As the Toronto Maple Leafs continue to deal with a litany of injuries throughout the season, the goal remains the same. This team, with its core of players and its cap situation, are going for a cup. Currently sitting atop the North Division, the 2020-21 Toronto Maple Leafs must make adjustments to solidify their standing as a true Cup Contender. So, here are a few Toronto Maple Leafs trade targets.
Toronto Maple Leafs Trade Targets
General Manager Kyle Dubas has done well in the offseason bringing in much-needed upgrades on the blueline in T.J. Brodie, Mikko Lehtonen and Zach Bogosian. He also brought in veteran presences on offence in Wayne Simmonds and Joe Thornton. Unfortunately, due to the flat cap, middle-six forwards Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson became cap casualties. Even moving those two contracts off the books, the Leafs find themselves flush up against the cap. This means little to no cap flexibility for Dubas to make deals at this moment. While Kapanen and Johnsson were not bonafide top-six forwards for Toronto, they were very well-rounded third-line forwards which allowed the Leafs to play Zach Hyman in a top-six role.
How it has Gone so Far
Thornton and Simmonds when healthy have been great complements in the top six for the Leafs, which has allowed Hyman to move down to the third line to play as a matchup line alongside Alexander Kerfoot and Ilya Mikheyev. While that third line hasn’t proven itself in terms of performance, the concept has merit.
Many Leafs fans were very upset with the move of Hyman to the third line to start the season, but it is clear that Sheldon Keefe understands how important the third line is to playoff success. Look no further than last year’s winners whose third line of Yanni Gourde, Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow were instrumental to their success. A perfectly healthy Toronto Maple Leafs team as currently constructed would look something like this:
F1: Joe Thornton – Auston Matthews – Mitch Marner
F2: Wayne Simmonds – John Tavares – William Nylander
F3: Zach Hyman – Alexander Kerfoot – Ilya Mikheyev
Some Combination of:
F4: Travis Boyd / Jason Spezza / Nic Petan / Pierre Engvall / Alexander Barabanov / Alex Galchenyuk
Morgan Rielly – T.J. Brodie
Travis Dermott / Mikko Lehtonen – Zach Bogosian
Why it’s Not Good Enough
Unfortunately, this simply isn’t good enough. The reality is while Joe Thornton will prove to be invaluable to the Leafs come playoff time, he is not suited to keep up with the dynamic duo of Marner and Matthews on his line in the regular season. When fully healthy, Keefe has been moving Hyman up and down those two lines like a swiss army knife. Unfortunately, this impacts Hyman’s ability to gel and get comfortable with his linemates on the third line. While there are positives in Keefe’s fluid lines, and it shows a willingness to change and adapt, continuity is also important. In addition, with Thornton and Simmonds’ durability issues, the Leafs simply need more stability in their top six. Thornton cannot be expected to play heavy minutes on a night-to-night basis and Simmond’s health is always a question at this stage of his career.
It appears that the front office also knows what a Toronto Maple Leafs trade should bring back, a bonafide top-six forward who can play with Matthews and Marner. This would also allow the Leafs to move Hyman to a more consistent third-line role to gain chemistry with Mikheyev and Kerfoot.
What a Potential Trade Package Would Look Like
Being up against the cap means any Toronto Maple Leafs trade made would have to be for a player on a cheap deal, or a team willing to retain salary. Either way, it is clear the Leafs main trade chip will be defenseman Travis Dermott. Toronto will be in a difficult position this offseason during the Expansion Draft as they will lose Travis Dermott or Justin Holl. However, Mikko Lehtonen’s impressive adjustment to North American ice has made Dermott more expendable.
Another piece who has played very well for the Leafs when he’s had his opportunities is forward Pierre Engvall. However, if the Leafs were to make a move for a bonafide top-six forward, Engvall’s 1.5 Million AAV would be required to make any trade feasible. Depending on the calibre of the player coming back, those two pieces may not be enough. This is where draft compensation would also be involved. Trading Dermott would also allow the Leafs to do a 4-4-1 protection and keep Holl.
Potential Team Candidate Requirements
As aforementioned, the Leafs will lose one of Holl or Dermott in the Expansion Draft to Seattle. One of the things that stood out about Mikael Granlund is the fact that he is an impending UFA. This means the Leafs would not need to spend protection on him. This should be Toronto’s mindset when pursuing potential trade targets. If the Leafs were to bring in a forward on a multi-year deal, it would force Toronto into a 7-3-1 protection. The result would be the Leafs forced to leave Justin Holl unprotected.
Likewise, however, any team that takes Travis Dermott from the Leafs must be in a position where they can protect him. In other words, any team that Toronto trades with must only have two defensemen that they would protect over Dermott. If the team cannot protect Dermott, any trade that Toronto offers likely does not get accepted. Lastly, these teams must also be teams who or are not expected to win many games this season or are overachieving.
Without further ado, let’s get started with our potential Toronto Maple Leafs trade targets!
Potential Toronto Maple Leafs Trade Targets
The Arizona Coyotes are a team that are competing for the playoffs in the West Division but have been frustratingly inconsistent. While Arizona isn’t a bad team this year, it would be prudent for them to look to reclaim draft capital after forfeiting their first-round pick. The Coyotes are also in a prime position to protect Dermott alongside Jakob Chychrun and Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
While the Coyotes don’t have an impact UFA, they do have young players that would intrigue Toronto. A player that Coyotes fans would loathe trading but would make the most sense for the Leafs is Conor Garland. The asking price for a player like Garland would probably start at Dermott, Engvall and a first-round pick. It is an avenue that Dubas should pursue regardless. Otherwise, Brassard is an intriguing 3rd line option.
Detroit Red Wings
The Detroit Red Wings are once again bottom feeders in their division. While Detroit’s top-flight forwards are likely off the table, veteran Bobby Ryan could be an intriguing low-cost pick-up for the Leafs. While past his prime, Ryan still has five goals and 11 points on an anemic Detroit Red Wings offence. He is another player who could benefit from playing with Matthews and Marner. The Leafs would likely be able to pick up extra compensation for Ryan from Detroit if Dermott was in the deal.
New Jersey Devils
The New Jersey Devils are a team that have some young forwards breaking out this season in Pavel Zacha and Jesper Bratt. They also have other solid options such as Kyle Palmieri, Nikita Gusev, Andreas Johnsson and Miles Wood. Palmieri and Gusev who have seen less prominent roles in New Jersey’s offence of late are both on the last year of their deals. Now would be the perfect time for New Jersey to sell them at the trade deadline. Both players have a cap hit of over four million dollars AAV, which likely means salary retention would be involved.
The Vancouver Canucks are floundering this season. The blueline has been incapable of playing well in its own end and their goalies have been unable to make timely saves. Overall, the entire team has played with the consistency of Canadian weather. When it rains in Vancouver, it pours. Having played the most games in the North Division, the Canucks find themselves second last. Outside of Olli Juolevi and Nate Schmidt, there is no player on the Canucks blueline that needs to be protected. Travis Dermott would also get the opportunity to see consistent ice time with the Canucks. Pierre Engvall would also serve well on a third or fourth-line role. The piece that would fit Toronto’s needs the most would be second-line forward Tanner Pearson. Due to his cap hit of 3.75 Mill AAV, however, the Leafs would need Vancouver to retain 1.4 Mill to remain cap compliant.