The Orlov trade makes the Atlantic Division arms race real for the Leafs
Photo credit:Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
By Jon Steitzer25 days ago
I don’t think there is really a need to ask how the Orlov trade affects the Leafs, it’s pretty obvious. Toronto took a nice first step to the deadline with a huge move to bring in Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari, and that was a nice little way for a team in “win now mode” to try and close the gap with the heavily favoured Boston Bruins.
As much as we obviously focus on the Leafs need to win this season, the expectations, age, and salary cap realities for the Bruins make this season a do or die one for them as well. Bergeron and Krejci are in the back half of their 30’s and taking deep discounts to keep playing together in Boston. Marchand is crossing over into his later 30s pretty soon as well, he’s likely on his last NHL contract. And of course there’s the small matter of pending UFA David Pastrnak. They are either going to need to pay him a mint or this truly is a last dance situation for the Bruins. They want to win now and they showed their commitment on Thursday night:
That price the Bruins paid looks awfully familiar to Leafs fans, and while I think most Leafs fans would take O’Reilly and Acciari over Hathaway and Orlov, there is no doubt that the Bruins brought in good players, and that they are good players who can play a tough Bruins style of hockey, and that should be terrifying for teams in the Atlantic Division especially.
The good news for the Leafs is that the Bruins aren’t the immediate problem, the Lightning are. The Lightning also don’t have as much flexibility to pull off a trade like what we’ve seen today, not because Minnesota won’t retain money, not because someone won’t take Vladimir Namestnikov or Ian Cole, but because they are light on the assets to do anything of significance. Though I’m sure there is someone out there who would be happy with a 2024 2nd round pick or willing to wait for a 2025 1st rounder.
It seems like there are a couple of lessons the Leafs could learn from this.
The first lesson that could be learned is that there is that you can’t sit back and say your job is done after one trade. There is always more work to be done and by acting early the Leafs may have contributed to their own need to hustle beyond the first move as there is plenty of time for others to react as well.
The other lesson is that you can do everything right, commit to a big playoff push and come up short anyway. The Leafs, Lightning, and Bruins are all already good enough that anyone of them could come out of the Atlantic and no one would be surprised. Adding more players to that isn’t going to change the fact that any outcome is possible.
You’d hope with the second lesson that is more how you console yourself if you lose rather than your game plan going in. It’s sports, it’s competition, why wouldn’t you want to go down swinging?
It will be interesting to see what’s next for the Leafs. There likely always was a “what’s next?” for the Leafs that Kyle Dubas had lined up, so I’m not sure what we will see is a reactionary move, but you’d hope this might have the Leafs considering the fact that it can’t necessarily be about winning with this group, it has to be about building the best possible group to win with.
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