The busy day that was for the Leafs and where they are at right now
By Jon Steitzer9 months ago
Slow down, Kyle. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. After years of Leafs fans hoping for Toronto to tackle the trade deadline and roster building in general with this level of zest, it’s hard to critique the volume of what has been done. Kyle Dubas is living out the fantasies of a lot of Armchair GMs. He’s now acquired a pick that he could very well swap before the end of the week. It doesn’t get more Armchair GM than that. So let’s quickly recap what has been done.
Trade 1: Sandin out/Gustafsson and Boston’s 1st in
There’s a lot to this deal, and it’s generally the highlight of the day for me as it’s the easiest one to understand. As soon as McCabe was brought in it was pretty clear that Sandin would be bumped down into the 7th defenseman role. That wasn’t going to sit particularly well with Sandin nor would it sit well with many fans who were already wondering why it wasn’t Justin Holl who was press box bound.
Sandin’s fate for this season would be depth and at best it seems like the path back to being an everyday player next season would still be as a bottom pairing defender, nothing more. Washington sees Rasmus as more and paid a big price to see if they are right. Going by today, Gustafsson is the better defenseman of the two, but he’s also 30 and a pending UFA. I’m not sure whether Sandin is better than what Washington could have grabbed with a late pick in this draft, but he’s certainly the better option if they want to turn things around fast with their roster rather than a lengthy rebuild.
This was a bold move by Kyle Dubas, to say the least.
Trade 2: Pierre Engvall is gone for a 3rd round pick
I fall into the category of Pierre Engvall being a good player but not an exciting one. He does a lot of things really well but is 6’5 and doesn’t hit and that’s never going to sit right with a lot of people. He’s also a pending UFA and the Leafs needed the cap space to make everything work. Sending him out is a bit of an unfortunate reality and if Kyle Dubas had the choice of paying someone to take Kerfoot or getting an asset back for Pierre Engvall, it’s an unfortunate part of the Leafs looking to the big picture.
Engvall being a statistical darling means fingers will be pointing at Kerfoot, Holl, and even Kampf as better ways to shed salary, but here we are. A 2024 3rd seems like below market value for Engvall, but again this is better than nothing and sometimes you have to make a trade for the greater good.
Trade 3: Luke Schenn returns for a different 3rd round pick
If there is a trade that leaves me with a “something else has to happen” feeling, it’s this one.
Luke Schenn isn’t necessary. He’s most certainly a different type of defenseman from what is presently in the Leafs lineup, but if we are objectively looking at the Leafs defensive depth chart, Schenn slots in as the 8th defenseman. And Toronto just gave up a third round pick for him.
I’m not going to lament a third round pick. I’m just going to remain perplexed why Schenn is here and the Leafs are currently sitting at 12 forwards and 9 defensemen on their roster. There is still plenty of time for Kyle Dubas to unfurl his tapestry for us and have this make sense, but as a deal on February 28th, 2023 looking at the current state of the Toronto Maple Leafs, this deal isn’t it.
So where does that leave the Leafs so far?
|Ryan O’Reilly C||Rasmus Sandin D|
|Noel Acciari C/W||Pierre Engvall W|
|Sam Lafferty C/W||Joey Anderson W|
|Jake McCabe D||Adam Gaudette C/W|
|Erik Gustafsson D||Mikhail Abramov C/W|
|Luke Schenn D||Pavel Gogolev W|
|Josh Pillar F||2023 1st Rd Pick (Tor)|
|2023 1st Rd Pick (Bos)||2025 1st Rd Pick (Tor)*|
|2024 3rd Rd Pick (NYI)||2024 2nd Rd Pick (Tor)|
|2024 5th Rd Pick (Chi)*||2026 2nd Rd Pick (Tor)|
|2025 5th Rd Pick (Chi)*||2023 3rd Rd Pick (Ott)|
|2023 3rd Rd Pick (Tor)|
That’s a pretty wild list and even wilder when you consider the Leafs might not be done. If we’re looking for areas that could still be addressed there is still secondary scoring that could be addressed and last but not least, if the Leafs want some additional security in net they could look at a goaltender.
Here is the cap reality/depth chart for the Leafs.
So let’s start with what is happening with the blue line. Gustafsson is a 20 minute per night player this season and considering him a 7D is a bit much. That said, who comes out? I’m pretty sure a good portion of Leafs Nation would riot if Timothy Liljegren winds up in the press box, and it seems like something has to give on the left side more than the right given that Brodie can play either side. Is Gustafsson just on a pit stop in Toronto on his way somewhere else? Is this the end of Justin Holl? Do the Leafs start using 7D in a game?
The forward group is a lot more clear, especially since there aren’t enough to go around. Where it gets interesting is whether or not it works. Kampf has struggled away from Engvall this year and now he has nowhere to run. Alex Kerfoot is… well… why is he still here? And if there is one area that still looks like it’s needed it’s a secondary scoring option. There’s also likely a spot that will be occupied by Matthew Knies at some point.
As for the cap realities, as it sits right now, Toronto has enough room to activate Matt Murray, and that was mission accomplished on the Engvall move. I guess it would have also been mission accomplished after the Sandin trade if the Leafs didn’t also add Luke Schenn, but then it gets into the territory of not having enough money left over to bring in Matthew Knies. With Murray activated and Woll demoted, the Leafs have around $850k to spend on Knies or someone else, but the Leafs would also be sitting at 23 roster spots before bringing in Knies, with each player requiring waivers.
That’s where the Leafs present assets come in. Toronto is now back to sitting on a 2023 1st and a 2024 1st that could be in play. While I highly doubt that Matthew Knies is trade bait from the Leafs, Toronto does still have a number of their interesting prospects that could also be shopped in a biggish move. They still have Kerfoot, and Holl sitting out there as salary that seems like it could be moved.
Seeing what all-in looks like has been strange. And while I’m not a basketball fan, I feel like no one can accuse the NHL trade deadline of being its usual boring self this year. Toronto has the potential to do more and most people have connected the same dots that have been connected above and that is that Toronto isn’t likely to hold nine defensemen on their roster. The next couple of days might be a tad quieter for Toronto as they’ll actually have to play a couple of games, but with three days to go and players constantly being sat because of injury concerns, I’d keep your phone notifications on right through to Friday.
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