The Leafs deadline ends in a fizzle rather than a pop and that’s okay

Photo credit:Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
1 year ago
Here we are at the finish line. Bob McKenzie says the Leafs are done and who are any of us to argue with him? As busy as the larger trade deadline season has been for the Leafs, the final day itself didn’t offer much outside an AHL move. That should be fine, but that is going to be heavily influenced by how you feel about the deals that took place on Tuesday.
Sending Sandin out and bringing in two defenders in Gustafsson and Schenn, picking up a first in the process was interesting. Both Schenn and Gustafsson should help the Leafs in the short term and being back into the first round appeases those who weren’t particularly high on Sandin, but everything that happened seemed like it was a prelude to one more move.
The lack of anything materializing is confusing. As is the departure of Pierre Engvall so the Leafs can be over the top on defensive depth but noticeably thinner on the offensive side of things. None of the deals were bad, but it seems like something was in the works until it wasn’t. Could it have been Tyler Bertuzzi, could it have been Conor Garland? This is just speculation based on the names that were loosely connected back to Toronto at one point or another.
There are worse problems to have than too much defensive depth, and how it will play out, we’ll soon see. And when it comes to forward depth I feel that there might be a lack of appreciation for what Pontus Holmberg was doing for much of the season, the energy of Bobby McMann, and of course, the option to go with 11F/7D desired as well.
It feels like the last minute disappointments are escaping the fact that the Leafs are heading into the playoffs with Ryan O’Reilly and Jake McCabe as significant roster upgrades. The fact that there are two more years of McCabe after this at $2M is a wonderful outcome as well.
Schenn, Lafferty, and Acciari (along with Knies, potentially) all push the Leafs in the direction of playing a heavier brand of playoff hockey, and that’s long been an ask of the Leafs as well. It might have been a bit more of style changes than upgrades, but we’ll see if it makes a difference.
And Gustafsson. I really don’t know where Gustafsson fits in, but if there is a top four injury we will be glad he’s here.
So that was likely the plan all along. The Leafs can go with a Marlies recall in the next couple of days, but that burns through one of their four allowed recalls from the AHL.
While today might have been underwhelming, the actions of Kyle Dubas haven’t been. He’s likely done some stuff you like, some stuff you don’t like, and maybe even some stuff you can’t understand why it was necessary. The thing is he’s done a lot and the Leafs overall look better than a few weeks ago. In my opinion, he’s earned his extension with the Leafs and has done more than anyone would have reasonably expected from him, it’s just a matter of seeing how things play out.

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