The Toronto Maple Leafs won the day by not doing anything, and remaining patient and sticking to their plan that was started when Brendan Shanahan came in 2014.
This is a front office that has been prudent in their moves using their available cap space and ample financial might to acquire assets in the form of picks and prospects, burying bad contracts in the minors to complete transactions. It is an administration that hasn’t felt pressured to make the short sighted trades that have buried this franchise in years gone by.
That takes me to yesterday’s trade deadline. A lot has been written and said about the Maple Leafs defensive core. Outside of Rielly, Zaitsev and Gardiner the other 3 spots need to be filled if this team is to take the next step in their development. I don’t expect Polak and Hunwick to be back next season and Connor Carrick is still a work in progress. So there was a lot of media attention and fan attention paid to seeing if the Maple Leafs would fill those spots before the 3pm deadline yesterday.
I had written in the past that the Maple Leafs and their current roster had already over achieved this year by taking the huge steps they have this season and are currently playing with house money. Outside of the Brian Boyle trade, the other one made yesterday was a nonfactor in the short term and long term plans for this team. Brian Boyle offers another veteran voice in the dress room that has played 100 playoff games, has been in big games for a young team with limited supply in this aspect was a great pick for the minimal price that was paid.
The defense because it is such a glaring hole was always going to be dealt with the summer. With about 15 million in cap space next year, and a stock pile of forward assets at their disposal a big deal is easier to be made at the draft and over the summer.
To remove a James van Riemsdyk and/or a Tyler Bozak mid-season seeing that the Maple Leafs are challenging for a playoff spot would have been a terrible decision and would sent a terrible message that losing is tolerated. From a transactional stand point, if a trade could have been made without sacrificing the short term and long term goals as they grow to a perpetual contender status similar to the Detroit Red Wings. Who wouldn’t the Leafs to mimic the Red Wings if that meant the Leafs would be in the playoffs 25 years in a row? Another point from a transactional stand point is that it takes two teams to complete a trade.
With most of the teams in the NHL at or near the salary cap and with the expansion draft also hovering above the entire league teams were careful at the deals they made and how expansion draft exposure would affect their rosters moving forward. The teams which made big deals were already cup favorites like the Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins so it was in their best interest to push to round out their rosters for a deep playoff run.
For the Maple Leafs, this summer will be pivotal as they have for the first time in the cap era, have money and assets to trade to bring in the pieces needed to close the holes on the defense and head into next training camp ready to go as next season (I will go out on a limb and predict) will see the Maple Leafs make the playoffs and possibly win a round or two. So don’t panic Leafs Nation, the management sees the same issues with the roster that we do, if not more so. They will have the tools to fix this once this season is over with the Maple Leafs making the playoffs or not this season.