The trade deadline can be a messy time to navigate for an NHL team. There’s gallons of snake oil for sale at prices worse even than actual oil prices. It’s your last opportunity to bring in external talent to improve your chances to win the ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup. After several years of missing that mark, the Leafs are getting increasingly desperate at the deadline. Last year’s @Nick Foligno trade was quite the disaster, mostly due to unfortunate injury, but he was injured when we got him so that seems like it was a really bad risk calculation in hindsight. At the time it was not good either, but certainly not as bad as it looks in the rear view mirror.
This time, it seems like the Leafs are once again chasing big targets like @JT Miller, @Mark Giordano, and @Hampus Lindholm. It seems that they didn’t learn anything from last year, in that regard. It was worse when it sounded like they were in on @Ben Chiarot. Thankfully that didn’t work out.
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The Leafs have two big problems right now: bad goaltending, and no one to fit in on @John Tavares and @William Nylander’s line. @Alexander Kerfoot worked for a while, but the offense dried up and Keefe decided to look to other options internally, none of which have worked out thus far. Goaltending could fix itself is @Erik Kallgren keeps playing like this, and @Jack Campbell gets back to form when his health returns. You could move Kerfoot back and hope that works. But this is the trade deadline, it’s way more fun to imagine making 10 trades to make marginal improvements at every position. So that’s what we’re going to do.
Using Evolving Hockey’s Goals Above Replacement model, we can pretty easily compare the Leafs’ existing roster in comparison to the biggest targets on the market at this year’s deadline. While the actual business of making hockey trades and evaluating internal assets takes a lot more than a few publicly available charts, it can still be a good place to start.
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The Defence

It’s been pretty obvious that @Travis Dermott is likely going to be an odd-man out when all the moves shake themselves out. As mentioned, Giordano and Lindholm acquisitions seem to be at the forefront of the Leafs’ mind right now. I have a couple of different suggestions.
Sorting by the rate each player generates “Goals Above Replacement”, per the Evolving Hockey model, there’s some obvious players that Toronto could acquire to bolster their D. I called out @Carson Soucy in the title, as the Leafs seem intent on improving their defense in the wake of the @Jake Muzzin injury. @Brett Kulak would also be a good target, but a trade with Montreal might be slightly more difficult than with Seattle, so Soucy is the more likely target.
@Colin Miller also rates very highly in this model, but with injuries nagging him lately, he’s a bit of an ill-advised target.
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If the Leafs do want to bolster the right side, @Justin Braun is a pretty good target, but he’s primarily a bottom pairing D, and the Leafs already have @Ilya Lyubushkin if they want that. They also have TJ Brodie, who isn’t a star in this model but has been playing a pretty important role for the Leafs.
Player
Season
Team
Position
GP
TOI_All
Off_GAR/60
Def_GAR/60
Pens_GAR/60
GAR/60
Timothy Liljegren
21-22
TOR
D
44
701.6
0.863
0.162
-0.008
0.948
Justin Holl
21-22
TOR
D
50
1034.2
0.416
0.243
0.018
0.614
Colin Miller
21-22
BUF
D
33
645.8
0.585
0.088
-0.006
0.611
Rasmus Sandin
21-22
TOR
D
50
850.1
0.247
0.179
0.116
0.524
Morgan Rielly
21-22
TOR
D
61
1464.8
0.638
-0.153
0.015
0.453
Brett Kulak
21-22
MTL
D
55
986.3
0.085
0.315
0.004
0.396
Carson Soucy
21-22
SEA
D
44
756.7
0.236
0.093
-0.099
0.203
Justin Braun
21-22
PHI
D
61
1221.8
-0.012
0.231
-0.018
0.199
Jacob Middleton
21-22
S.J
D
44
836.6
-0.041
0.245
-0.042
0.161
Tj Brodie
21-22
TOR
D
61
1300.8
-0.098
0.223
0.007
0.139
Mark Giordano
21-22
SEA
D
55
1181.9
-0.146
0.379
-0.049
0.138
Ilya Lyubushkin
21-22
ARI/TOR
D
58
1031.6
-0.166
0.313
-0.045
0.119
Damon Severson
21-22
N.J
D
59
1385.8
-0.091
0.31
-0.097
0.096
Hampus Lindholm
21-22
ANA
D
61
1375
0.112
0.033
-0.042
0.089
Travis Dermott
21-22
TOR
D
42
619.8
-0.166
0.186
0.049
0.074
John Klingberg
21-22
DAL
D
52
1154.3
0.29
-0.3
0.026
0.051
Robert Hagg
21-22
BUF
D
48
816.5
-0.096
0.104
-0.004
0.018
Jake Muzzin
21-22
TOR
D
41
860.9
-0.089
0.057
0.039
0.017
Jakob Chychrun
21-22
ARI
D
47
1080.3
-0.24
0.249
-0.014
-0.006
Josh Manson
21-22
ANA/COL
D
47
923.8
-0.086
0.155
-0.095
-0.017
Calvin De Haan
21-22
CHI
D
55
1058.4
-0.337
0.195
0.031
-0.079
Travis Hamonic
21-22
VAN
D
23
421.5
-0.048
-0.185
0.111
-0.113
Nick Leddy
21-22
DET
D
55
1186
-0.269
-0.133
0.027
-0.356
Ben Chiarot
21-22
MTL
D
54
1271.4
-0.202
-0.316
-0.082
-0.547

The Forwards

With 12 spots, and 3 different positions, there’s a lot more possibilities for change on forward. The biggest issue the Leafs have right now is finding a left winger to play with @John Tavares and @William Nylander. It would also be nice to improve on the 4th line, as both @Jason Spezza and @Wayne Simmonds seem to be falling out of favour.
Trading for one of the Canucks’ big forwards like @Conor Garland, @JT Miller, or @Brock Boeser would be very fun. The Canucks are probably looking for a king’s ransom for any of them, but Garland is playing the best and would probably be the cheapest to acquire as well. @Max Domi or @Rickard Rakell would be other players that you could go after to solve the 2nd line’s offensive drought.
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They could bring in either @Arturri Lekhonen or @Tyler Motte for the bottom 6 to build on the existing approach of slowing other teams to a halt with @David Kampf’s line. Likely you’d also have @Pierre Engvall on the way out as well, to make roster space and cap room. Similar to Colin Miller, @Johan Larsson is an ill-advised target as he’s still on his way to returning from injury.
Player
Season
Team
Position
GP
TOI_All
Off_GAR/60
Def_GAR/60
Pens_GAR/60
GAR/60
Auston Matthews
21-22
TOR
C
56
1145.4
0.969
0.319
0.034
1.24
Michael Bunting
21-22
TOR
L
61
951.8
0.968
0.09
0.162
1.195
Alex Kerfoot
21-22
TOR
C
61
930.8
0.903
0.005
0.137
0.922
Mitch Marner
21-22
TOR
C/R
52
1076.4
0.711
0.168
0.067
0.833
Conor Garland
21-22
VAN
R
57
921.3
0.411
0.153
0.206
0.736
Johan Larsson
21-22
ARI
L
29
517.9
0.564
0.302
-0.06
0.714
Ilya Mikheyev
21-22
TOR
R
32
474.6
0.502
0.227
0.036
0.687
Max Domi
21-22
CBJ
C
52
700.8
0.858
-0.318
-0.01
0.549
Artturi Lehkonen
21-22
MTL
L
57
835.4
0.363
0.15
0.024
0.468
John Tavares
21-22
TOR
C
60
1084
0.519
-0.062
0.003
0.458
Ondrej Kase
21-22
TOR
R
49
692.8
0.494
-0.018
0.009
0.432
Rickard Rakell
21-22
ANA
L/R
51
935.5
0.429
-0.044
0.038
0.419
J.T. Miller
21-22
VAN
C
60
1251.2
0.623
-0.173
-0.012
0.387
Tyler Motte
21-22
VAN
C
47
667
0.42
0.063
-0.058
0.358
David Kampf
21-22
TOR
C
61
913
0.002
0.306
0.003
0.302
Claude Giroux
21-22
PHI
C/R
57
1095.5
0.142
0.063
0.094
0.274
Andreas Johnsson
21-22
N.J
L
56
811
0.443
-0.242
0.044
0.259
Jack Roslovic
21-22
CBJ
C
61
774.6
0.404
-0.175
0.005
0.235
Jake Debrusk
21-22
BOS
L
57
825.4
-0.049
0.141
0.104
0.186
Pavel Zacha
21-22
N.J
C
56
937.7
0.022
0.158
0.004
0.159
Brock Boeser
21-22
VAN
R
56
1042.3
0.066
0.074
0.034
0.157
Phil Kessel
21-22
ARI
C/R
60
1005.9
0.456
-0.281
-0.075
0.138
Nick Paul
21-22
OTT
L
59
1024.9
-0.127
0.147
0.038
0.069
Andrew Copp
21-22
WPG
C
55
1091.3
0.01
0.008
0.047
0.062
Zach Sanford
21-22
OTT
L
61
866.9
0.044
-0.021
-0.005
0.018
Wayne Simmonds
21-22
TOR
R
57
545.4
0.19
-0.213
0.027
0.009
Dominik Kubalik
21-22
CHI
L
61
890.8
-0.159
0.081
0.087
0.002
Pierre Engvall
21-22
TOR
L
57
725.4
-0.07
0.017
0.049
0.002
Kyle Clifford
21-22
STL/TOR
L
14
123.4
0.223
-0.254
0.026
-0.012
Jason Spezza
21-22
TOR
C
55
605.3
0.078
-0.136
-0.094
-0.135
Owen Tippett
21-22
FLA
R
42
526.5
0.221
-0.407
-0.042
-0.182
Nicholas Robertson
21-22
TOR
L
9
90.1
-1.185
0.126
-0.096
-1.16
I’m not going to make much of @Nicholas Robertson’s poor numbers here after just 9 games. If the Leafs can keep working him in and out of the lineup for his development that’s great. He will likely improve if given the chance. If not, then some more time with the Marlies is in order. Either way, that determination is not possible with such little ice time so far.
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This model also loves @Alexander Kerfoot, because his scoring levels have been very high. We should be a bit skeptical of that, given that his on-ice shooting percentage is 12.26%.

The Goalies

Imagining that @Erik Kallgren is suddenly @Dominik Hasek is fun, but practically that’s not likely. The Leafs could bet on him, and bet on @Jack Campbell returning to form, but the idea of acquiring @Marc-Andre Fleury is really interesting. He’s had a good season for a bad Chicago team, but his $7M cap hit makes him a difficult trade. Chicago would definitely have to retain half of his salary, which means the trade asset cost would be massive.
Other than Fleury, there’s no one on the trade bait list that would be worth going after.
Player
Season
Team
Position
GP
TOI_EV
GAR/60
WAR/60
SPAR/60
Erik Kallgren
21-22
TOR
G
3
128.3
1.456
0.257
0.489
Marc-Andre Fleury
21-22
CHI
G
44
2141.6
0.135
0.024
0.045
Jack Campbell
21-22
TOR
G
40
1935.2
0.032
0.006
0.011
Joseph Woll
21-22
TOR
G
4
198
-0.005
-0.001
-0.002
Karel Vejmelka
21-22
ARI
G
35
1620.3
-0.047
-0.008
-0.016
Alexandar Georgiev
21-22
NYR
G
24
1070.6
-0.079
-0.014
-0.027
Joonas Korpisalo
21-22
CBJ
G
20
864.2
-0.479
-0.085
-0.161
Petr Mrazek
21-22
TOR
G
17
771.1
-0.555
-0.098
-0.186
It’s pretty obvious that @Petr Mrazek should be on his way out, after a terrible run of form when given the reins when Campbell went on IR. If they can manage to throw him to a team looking to get future assets for taking bad contracts, like Chicago or Arizona, the may have the wiggle room to fit in Fleury.
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Final Thoughts

I’ve had fun imagining the idea of the Leafs adding Garland, Domi, Motte, Soucy, and Fleury. The best part is, it’s even possible under the salary cap if Muzzin stays on LTIR. If not, that severely limits what the Leafs can do. So, let’s hope that Muzzin’s health improves but he’s OK with staying off the team until playoff time for the salary cap implications. As conniving as that is, other teams have done it, so why shouldn’t the Leafs take advantage of a similar loophole?
So far, they’re saying that they want Muzzin back and playing games heading into the playoffs so that he’s up to speed when the playoffs start. There’s certainly some risk in keeping him out, but the potential acquisitions they could make as a result seems to outweigh that risk, to me.
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If they could pull off my dream scenario, they’d end up with something like this:
LW
C
RW
Michael Bunting
Auston Matthews
Mitch Marner
Conor Garland
John Tavares
William Nylander
Tyler Motte
David Kampf
Ilya Mikheyev
Alex Kerfoot
Max Domi
Ondrej Kase
 
LD
RD
Morgan Rielly
Timothy Liljegren
Rasmus Sandin
Justin Holl
Carson Soucy
TJ Brodie
 
G
Marc-Andre Fleury
Jack Campbell
While this is technically possible to create from a salary cap perspective, using the LTIR space, there’s so many moving parts to this that it’s impossible to orchestrate.
Instead, I’ll hope for a few of these things to happen over the next 72 hours. If the Leafs go a different direction, they can’t really screw up too badly with @Ben Chiarot off the board. All in all, I can’t wait to see what happens.