In a season where no one could have predicted such a drastic improvement in the fortunes of the Toronto Maple Leafs, a lot has been made of where James van Riemsdyk fits in currently and in the future plans going forward for the organization. Some have suggested the only way to acquire the much needed help on defense is to trade JVR if that is what is needed to complete any transaction.
I agree with this in the long term with players like Kasperi Kapanen, Kirby Rychel and Brendan Leipsic all ready to make the jump next year freeing up a roster spot while securing an important piece to shore up the defense is exactly what needs to happen to further this rebuild and take this team to the next level of competing for the Stanley Cup.
Where I differ greatly from some is the timing of such a trade. Some would argue making the trade now (or by March 1st) is important even including Nylander and a first round pick to make it happen or else this season is a bust. This is neither prudent now nor in the future when this team is truly ready to compete especially where Nylander is concerned.
Maple Leafs should wait, continue to be patient with this team and see what we truly have on this roster. This team has been in a playoff spot or competing for one for most of the season with the same group on defense. The rookies have lead the charge and to be playing such important games so late in the season can only help with the development of this young roster.
Further to this point, I view a trade of JVR mid-season as giving up on this season. I can’t imagine that going over well with the team after the effort and early results from the rookies to pull the rug from under them so late into the season. Trading JVR mid-season, would close a whole on defense but would create a big hole in the Maple Leafs’ forward lines that they wouldn’t be able to fill now if they hoped to remain competitive and make the push into the playoffs.
You can’t grow a culture of winning if you are trying to lose and as stated earlier playing meaningful game so early in the careers of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander can only help in their further development and not hinder it.
What has been forgotten by those in the trade JVR now camp is if the Maple Leafs wait for the summer more trade options should come available to them and free agency should be interesting if the Leafs can free up some money for that as well.
What makes this summer so complicated but full of possibilities for the Maple Leafs when it comes to trades is the fact that the salary cap will be staying relatively the same next season and the expansion draft where teams may make trades to gain an asset like a pick or prospect if it means losing a player for nothing in the expansion draft.
Maximizing assets to get what you need hasn’t been a trademark of this organization until recently and one would hope it would happen now to avoid the urge for a quick fix in a season where the team has already exceeded expectations. The trading of JVR should at all costs, benefit the organization in both the short term and long term plans of this organization and shouldn’t come at the cost of what has been a successful season to date. I support keeping him this season and make a playoff push. Once the dust settles this season, than look to trade him in the off-season when teams like the Ducks, Penguins and others are scrambling to minimize their exposure to the expansion draft and where more trade options open up. It is in this market the Maple Leafs can maximize their return, minimize what they may need to give up to acquire the much needed addition on defense.