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Why the Maple Leafs should keep the core-four intact heading into next season

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Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Nick Barden
6 months ago
Keeping the core four together — some like the idea, others don’t.
After another first-round playoff exit by the Maple Leafs, I can understand both sides of the argument. If Toronto keeps losing, it doesn’t make sense to keep going with the same players over and over again. However, there’s always the possibility that these four have success in a Maple Leafs uniform.
It just might take some time and patience.
Do you want to keep going down one hallway until you find the magic door that takes you to the promise land or do you want to open a door halfway down with the possibility of inching forwards or backwards?
If you want to test the door halfway, you’re likely someone who wouldn’t be opposed to trading a player like William Nylander. If you’d like to wait, well, your perspective aligns with those of Maple Leafs’ management.
There were two sayings said by GM Kyle Dubas and President Brendan Shanahan that stood out to me during their final media availability of the season. They’re not trading someone for the sake of it and that they’re core is bigger than just the four players.
We classify Nylander, Auston Matthews, John Tavares, and Mitch Marner as the core four because they’re the best players on the team. It also happened that they each arrived and made this team good all at the same time.
Nobody knows what Dubas might do this summer to make some changes. I don’t think it will be anything drastic just from the vibes I got when the two spoke earlier this week. But honestly, nobody really knows with the Maple Leafs GM.
If you’re looking at each of the players right now in the core four, the most tradeable is Nylander. He’s under contract for the next two years at $6.962 million and just had a career year almost averaging a point-per-game.
But who would you get for him?
I don’t believe the Maple Leafs need to trade for another defenceman like Jakob Chychrun with the way their defence core is built right now. If you’re not going for a player on the back-end, then there could be one or two at the forward spot.
Dubas could go out and get two players who make up Nylander’s salary, but with the risk of that and knowing how good the 26-year-old can be, I don’t like those odds. It’s possible that there’s a trade that makes this team better with Nylander on the way out, but I just can’t see that.
The big thing many fans have been talking about in the recent days is a Demar Derozan-like trade, which brought Kawhi Leonard, and eventually a NBA Championship to the City of Toronto. A lot of people believe a shake-up like that is needed.
Two things on that: The NBA and NHL are not the same sport and players mean different things throughout a team. It’s also the fact that acquiring Leonard is like getting Matthews in a trade. You won’t find many players in the NHL who change an organization like Leonard did.
It’s something Shanahan said, too, earlier this week — the Maple Leafs need to find their own way to win a Stanley Cup. Not every team can win it by making the same trade another team did 10-15 years ago. Each hockey club is different and there isn’t one sole recipe to making it past the first round and further beyond that.
If there’s a trade that makes sense, by all means Dubas should do it. I just don’t believe any of their top-four players should be a part of those discussions. And they shouldn’t make a trade just because they feel the need to.
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