Nick Robertson’s entering uncomfortable territory as the trade deadline approaches

Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Seney
4 months ago
Nick Robertson finds himself on the outside looking in at the Maple Leafs roster and soon, he could be on the outside looking in at the entire organization. Robertson has been inconsistent this season but is filled with promise and as the March 8 trade deadline creeps closer, he’s certainly a Leaf to watch as a prime trade candidate or someone who could be squeezed to the AHL.
The only two players on the Leafs current roster who are waivers exempt are Matthew Knies and Robertson. Knies isn’t going anywhere, meanwhile Calle Jarnkrok is healthy and ready to return, so Robertson’s now been taking out of the mix. Where to next?
Robertson’s in a tough spot because he had shown so much chemistry earlier on this season with Max Domi and Jarnkrok but unfortunately for Robby, Domi got promoted, Jarnkrok got hurt and now the lines have been shuffled, which hasn’t benefited the 22 year old at all. Robertson has just one goal in his last 14 games and if he’s not scoring he’s not effective. He doesn’t kill penalties, he’s not a physical presence and sometimes his work ethic gets the best of him as his 100mph approach can sometimes put him out of position thanks to overreacting or over committing on a play. It hasn’t all been easy for the former second-round pick and being taken out of the lineup isn’t a pill he’s looking to swallow or accept.

Robertson Could Be Moved for Defenseman

With Bobby McMann’s coming out party, Pontus Holmberg being a versatile bottom-six defensive minded option and with Easton Cowan coming as early as next season, it could make some sense for Treliving to dangle Robertson for a defenseman.
The Leafs GM has recently admitted you can never have enough defensemen and while he’s going to need some forwards on the cheap next season and beyond, the Leafs are also going to need more defensive depth to go deep this season, as well as defensemen under contract moving forward. The likes of TJ Brodie, Mark Giordano and William Lagesson are unlikely to be in the Maple Leafs’ plans next season.
Given Robertson’s age, his world-class shot and his speed, there’s still a ton of value there. At 22 his ceiling is still very high, it’s just the opportunity and right situation that’s lacking. Robertson’s not suited for a third line, he’s suited for a second line, where he can use his offensive instincts, get in the right positions to get off his booming shot and build chemistry with offensive minded forwards alike. He’s not an effective third line winger and can’t play a shut-down role when it comes to playoff time. With Knies not going anywhere anytime soon and with Tyler Bertuzzi looking like a long term option for the Leafs, Robertson’s getting crunched in a numbers game and won’t be given the proper usage, making a trade perhaps the best possible outcome for all involved.
For now, Treliving doesn’t necessarily have to move the young forward, as he can be sent down to the Marlies without clearing waivers and be a security blanket down the stretch should one of the Leafs forwards go down with injury. However, considering the Leafs have minimal draft picks these next few seasons and aren’t completely sold on trading their 2024 first-round pick unless it’s for a defenseman who has an ideal contract long term, Robertson remains a prime trade asset.
Nevertheless, keep tabs on Robertson this next week or so as he’s going to have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. With the latest bit of line juggling we’ve seen from Keefe, his role has diminished and onlooking teams will be interested to see how much Treliving values the Kyle Dubas-drafted 22-year-old. For now an AHL demotion is reality, however don’t count out the Leafs GM being open to moving Robertson for a defenseman who will move the needle in Toronto, not only for the rest of this season and the playoffs, but looking ahead to next season and beyond.
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