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Returns for Lindholm and Monahan should at least have the Leafs considering selling
By Jon Steitzer21 days ago
Fear of missing out is a real thing and every year around this time I get a heavy case of FOMO when it comes to selling at the trade deadline. As much as the Leafs have given a few fun buying years, the amount of uncertainty about the team this season has me looking at their list of potential rentals and has me revisiting if the best play for the Maple Leafs is to restock the cupboards and give Brad Treliving an honest chance at building his version of the Leafs once he’s seen the team in action for a year and can set himself up with the resources he needs to make the changes he wants.
The Leafs as sellers would have likely been more of a legitimate discussion a couple of weeks ago. A three game winning streak driven by strong goaltending from Ilya Samsonov changes a lot of opinions, as does the excitement of the Leafs at the All-Star game. There might be a reason to believe in this group and no matter what the immediate best course of action for Brad Treliving is to see how the next few weeks play out.
The returns for Elias Lindholm and Sean Monahan make a strong case too. Elias Lindholm netted the Flames a 1st round pick, a fourth round pick, a pretty darn good reclamation project in Andrei Kuzmenko, and two young defencemen that could turn out to be worthwhile.
Monahan on the other hand landed a 1st round pick and a 2027 conditional 3rd round pick if the Jets win the Stanley Cup (so the Habs got a 1st round pick). It is another strong return for someone who likely slot in at the 3C spot on the Maple Leafs and with Lindholm and Monahan off the market, the centre position has a fairly limited supply for the teams still looking to add at that position.
That’s what brings us to Max Domi. In a market that seems to have dwindled down to Adam Henrique, Scott Laughton, Jack Roslovic, and Morgan Frost, the Leafs making their pending free agent centre available could land them an impressive return. Certainly not anything in the Lindholm category nor do his numbers warrant a Sean Monahan level return, but with limited supply available and a relatively friendly cap hit (that the Leafs could retain on) the return on Domi could be close that of what the Jets paid. And for what it is worth, Domi has outperformed Monahan at 5v5.
Tyler Bertuzzi is the other name that would certainly garner some interest. The biggest caveat to him as well as Domi is that the Leafs specifically brought them in because they show up in the playoffs and play a style of hockey that serves their team well once gameplay becomes more physical, jettisoning either would goes against one of the main premises for the Leafs this season and I doubt we see it happen.
That said, Bertuzzi is a type of player that teams will be looking for and will be in short supply. Toronto eating half of Bertuzzi’s cap hit would make him one hell of a commodity even though his results as a Leaf season have been fairly underwhelming. If he’d consider it at all, Brad Treliving would likely lean heavily into the time he still has left before the deadline before committing to movement.
TJ Brodie is certainly another option for the Leafs to move on from and could still attract some attention around the league even if the Leafs haven’t been thrilled with him this season. For a team not looking for a top pairing defenceman or a team that doesn’t require speed at the position, Brodie still makes sense. He still makes sense for the Leafs too if they can find a better partner for Rielly, but this premise is based around the Leafs not being buyers, so we’ll assume in this scenario help isn’t coming for Morgan. Brodie might not land a first round pick, but he’s someone that teams would still ask for and if the Leafs are ready to move on, it’s an easy way to cash out.
Samsonov rounds out the significant pending UFAs and a good February from him is a double-edged sword. If Samsonov is playing well the Leafs are probably playing their way into more of a buyer situation and retaining Ilya for the stretch makes a lot more sense. If the Leafs struggle, there is a good chance Samsonov is struggling too and whether he’s available or not there might not be any takers. Returns on goaltenders are always unpredictable anyway but if the Leafs are feeling confident in Samsonov and Woll that opens up the door for Martin Jones to be moved to a team searching for a backup.
While it seems unlikely that the Leafs will be sellers it will certainly be something that gets talked about in hindsight. A lot of good Leafs players wound up leaving the organization with nothing coming back in return after the Leafs used them as “own rentals” for early playoff exits.
There is also that outside of Brad Treliving being vocal about wanting to add on defence, his track record doesn’t support that he’ll pull off a flurry of moves to radically overhaul this roster. It’s far more likely he looks for one impact addition and calls it a day.
The Leafs always could do the unthinkable and be both buyers and sellers, but that seems even less likely from Treliving, or any NHL GM for that matter.
Perhaps what the real takeaway from the Lindholm and Monahan deals is that it won’t be cheap to add players at the trade deadline and if the Leafs are wanting to bring in a top tier defenceman we can expect something similar to the Lindholm deal going down.
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