfoot||Max Domi||Ondrej Kase|
|Morgan Rielly||Timothy Liljegren|
|Rasmus Sandin||Justin Holl|
|Carson Soucy||TJ Brodie|
While this is technically possible to create from a salary cap perspective, using the LTIR space, there’s so many moving parts to this that it’s impossible to orchestrate.
Instead, I’ll hope for a few of these things to happen over the next 72 hours. If the Leafs go a different direction, they can’t really screw up too badly with @Ben Chiarot off the board. All in all, I can’t wait to see what happens.
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