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Ryan Reaves season 2, Oilers provide optimism about the Maple Leafs, and trading the 1st: Leaflets

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Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
1 month ago
Another week is in the books and the Florida Panthers are doing everything they can to commit the league to the offseason. I can’t see Connor McDavid getting swept in the Finals so I’m betting heavily on tonight not being the end of things, but regardless next week will have buyout talk, players rights being dealt, and a lot more draft talk than we’re used to. In anticipation of that, here are some stray thoughts for Leaflets:

The Maple Leafs should trade their first

This is not a mortgage the future strategy nor is it a trading down strategy, it’s a shuffling deck chairs strategy. I firmly believe the best use of the Maple Leafs first round pick is to help them land a talented, cost-controlled defenceman for next season. It’s an opportunity to get a jump on free agency. And given the Maple Leafs’ tendency to go off the board with picks, going for the safe consensus option at 23rd overall wasn’t going to happen anyway.
At the same time, the Leafs have a couple of RFAs they might be more interested in moving on from rather than signing that could land them either 2nd or 3rd round picks. Timothy Liljegren and Nick Robertson are names the Leafs should be floating in advance of the draft as well as seeing if there is any interest in the rights to players like Tyler Bertuzzi or Max Domi.
I’m a draft layman, but I’m wager the Leafs could do as much with a pick in the 40s as they could with a pick in the 20s.
When it comes to players, I’d suggest the Leafs go after, Jakob Chychrun is an easy name to throw out there since he’s presently on Frank Seravalli’s trade target list. And perhaps a less appealing alternative on paper is if Craig Berube wants to bring one of his top four defencemen from St. Louis to Toronto, a deal could be found there.

Bringing back Ryan Reaves

There is a lot I’d like to see the Maple Leafs do this offseason and the reality is they probably don’t have the cap space to get it done. My mindset often then shifts to how to pinch pennies and moving on from Ryan Reaves looks like the easiest path to creating a bit more space as a designated enforcer isn’t a luxury the Leafs need.
My opinion won’t be shared by Brad Treliving. The Leafs will only get tougher and that’s a likely good thing. And while I might argue for more practical toughness, Reaves can likely be penciled in as the 13th forward. There will be an acknowledgment that a lesser role might be the best fit and he’s not an everyday player and the lesson has been learned that he’s not a playoff fit, but a plan needs to be considered for what Reaves can do.
Getting the most of Ryan Reaves seems like getting him away from David Kampf. It didn’t work. What does seem like it has the potential to work is putting Reaves with some try-hards. Nick Robertson, Bobby McMann, Pontus Holmberg, Connor Dewar, and potentially incoming kids like Fraser Minten, and Easton Cowan might be good fits. All could benefit from some sheltering and work with a veteran player.
The Leafs putting Reaves on a line with kids that Berube is going to want to shelter and protect makes sense, and if David Kampf is returning it is a chance to put him in more defensive zone situations that the Leafs might have not been thrilled about having Reaves in last year.

Oilers provide comfort for Leafs fans

Seeing the Oilers star players struggle against the Florida Panthers has a calming impact on Leafs fans. This week it seems to be more of an archetype issue when it comes to star offensive players than Auston Matthews or Mitch Marner not showing up as much as the Leafs would have wanted last year or even against Boston this season, considering they do a somewhat similar style to the Panthers.
McDavid, Draisaitl, and Hyman had been destroying the Western Conference and the first taste of the smaller space allowed by the Panthers, they’ve disappeared. That sucks for them, but calming for Leafs fans.
There are a few other ways the Oilers can make you feel good. A top heavy offensive team made it to the Cup Final. The Maple Leafs outline can work with some tweaks. Question marks in net and getting spotty defence isn’t an issue, although Toronto finding their version of Mattias Ekholm would be strongly advised.
It might be adding insult to injury to Oilers fans that their team is providing some optimism to Leafs fans, but this week the Leafs feel a little less broken and maybe a fresh set of eyes behind Toronto’s bench can make a big impact.

ICYMI:

Here are few notable TLN articles from the past week:
Elliotte Friedman on Mitch Marner: ‘A lot of people suspect that Vegas will be around it’ by Michael Mazzei
The NHL’s aversion to public data looks sillier than ever by Arun Srinivasan
The Rise of Bobby McMann continues into 2024-25 by Bennett Jull
Could the Leafs trade up for Cole Eiserman at the 2024 NHL Draft? by Alex Hobson
Laurent Brossoit is not the answer for the Toronto Maple Leafs by Nick Alberga
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