Should the Leafs trade a top prospect?
Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski - USA Today
By Jon Steitzer2 years ago
Now that the Leafs are off again until Thursday it’s pretty easy to switch back into trade mode. Kyle Dubas has put it out to the world that he’s trying to make something happen, and he even put the scarier notion out to the world that he’s willing to part with a top prospect in order to get the deal done. It was in that spirit I asked our distinguished panel if the Leafs should be parting with one of their top prospects, and if they are, who would they be willing to let go.
I am usually hesitant to move a top prospect, but this season is the perfect opportunity to deal at least one of them away to get back a player that will be an immediate boost to the lineup. The Leafs have a legitimate chance to go deep into spring and they should be looking at every opportunity to do just that. The only one of their top prospects worth dealing away would be Timothy Liljegren due to him being close to NHL-ready and would be an enticing enough piece for teams to consider acquiring. The same obviously goes for the likes of Robertson. Sandin, and Amirov, although I imagine Toronto would rather hang onto them. In short, this is the year to go all in so I don’t mind if one of their top prospects is on the move to make that happen.
Obviously the preference would be to trade for a forward and keep our top prospects, but nothing should be off the table at this point. Before I jump into the names I want to mention that some people are going overboard on these proposals, it’s very rare to see 2 top prospects moved in one deadline deal. Unless the Leafs are upgrading on forward and in net with salary retained, it’s unlikely they have to give up that much. At the same time, the Leafs aren’t paying for name recognition. I wouldn’t give up anywhere near as much for Taylor Hall as I would for Filip Forsberg. You can’t just categorize them both as top 6 wingers and think they demand the same package. On the flip side, I think people are more willing to trade Amirov because they don’t know much about him. The Leafs shouldn’t be picking as high as 15 for a very long time, it will be difficult for them to draft another player with so much potential. I would be more willing to trade Robertson to improve now, because it seems likely Amirov will play more NHL games on his ELC. On the blue line it’s tough to say if Liljegren or Sandin is more valuable to the Leafs, because their right side has improved so much this season. Their contracts are pretty much the same, they’re both very nearly NHL ready, I guess it comes down to who you think has more potential. Despite being a year older, I still think it’s Liljegren. This is his 4th season with the Marlies, and I think fans are growing a bit stale on him. If we had drafted Liljegren and left him in the SHL until now, I think people would be pumped about his progress. My choice then would be down to Robertson and Sandin, and I would have a harder time losing Robertson.So if the right player came along, I think the Leafs should be comfortable offering Sandin and their 2021 1st. Sometimes I think back to when the Leafs traded for Muzzin, I was a huge fan of Grundstrom, and I felt the Leafs prospect pool was too shallow to be making that type of move. In hindsight I’m thrilled we got Muzzin, and the Leafs prospect pool now is likely deeper than it was in 2018. It will sting for sure if the Leafs decide to go for it, but there’s a very good chance the payoff is worth the pain.
I think if the deal is right, yes. There are so many good prospects within the Maple Leafs organization and really, I’d be okay with trading any as long as it takes us to the promise land. But if there was one that had to be traded, I think it should be Rodion Amirov. He’s their youngest A-level prospect and one who could likely draw in a lot of teams. I don’t believe Rasmus Sandin or Nick Robertson will be traded at this point because of their injuries, and with the way Timothy Liljegren has played, I don’t think other teams are as high on him as Toronto is. If the Maple Leafs could package Rodion Amirov, their first-round pick for this season and maybe another prospect, I believe they could acquire a big-impact player.
It really depends for me. This Leafs team probably has the best chance to make a deep run in the Matthews era so far, so they should 100% be all in at the deadline. If we’re talking about a player like Filip Forsberg who’s really good and will be around longer than this year, then I would definitely explore dealing one of our top prospects to make that happen, but if it’s a short term option for a really good player (like Taylor Hall), I’m more hesitant, and if it’s a short term option for a lesser player (like Mikael Granlund), their top prospects shouldn’t even be in the conversation.The asset they should be dangling the most is that 2021 1st, mostly due to it’s perceived value and the fact that this draft is a weaker one than normal. If I had to pick a top prospect I’d be most comfortable with dealing, it’s Timothy Liljegren because the Leafs will probably have a greater need for forward depth over the next few years and Liljegren has the lowest upside out of the big 4, but I also really don’t want to give up on him yet either.
If there ever was a year to go all-in, it’s this year, as the Leafs have the easiest (read: still not easy) path to a deep playoff run without needing to face their usual division foes in Boston and Tampa until the third round. When it comes to moving pieces out, I draw the line at Robertson, Sandin and Amirov, which means I would dangle Liljegren and our first round picks for the next two seasons in deals that significantly improve our team. With 50% of the Leafs cap being tied up in our Big Four and a flat cap ceiling for the foreseeable future, getting value out of their cheap ELC talent is extremely important for Kyle Dubas and the Leafs. We can sacrifice the long-term for the benefit of the short-term… to an extent.
I’ll fall back on the old cliché that no one is untouchable and everyone can be traded, it’s just the price is a lot higher for some players rather than others. It’s also been a difficult thing for me in the past couple of seasons wrapping my head around the Leafs being in win now mode instead of planning for the future, and to Dubas’ credit, he’s done a good job of assuring most of us that he’ll never completely drain the prospect pool because that’s the key to contending every year.
It’s in the spirt of that last part that I still have concerns about the idea of trading a top prospect for a rental. Assuming the trade happens at the deadline, the Leafs would be parting with a top prospect for seven games of the new player in the regular season, and possibly as little as four playoff games, if things go sideways for the Leafs. It’s a big risk, and one that I’m not really comfortable as of yet. Now, looking at non-rental players and throwing around prospects, I’m suddenly game for it, and to some extent I think the prospects help open new doors for Kyle Dubas in trade conversations and the Leafs might not be limited to the names that have been out in the rumour mill so far.
As for who has to go, I think there is an incredible value in entry level contract forwards who can make a difference in the NHL, and with a flat cap there are few teams that could use Rodion Amirov and Nick Robertson more than Toronto. I’m in favour of keeping them, even if it’s at the price of weakening the Leafs defensive talent pool. Sandin and Liljegren are a bit harder to project what they will be at the NHL level, and while Sandin is the one who is injured today, the durability of Liljegren is perhaps more concerning. Parting with either or both of the defensemen seems more manageable at this point for me.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below. Should the Leafs trade a top prospect? Which prospect are you most comfortable seeing shown the door?
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