Maple Leafs want to add but what assets do they have to give?

Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Vicken Polatian
6 months ago
We’re less than eight weeks away from the NHL Trade Deadline and the appetite to make a move for the Toronto Maple Leafs is growing. 
It has been an underwhelming first half of the season for this team, and the need to make an upgrade, especially on the back-end, is becoming more and more evident. We’ve seen names like Chris Tanev, Sean Walker, and more recently Jakob Chychrun pop up in the rumour mill, and there should be plenty of general managers interested in their services.But what can Brad Treliving offer these teams? You have to give to get.
The core is obvious. Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, the newly signed William Nylander, Captain John Tavares, and Morgan Rielly are not going anywhere. Matthew Knies is another untouchable. Young, cheap, skilled, and for all the talk we hear about the “core-4” being too similar, Knies has size and has added an edge to his game, which has been sorely lacking from anyone else on this roster. He’s no longer just a prospect, he has become a very important piece of this team. 
Last, but not least, Joseph Woll. There’s a different feel about Woll than any goalie we’ve seen in the Leafs’ net since pre-injury Frederik Andersen. He’s calm in the net, poised, and he’s locked in for another season on a cheap contract. He stays.
Next, we have the second tier of players who aren’t untouchable per se but won’t be on the move anytime soon for one reason or another. Tyler Bertuzzi, and Max Domi were brought in to bring this team some “snot” in the playoffs. Although both are likely to hit UFA on July 1st, they will be relied upon heavily in the postseason. Calle Jarnkrok could be an interesting piece for a rebuilding team but would be incredibly tough to replace. He can play up-and-down the lineup, is solid defensively, and is producing at about 40-point pace on the Leafs’ third line. He’s locked in at a modest $2.1 million AAV for the next two seasons as well, which could be a huge factor in retaining his services. 
As Morgan Rielly’s primary partner on the Leafs’ top unit, for now, T.J. Brodie is also safe. 
If we can forget about the last 20 seconds of the game against the New York Islanders, Jake McCabe has been on another level this season, especially since being paired with new fan-favourite Simon Benoit. They seem to have found some chemistry, and both play a style suited for a tough series against the likes of the Bruins, or Panthers. Mark Giordano. Leader. Veteran. Legend. Toronto guy. He’ll have a role in the front office once his playing days are over.
Where does that leave us?
We were expecting loads of change this off-season as the Leafs fizzled out, again, but this seems like the last straw. For REAL this time. 
The Matthews and Nylander contracts will kick in next season, and with the final year of Tavares and Marner still on the books, 2024-2025 will most likely be a down season for the team as they look to maneuver their way through cap hell. 
It’s time to go ALL-IN, but what assets does this team have left?
Little to No Value
David Kampf, Ryan Reaves, and Ilya Samsonov have negative value at the moment. 
Nick Robertson can’t get in the lineup, and will be a healthy scratch once again as the Leafs take on Colorado. It may seem harsh to group Robertson with the names above, but until he can solidify a spot in this lineup, it would be best for the Leafs to hang on and try to squeeze as much value as they can out of him before pulling the trigger on a trade. 
Valuable yet Tradeable
“Draft Schmaft” – Cliff Fletcher 
Fletcher still works as an advisor for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and his once most famous quote should still ring true. BUT JUST THIS YEAR. No second round pick for the next three seasons could really hurt Treliving’s chances at landing a rental, but the first-rounder this season should be used to make a splash. Jake Muzzin, Nick Foligno, and Ryan O’Reilly were added in the past with varying degrees of success, but if this trade doesn’t end up working out, a major move of a core player is coming, and could help the team recoup some assets. 
Topi Niemela is the lone defensive prospect with any real value in the system. With 20 points in 30 games in the AHL this season, there shouldn’t be any rush to move him. The one concern for Treliving may be Niemela’s size and could make the defenseman expendable. 
Reluctant to Trade
Easton Cowan came out like a man possessed in training camp this season. One of the last cuts in preseason, he really made an impression on Sheldon Keefe. Treliving took a real swing when he selected Cowan 28th overall, but he’s become Toronto’s most impressive prospect in the past year. 
Fraser Minten had a terrific start to the year. Following a terrific preseason, Minten got into 4 games with the big club before being sent back down to junior. The hype has cooled a little though, as he captained Team Canada to a disappointed fifth place finish at the World Juniors.
Only a Blockbuster
The Toronto Maple Leafs’ best trade asset for the upcoming deadline is, without a doubt, Timothy Liljegren. A home-grown talent that can move the puck and defend the blueline. A soon-to-be RFA, the 24-year-old may be the best piece for Treliving to move to change the makeup of his d-corps. 
Moving Liljegren would be a major shakeup, but could be in the best interest of the team this season, and heading into the playoffs. 
Perhaps revisiting talks with the Calgary Flames is the way to go. Inquiring about Noah Hanifin, as well as Chris Tanev, and bringing both to Toronto could be enticing enough for Treliving to make a bold move, and in the process, make his first real mark on this franchise. 
Liljegren as the main piece in the trade would offset some of the losses on the backend for the Flames and expedite Craig Conroy’s process in retooling his defensive unit next season. 
For the Leafs, pressure is mounting, and standing pat cannot be an option. How Brad Treliving manages his assets will go a long way in determining just how far this team will go. 

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