Hockey Night in Canada broke last night the rumor that Josh Leivo had requested to be traded. The source of this rumor wasn’t provided nor were any real specifics of his request given. Like Frankie Corrado before him, it appears media and some fans are rallying to #FreeLeivo from what some perceive as Babcock & the Maple Leafs holding Leivo back in his development and the opportunity for greener pastures.
Josh has the potential to be a solid third or fourth line winger in the NHL, and not much more. With the level of talent going up across the league and parity increasing the level of competition, it doesn’t leave much room for error from a player’s perspective to earn and keep a regular roster spot no matter the team.
This is no different for Josh, where the Maple Leafs are exploding with depth in the forward position and he has struggled keeping pace with those around him. When you look at the potential upside in the likes of Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, Jeremy Bracco and Dmytro Timashov you can easily understand how competitive the Maple Leafs system really has become in the forward position. This isn’t a knock against the player or person Josh is, but a sad and difficult reality for a player who appears to have fallen behind.
The goal set forth when Brendan Shanahan arrived was to win a Stanley Cup, but to also make the system self sustaining for long term success. This drive to build a competitive franchise has already left Peter Holland, Frankie Corrado and now Josh Leivo victims of the depth management has built up in the Maple Leafs minor league system.
To be honest, the return in any trade for Leivo and/or a combination of him and Nikita Soshnikov isn’t going to be high. The Maple Leafs may only see a fourth-round pick back in any trade. That should be an indication of the value GMs across the NHL place in Josh.
If I were Leivo, I would have played out this season and waited for the summer to see what plans the Maple Leafs had for James Van Riemsdyk and Leo Komarov to see if there would be an open roster spot. Due to his request, he will be traded, and as Frankie Corrado learned the grass isn’t always greener on the other side as recently news broke that Corrado was waived by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
I wish Leivo success no matter where he ends up, however I trust in the process and the player selection that management and Babcock deploy each night will bring success as the best players will continue to secure their spots along side Matthews, Nylander, Marner and the rest of the core of the Maple Leafs. Those that can’t keep up will either find a permanent spot with the Marlies or be traded for future assets until the roster and results are where the organizations wants them to be.