With approximately 4 weeks from the NHL deadline, there have been already some rumours and the ever crazy hot takes going around the internet/social media. Some trades are downright terrible while others are more feasible given the Maple Leafs needs, cap space and assets to complete the transaction.
Let’s start with the downright terrible rumours/hot takes, boy are these terrible. I have seen in some social media circles push to have one of Marner/Nylander traded for sandpaper/physically tough defenceman and/or back-up goalie.
I appreciate as most do, the Maple Leafs need to acquire a defenceman more specifically a guy that can pair with Rielly/Barrie, and one with some more mean/sandpaper (really hating “grit” as a word) to his game. As the thinking goes, “Can you imagine the gritty defenceman the Leafs would acquire if we traded Marner/Nylander, the return would be crazy?” Funny enough, they aren’t wrong but for different reasons.
Marner is a on an 117pts pace over an 82 game season, and Nylander is on pace for 30+ goals and career high in points. So the return for two of the hottest players currently in the NHL, is a stay at home defenceman (4/5 guy) and a back-up goalie that is such an over spend on assets ever seen.
The Maple Leafs aren’t in the business to trade down in any trade, and yes the return of a stay-at-home defenceman, and a back-goalie would be a crazy return because it doesn’t properly represent the value either Marner/Nylander bring.
This takes us back to the days of the Russ Courtnall trade for John Kordic (the thought at the time was the Maple Leafs needed more grit/heavier players…..sound familiar?) or How about the Tukka Rask for Andrew Raycroft trade (Maple Leafs needed a goalie to compete, so the rush to fill a need opened a hole the team took years to fill).
It feels like at times those in the media and on social media haven’t really followed the Maple Leafs because if there has been a constant since the Ballard Era until more recently the Burke/Nonis Era is the rush to act, as opposed to take a more measured approach. This organization has historically been chasing holes, only to fill one but create one somewhere else on the roster.
So this takes me to the more reasonable trade rumours, The Matt Dumba or Brenden Dillon trade options are interesting and more realistic, they would see Johnsson/Kapanen plus a pick/prospect and Ceci (dollars in, dollars out) going the other way.
This makes sense as the Leafs don’t disrupt either of their top two lines or their top Power Play unit, while turning some of their forward depth into a solution to a fill a need.
Both Dumba and Dillion would offer the Maple Leafs some of that additional physicality that Jake Muzzin brings which is something that is currently missing and what is also important each of these players are also under contract for next year at the very least which solves questions around the defensive unit heading into next season if we also assume both Sandin/ Liljegren make the team as well.
A top six defensive unit of:
This is a strong defensive unit of six, each pairing has the physical element and offensive elements to be very successful. The above excludes a pretty significant name though in the way of Travis Dermott but he may find himself on the outs as both Sandin/Liljegren continue to emerge as true reliable options moving forward.
Dermott hasn’t really had the best of seasons, the jury is still out on what kind of defenceman he can be. But this season has marked a step back in his development after a solid season last year. You can’t keep everyone as well, and he could be an additional asset used to acquire a back-up goalie or bottom 6 forward to round that portion of the roster out.
In closing, the more conservative approach would still fill the needs the Maple Leafs have to make a stronger playoff push, but more importantly doesn’t repeat the errors or ghosts of the past that have haunted the Maple Leafs for years.
The next four weeks will be interesting, but if last year was indication GM Kyle Dubas likes to get trades completed early, so the next two weeks more specifically will be interesting so expect more trade rumours to come and more specifically a trade or two to be completed.