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Nick Robertson remains a likely trade candidate for the Maple Leafs

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Photo credit:© Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Seney
1 month ago
Nick Robertson’s 2023-24 season was littered with interesting quotes, multiple healthy scratches, 14 goals, and a ton of trade rumours. He’s likely going to hear much of the same this summer as you can expect to see Brad Treliving dangle Robertson on the trade market to see how much value the 22-year-old holds.
The former second-round pick started his season by providing one of the more direct quotes of any Leaf in recent memory. Robertson was brutally honest with his head space at training camp and came out to admit he understands because of the constant injuries, his ‘name’ as a prospect doesn’t hit as hard as it once did. He also made it very clear to  The Athetlic’s Joshua Kloke that he doesn’t care one bit:
I know my name isn’t what it used to be. I don’t give a f**k. I believe. I believe in anything. In the long run, I know this is an important year for me. I didn’t want to miss training camp. It was a tough decision for me. It really was. But it was something I had to be mature about.
Certainly an interesting quote from a young forward who believes in himself a tremendous amount. It was very early in the season and quite obvious that there was a lot on Robertson’s mind.
It shouldn’t be a surprise to see him caught up in what’s being said in the media as there’s been a ton of buzz about him since the day he was drafted. There have also been several reports about him not being happy in Toronto and potentially asking for a fresh start to management last offseason. Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet has tracked Robertson’s tenure quite closely and during last season’s Stanley Cup Final, reported some trade interest from Philadelphia but also that Robertson is likely open to a fresh start:
One guy Philadelphia has had interest in before has been Nick Robertson… and Nick Robertson might be the kind of guy that could use a fresh start and will probably like one. I don’t know how they [Philadelphia] would feel about him now. Unfortunately, he has battled some injuries and some unfortunate bad luck the past couple years, but I do know that’s a guy they’ve liked in the past
It was an interesting quote then and still resonates now. So let’s do a quick recap. Robertson has battled injuries since being drafted in 2019 and had only appeared in 35 NHL games, including playoffs, in parts of four seasons. There were reports of him wanting a fresh start and trade interest from other teams. Before the start of this season, he admits he’s not the big-name top-prospect he once was and that he doesn’t care. He then proceeded to appear in 56 regular season games for the Leafs, the most in a single season during his young career, but it wasn’t perfect. When he was sent down on March 2, a week before the trade deadline, Robertson went public with his frustration:
I understand it, but I’m not going to sit here and say I’m happy. I want to play. But I understand my contract situation. Obviously, if it wasn’t the way it was, maybe it’d be different situation. I’ve been in plenty of situations here where the waivers have kind of screwed me. So, like I said, I’m numb to it.
Robertson’s contract allowed for him to be sent down to the minors without having to clear waivers, so it made perfect sense for Treliving to demote him over having the potential of losing another forward for nothing to any other team in the league. In my opinion, he shouldn’t have gone to the media about it. The team was a month away from starting the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It was a time for the Leafs to build on their season and get fine-tuned for what they were hoping at the time, was going to be a long playoff run. Whether his comments were well-intentioned or not, it wasn’t a great look to everybody.

Robertson Will Eventually Score 25 Goals

If there’s one thing that can’t be questioned about Robertson’s game is the fact he’s a shooter who can find the twine regardless of where he plays. With 14 goals in just 56 games this season, if he can stay healthy and on an active NHL roster for a full 82-game season, it won’t be long before he hits the 25-goal mark.
Robertson was mostly in a bottom-six role and only saw an average of 48 seconds of power-play time per game, so once he can solidify himself into a top six role, where he would be most effective, and see more consistent time with the man advantage, it will certainly open up the door to him lighting the lamp more. For now, he’s an undersized winger who gets pushed around, doesn’t win a ton of puck battles and also has serious gaffes on the defensive side of the puck.
For the California native to reach his full potential, he needs to be on a scoring line in the top six and not asked to play a checking role. Sheldon Keefe didn’t see it that way throughout the season and into the playoffs. Robertson appeared in all of the first-round series until it reached Game 7 and once Auston Matthews made his return, he was taken out of the lineup instead of Noah Gregor or Connor Dewar.
Sheldon Keefe was just fired as head coach of the Leafs. Could a new coach be exactly what Robertson needs to find consistent minutes? Or, will Treliving have other ideas and try and upgrade on defence or in goal by adding Robertson and his scoring potential in a trade package?
With Matthew Knies, Bobby McMann, and Connor Dewar seemingly locks to return and Tyler Bertuzzi expressing a desire to re-sign in Toronto, Robertson will continue to get stuck in a numbers game in Toronto. Add in the fact top prospects Fraser Minten and Easton Cowan are going to battle for roster spots next season and it’s becoming more and more obvious that the Maple Leafs may be smart to move on from the 22-year-old and give Robertson something he’s asked for in the past – a change of scenery and an opportunity to contribute consistently at the NHL level.

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