Photo credit:Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff
Maple Leafs are an interesting team to watch ahead of trade deadline
By Shane Seney1 month ago
The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of the many teams to circle ahead of the March 8 trade deadline. GM Brad Treliving continues to work the phones, but at this point, six weeks out, nothing appears to be on the front burner. It doesn’t take much to change.
Treliving is looking to upgrade the defensive corps and he’s likely interested in a versatile forward who can play in his middle six. Needless to say, there’s lots on the table for the Maple Leafs and it’s not solely focused on this season.
Treliving knows in his first year on the job, he’s not going to be able to fix all the problems. He tried hard to be active only a few weeks onto the job and signed a slew of players, but unfortunately, that route hasn’t necessarily worked out. The Ryan Reaves contract looks silly, John Klingberg was a mess from the jump, and Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi have been very inconsistent and the coaching staff has called them, as well as many others, out in regards to being trustworthy in key moments. Not great, Brad. Simon Benoit on the other hand, exceptional depth signing, a restricted free agent at season’s end, and someone who at 25 years old, could stick around for a bit.
Treliving Not Solely Focused on This Season
Elliotte Friedman reported recently that the organization is trying to think big picture. Treliving knows his roster isn’t perfect and because of some glaring holes and limited resources to fix issues, this isn’t necessarily the season to ‘go for it’. Kyle Dubas went for it last year, so going back to back on pushing your chips all in is hard to do. Friedman had this to say on his 32 Thoughts podcast:
“I think Toronto is thinking bigger picture, I don’t think this is about this year anymore, I think they’re thinking about where they are going. I really wonder if deep down, that as an organization they’re saying, we are not good enough to win this year, we are re-setting and reshaping our roster and we’re going to do that.”
The Maple Leafs are good enough to win this season, however, there’s a lot of stuff that needs to go right. Ilya Samsonov needs to continue his run, meanwhile Joseph Woll ‘needs’ to come back healthy and stronger than ever to push for the number one job. The core four need to continue to dominate and be a sustained wagon for the rest of the season and of course into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Domi, Robertson, and Jarnkrok need to continue to build chemistry and become a third line Keefe can count on, one that doesn’t necessarily scream shut-down line.
The fourth line and defense pairings are another story. It’s been hard to judge what exactly the coaching staff is getting out of David Kampf and company and besides Morgan Rielly, Jake McCabe and Benoit, Toronto’s blue line has been a tire fire. Which is likely the biggest reason the organization has turned its focus to a broader scope.
Maple Leafs Cupboards Are Bare
Thanks to Dubas shooting for the moon each and every season of his tenure, organizationally, the trade-assets cupboard is quite scarce. While Treliving has a few exceptional prospects to consider moving, very unlikely and he’d be much happier moving a second-round pick for a veteran defenseman like Chris Tanev. Unfortunately, Dubas decided to deal them all away, until 2027, that is.
I’ve mentioned the first-rounder could be in play, but that’s only on the table if there’s a player with team control coming back the other way. If Ottawa was crazy enough to move Jakob Chychrun to the Leafs, yes the first would go. If Noah Hanifin was open to signing a team-friendly extension after being dealt to the Leafs, yes the first would go. Mario Ferraro in San Jose? Not good enough.
Considering how top-heavy Toronto’s contracts are and the salary cap hell they find themselves in because of it, they need entry-level deals all over their lineup, who can contribute. So to me, it makes sense to hold onto Fraser Minten and Easton Cowan, who could potentially both step into the NHL lineup as early as next season. Again, have to think big picture.
The Maple Leafs project to have over $21 million available in cap space this upcoming summer. There are a number of pending free agents who are currently giant question marks when it comes to the long-term focus of the Maple Leafs. Does Domi have a role on the team for the next four years? How much term would Treliving consider for Bertuzzi, who isn’t getting any faster anytime soon? Has their inconsistencies scared the GM away? The same goes for TJ Brodie and Samsonov, it’s hard to say at this point if they warrant an extension offer.
Considering all the variables involved, including heavy asking prices, available in-house assets, inconsistent play, and internal decisions that will take some more time to sort out, the Maple Leafs remain an interesting team to watch ahead of the trade deadline. Treliving loves to be involved in trade talks, so if something makes sense for the future of the franchise, he won’t be shy to make a splash.
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