Reviewing the Tenure of Kyle Dubas with the Toronto Maple Leafs So Far: Part 4

Kyle Dubas

On May 11th, 2018, the Toronto Maple Leafs announced that Kyle Dubas would be replacing Lou Lamoriello as general manager of the team. This was announced to be the plan from day one of hiring Lamoriello. Since then, the Leafs have remained a top regular-season team in the NHL. Dubas has made several big splashes since being put in charge of the Leafs. Today, we will review all of his trades.

Reviewing Kyle Dubas’ Time With the Toronto Maple Leafs So Far

Note: I will only be reviewing the deals I deem “significant enough” to discuss. I will not be breaking down minor moves.

QuickFire Trade Opinions

This section is for trades that kind of fall between significant and irrelevant. I’ll give my quick thoughts on how the trade turned out for trades that don’t warrant their own section.

July 3rd, 2018: Matt Martin trade – It was a good trade, cleared the cap space from him. Not much else to it other than getting $2,500,000 in cap space without having to give up anything extra is always good. Grade: A

June 22nd, 2019: Patrick Marleau trade – Similar to the Martin trade in the sense it was to get cap space. Different in the sense that they did have to give up something extra, a first-rounder. A tough pill to swallow, but necessary. Grade B-

October 10th, 2020: Andreas Johnsson trade –  Again, another cap-related move, but this time Toronto gave up an actually good player. With Johnsson on a fair contract, the Leafs didn’t have to add, but as a result of their situation, the return was lacklustre for someone like Johnsson. He was the clear choice to be moved to make players fit under the cap, but it wasn’t the return you’d usually see for someone like Johnsson. Grade: C+

Alright, into the real significant trades.

January 28th, 2019 – Jake Muzzin Trade

I recently wrote about the Jake Muzzin trade, but in the article, I talked about how great Jake Muzzin has been for the Toronto Maple Leafs since they traded for him. Sean Durzi, while he’s seen some success at the AHL level, is starting to move out of “young prospect” age, and isn’t cracking an LA Kings blueline yet. Carl Grundstrom has not been good at the NHL level. The biggest piece is Tobias Bjornfot, who has struggled with his on-ice results with LA, but is two years younger than Durzi and is a league ahead of him. He still has time to develop into a key piece.

With that said, none of the pieces are effective NHL players in 2021, while Jake Muzzin very much is. While from the LA Kings side, they shouldn’t give up hope on any of the pieces. From the Leafs’ side it’s looking like a phenomenal trade for them. They were able to get a legitimate top-pairing defenceman without giving up one of their top three prospects at the time, or without giving up a roster player. Muzzin, over the last two seasons, has ranked top 10 in Evolving Hockey‘s GAR, and top 20 for their xGAR among all defencemen. This trade has been nothing short of excellent and might be Kyle Dubas’ single best move as the Leafs GM.

Grade: A+

July 1st, 2019 – Nikita Zaitsev Trade

While this trade is very similar to the quickfire trade opinions I gave at the start, I felt like this one was big enough to have its own section on. Nikita Zaitsev was, is, and likely will be a poor defender throughout the entirety of the anchor of a contract he’s on. The fact that Kyle Dubas was able to trade him for Cody Ceci, with Brown being the only sweetener, is a fantastic feat. Brown has been good for the Senators, but it’s unlikely he scores at a 30+ goal pace again in his career. He’s scoring well above expected, and it was a small price to pay to unload the monstrous Zaitsev deal. The Leafs, in return, got Cody Ceci.

I had my gripes with the Ceci contract that I outlined in the RFA part of the series, but the return itself was fine. Cody Ceci was actually surprisingly competent defensively with the Leafs. He had good defensive numbers but was a black hole offensively. Still, an upgrade over Zaitsev. Plus, he was on a one-year deal as opposed to five remaining years on the Zaitsev deal. The fact that Kyle Dubas was able to get out from the Zaitsev contract without giving up a key asset like in the Patrick Marleau trade is incredible to this day.

Grade: A

July 1st, 2019 – Nazem Kadri Trade

This is the one everyone probably came to read about. The Nazem Kadri deal. Kadri and Calle Rosen for Tyson Barrie and Alexander Kerfoot. Likely the worst-aged trade of Kyle Dubas’ tenure. I have mixed emotions about this trade. For one, I loved Kadri as a person and a player and think he’s a great player. That said, I think he hasn’t played particularly well for Colorado at 5v5. But, I think the pieces the Leafs got in return haven’t/didn’t play up to par either. I think Kerfoot is much better than the numbers and fans would suggest, but his on-ice play, this season in particular, hasn’t been able to justify it. Barrie, as well, was one of the most infuriating players to watch on the Leafs last season.

While I feel like Kadri hasn’t been fantastic in Colorado like some would suggest, he has really excelled on their power play. The Leafs return, on the other hand, I would argue hasn’t excelled anywhere in particular. I hold out hope for Alexander Kerfoot, however, and believe he’s a much better player than the numbers for this season suggest.

Grade: C-

February 5th, 2020 – Jack Campbell Trade

Kyle Dubas went out and acquired a backup goalie immediately following a loss in which Michael Hutchinson didn’t look particularly good. In addition, he was able to get Kyle Clifford on top of Campbell in that trade. All it cost was Trevor Moore and two third-round picks. Even without Campbell’s emergence as a starter, I liked this trade. It got a backup goalie that was sorely needed, and Kyle Clifford, who no matter the fan, would love this type of player. Was he gritty, tough to play against and strong on the puck? Yes. Did he have really good underlying metrics? Also yes. Trevor Moore was a high-energy player on the Leafs that fans liked, but at the end of the day, on their roster, was likely going to be a depth forward on this group.

Now, over a year later, Jack Campbell has taken over the starting role on the Toronto Maple Leafs. He’s been one of the hottest goalies in the league of late and will be their go-to player come playoffs. This just makes the trade look even better. On top of that, Campbell has another year on top of this one at $1.65 million. Just a fantastic deal for a player that’s your starter.

Grade: A

August 25th, 2020 – Kasperi Kapanen Trade

Kasperi Kapanen was a key piece of the Leafs forward depth that could play higher in the lineup if he needed to. The Leafs dealt him to recoup some of the losses they experienced in having to unload the Patrick Marleau contract. The fact that they were able to get a first-round draft pick at 15th overall for Kapanen is incredible. While Kapanen was a good player for the Leafs, he was not considered, to most, worth a lottery draft pick. The Leafs then selected Rodion Amirov, who many quickly fell in love with as a prospect. They also ended getting Filip Hallander, who was a non-zero throw-in.

While Kapanen has seen success in Pittsburgh, the Leafs were also able to get the cap space from Kapanen and have used it efficiently. Kapanen wasn’t seeing the success he was projected to, despite seeing a good chunk of time with Auston Matthews on the top line. Kapanen’s quality of play hasn’t changed much since leaving Toronto, his shooting percentage has just increased, and may come down a bit in future seasons.

Grade: B+

April 11th, 2021: Nick Foligno

This is a trade I wasn’t a fan of. It’s not that I think Foligno is a bad player. He’s a decent middle-six guy. It’s not that I’m upset that the Leafs gave up a first in a weak draft that’s barely been scouted relative to other drafts. I’m not. It’s the opportunity cost. It’s the fact that they had to give up their first for Nick Foligno, a type of player you could’ve (and maybe should’ve) gotten for less. Especially when Taylor Hall goes for Anders Bjork and a second. They could have gotten the style of player they were looking for in Foligno for less elsewhere.

The fact that they got him for 75% retained is nice, but there’s issue with why they had to give up so much in the first place. Time will tell how this trade will look. Foligno could score the cup-winning goal for the Leafs and make me look like an idiot. I’d love to look like an idiot in that scenario. But at this point in time, I’m not a fan of the deal.

Grade: C

Overall

Overall, I would say trades have been a very strong area for Dubas. Outside a few trades like Foligno, and (with hindsight) the Kadri trade, they’ve been great. The other few that weren’t great were created out of necessity (Johnsson, Marleau) and were understandable. However, the good has greatly outweighed the bad. He’s had to clear out over $12,000,000 of Lou’s anchor contracts between Marleau, Martin and Zaitsev, and only had to give up a significant piece in one of the trades.

Special thanks to CapFriendly for providing all data on the trades.

Main photo:
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