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Maple Leafs secondary needs, a patient deadline strategy, and Toronto’s trade bait: Leaflets

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Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
1 month ago
The Leafs made a trade. It wasn’t the trade you wanted but in many ways it is a typical Brad Treliving deadline type of tweak. He’s not someone to make moves that rock the boat and require the Leafs to get used to a new player. He brings in players that seem like they’ll be able to adapt to what the team is already doing in a quick manner and not rock the boat. In his time as GM, the acquisition of Tyler Toffoli is the closest Treliving has been to rocking the boat and it seems far more likely that we’ll see one or two small complementary player acquisitions in the next week than a big splash. Brad Treliving has said it countless times (in his rare speaking appearances) that the offseason is when he builds the team and he seems fairly committed to the idea of keeping the first round draft pick this year. In that spirit it will be interesting to see what he does next.

Kevin Hayes would be a huge help for the Leafs up front

Don’t get me wrong, the priority for the Leafs is still probably on the blueline and rightfully so, but with Max Domi and John Tavares both becoming rather questionable up the middle I am going to revisit my favourite trade deadline option and that is best centre available with the friendly cap hit, Kevin Hayes.
Hayes hasn’t had the best year and 22 points in 59 games looks like a tough sell, that should work to the Leafs advantage on the price to acquire him. He was a 54 point forward last season and was previously good for around 17 minutes a night even though he’s playing under 15 this season. Like Tavares, it is reasonable to assume that Hayes is a player taking a step back productivity wise this season, but it also seems reason to believe in a better circumstance, more could be gotten out of Hayes. Hayes would only have a cap hit of just over $3.5M, which would require some maneuvering on the Leafs part and finding a way to send some money out in the deal, but he addresses a need as well as gives Toronto a cost controlled asset for the next couple of seasons as well. While other teams are bidding for Adam Henrique and Nic Dowd (for some reason), Hayes looks like the sneaky good option with the best potential upside. And while he isn’t overly physical, a 6’5 presence in the top nine for the Leafs wouldn’t hurt either.

Expect a wait and see approach if the Leafs add anyone else to the blueline

The addition of Ilya Lyubushkin seemed like a deal born of the need to do something and that is why the Leafs paid a 3rd, which might seem a little high, in order to bring him in quickly. Lyubushkin has the potential to address some of the Leafs needs but comes with an equally long list of question marks and optimism that things play out in an ideal fashion. It seems unlikely that Brad Treliving sees Ilya as the ideal defensive option for the Leafs and could still be open to finding who that player is, especially since Lyubushkin didn’t impact Toronto’s cap or put much of a dent in the Leafs’ limited pool of tradeable assets.
The addition of Lyubushkin might free up the Leafs to look at left side defenders as well as right side or it could be a sign that a younger asset like Timothy Liljegren might be on the move for a more established player with term.
What it most likely seems to mean is that Brad Treliving can now sit in a bush and wait to see what his options are at the 11th hour and look at rental options that lottery bound terms are urgently looking to move and require somewhat of a return. That’s when the 2024 3rd and collection of mid-grade prospects starts to look enticing and can be sold to a fan base that is overvaluing their team’s assets as getting a potential 1st in return.
Treliving wasn’t patient on Matt Dumba this summer, it will be interesting to see if he’s trying to take the patient approach now.

Who’s potentially heading out from the Leafs

It seems like the recent antics of Ryan Reaves have bought him some time in Toronto and Brad Treliving will at least get to explore his vision for Reaves being the part of the tougher to play against in the playoffs Maple Leafs.
Ilya Samsonov has also found his way back into the good graces of the Maple Leafs and Toronto sports fans alike, and will get his opportunity to fight for time in net with Joseph Woll.
That still leaves a few roster players to keep an eye on heading into the final few days before the trade deadline.
  • Nick Robertson being healthy scratched in favour of Calle Jarnkrok isn’t necessarily a sign that he’s being traded and the Leafs want to keep him off the injured reserve, but it might just be a happy coincidence. While moving on from Robertson is debateable, he is a potentially valuable trade chip for the Leafs and with the rise of Bobby McMann and Pontus Holmberg, and both of those players being trusted by Sheldon Keefe more than Robertson, it seems like a change of scenery would probably be welcomed by the forward as well.
  • With limited centre options available to the point where teams are potentially paying ransoms for Nic Dowd, it would seem like exploring what the Leafs can do with David Kampf would be a responsible thing to do. The return on Kampf isn’t something that matters so much as the cap relief, and with Pontus Holmberg being a capable 4C replacement, there is some hope that Toronto can recoup cap space and give the team some longer term flexibility being moving on.
  • Timothy Liljegren is an interesting option that I hinted at in the section above. If there is an opportunity to make a true upgrade on defence, Liljegren, a pending RFA, might be an asset that brings all the options together. Of course, the plan is get stronger on the right side and moving on from Liljegren seems like it would do the opposite of that. Still, he’s an option.
  • Depending on how the goaltending market goes, if I’m Brad Treliving I’m listening on both Martin Jones and Ilya Samsonov. Moving Samsonov is certainly much more of a gamble, but depending on what the Leafs are trying to do that cap flexibility might be important. As for Jones, it seems like between now and the deadline there has to be at least one team out there that would give up a pick for him and no matter what round that pick is in, the Leafs could use a few lottery tickets.
  • Depending on his health, it’s hard not to imagine Conor Timmins name coming up at least a little although he’d be a low return move or a potential throw-in player to make things work from a roster perspective on both teams. Still, the Leafs will likely be needing that $1.1M of cap relief.
  • TJ Brodie is the final name I’m going to throw out here since there are plenty of teams looking at defence. If Toronto is looking to add someone else to the blueline, Brodie might be someone Toronto will send out in order to make it work.
I’m not wanting to get into the Marlies weeds here, but it’s safe to assume that almost everyone not named Dennis Hildeby is fair game there. I would have suggested Noah Gregor as potential option but it seems far more likely that his speed and physical play is something the Leafs either value in a depth position or like Lagesson, would be someone that is going to be looked at as a waivers option rather than a trade one.
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