Welcome back to NHL rumours. Each day, we look at the latest happenings around the league. From new contracts to injuries to trades, we have it all. Today, we look at a rumour about the Toronto Maple Leafs need on forward before the trade deadline.
Toronto Maple Leafs Need a Forward Before Deadline
On the most recent episode of Leafs Lunch, notable NHL insider Darren Dreger joined the show and discussed a variety of topics. Regarding the Leafs specifically, he kicked the topic off reviewing the trade sending Denis Malgin to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Dryden Hunt. In acknowledging Malgin’s inability to fit in with the Leafs top-six group, Dreger did not seem to think Hunt fills that need. So, without Malgin, the Leafs need to fill a hole on offence.
.@DarrenDreger on why he expects Leafs will be a player in trying to add a forward before the deadline #LeafsForeverhttps://t.co/ls6GhycNNC
— Leafs Lunch (@LeafsLunch1050) December 20, 2022
So, the next topic obviously became, “who will the Leafs target before the deadline?”, and a few names popped up. Ryan O’Reilly entered as Dreger’s ideal fit, despite noting that the clear roster hole is at left wing. O’Reilly, a pending UFA, makes $7.5 million annually and plays on the slumping St. Louis Blues. If troubles continue in St. Louis, quite a few names should appear on the trade block. They have plenty of notable players reaching free agency this summer, including O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko. Both of these players top the list of trade deadline candidates.
Options to Address Maple Leafs Need at Forward
Although Toronto has just over $7 million in cap space, part of that comes from players on LTIR. And either of Tarasenko or O’Reilly exceed that $7 million number, though it wouldn’t take too much to make the deal work. Either the Blues could retain a small portion of salary, or acquire some salary back in return on the trade.
Right off the bat, though, Dreger dubbed the Leafs top couple prospects, as well as their first round pick in 2023, as off-limits in any trade. Unfortunately for Toronto, making significant roster upgrades midseason don’t come free. And any sweetening that has to happen (like retained salary) means the Blues will expect additional favours or incentives coming their way in return.
Trade deadline moves typically go to the highest bidder, so if Toronto won’t move a first rounder or a top-tier prospect, they might not win the auction. Another team may enter with more desperation, or a willingness to sacrifice a better pick or prospect for O’Reilly. If that happens, Toronto will be scraping the bottom of the barrel for a third, fourth, or fifth-best fit instead.