As the February 25th NHL trade deadline nears, so too does the pressure on GM Kyle Dubas to round out the roster for what most people expect to be a long playoff run come spring for the Maple Leafs.
This takes me to Howard Berger’s latest trade suggestion which would see the Maple Leafs trade Nazem Kadri, Kasperi Kapanen and Jake Gardiner for Drew Doughty of the L.A. Kings.
On the surface this trade appears to make some sense, the L.A. Kings need some youth and scoring to supplement their aging roster, the Maple Leafs get Doughty with all his playoff experience and talent.
But even Howard can’t escape the most obvious barrier to this trade happening which is the core pieces of this trade, Kadri and Doughty both have no-trade clauses in their contracts. Based on what we know of Kadri would he really accepted a trade away from the team he always wanted to play for in the NHL?
Secondly, for all the talk of the Maple Leafs needing more grit in the lineup come playoffs, it doesn’t make sense to to trade away one of the few forwards who actually offers grit on top of his offensive abilities. I have liked the play of both Frederik Gauthier and Par Lindholm as of late but neither stand out to me as players to lay out a big hit when needed like Kadri is known to do.
The next barrier to such a trade for me are the cap ramifications beginning next season when the Maple Leafs will have both Matthews and Marner signed to new contracts. Doughty’s new contract worth $11 million a year takes into effect next season, and at 29 years old does it make sense long term for the Maple Leafs to take on another mega-contract for a player of his age.
If I am Kyle Dubas, I would immediately turn to my counterparts in St. Louis and see what a package for Colton Parayko would look like. Colton is 5 years younger than Doughty, his cap hit will be half that of Doughty’s for the next three years ($5.5 million), and he would be a great compliment to the young core which isn’t in their mid-20’s yet.
A player like Parayko if available, would check a lot of boxes for the Maple Leafs. He would provide the Maple Leafs some size and grit on the backend which they don’t have for a long playoff run.
It would also still leave room cap wise to round out the bottom six forwards by adding some additional grit and scoring maybe in the way of a player like Wayne Simmonds out of Philadelphia.
If the Maple Leafs are to win this season or even within a 5-7 year window with such a young core. It would then make sense to bring in young, controllable assets that can grow with the core group and keep that window open longer.
Acquiring a player of quality and age of a Parayko keeps the Maple Leafs in line with their Shanaplan without sacrificing too much in the present or in future assets. It will be this blueprint that will offer the best chance at a Stanley Cup this season but also in seasons to come.