Today was the last day that teams could make any trades until the playoffs are done, which means today was the last day the Toronto Maple Leafs could do anything about their roster that might potentially help them beat the Boston Bruins in (preferably) four consecutive games come playoff time. It’s not set in stone yet, of course, but the Leafs will likely take on the Bruins in the first round of this year’s playoffs and that definitely has fans in Toronto feeling a little anxious. Although the Leafs did manage to beat them 4-3 in Saturday night’s game — and they did it without their prized possession, Auston Matthews — it was only three Saturdays prior when the Bruins dealt them an awful 4-1 loss.
In the standings, the Leafs sit at fifth overall with 83 points and the Bruins sit at sixth overall with 82 points. The Bruins have one of the best first lines in the league and the Maple Leafs have one of the best coaches in the league — clearly, both teams are evenly matched for each other and if they do meet in the first round of playoffs, it’s going to be a long and bitter series.
Leading up to the NHL trade deadline, both teams have been active in making trades in an effort to set themselves up for playoff success. The Bruins have taken on forward Rick Nash and the Leafs have acquired centreman Tomas Plekanec. What does this mean for each team? It means they’ve both acquired depth at the front end.
The Rick Nash Trade
The Bruins have just got a whole lot scarier by acquiring Nash on Feb. 25 from the New York Rangers. In exchange for Nash, the Rangers got Matt Beleskey (the Bruins will retain 50 percent of his salary), as well as a 2018 first-round draft pick, defenseman prospect Ryan Lindgren, and forward Ryan Spooner.
The Rangers will also retain 50 percent of Nash’s salary for the rest of the 2017-18 season, which has an average annual value (AAV) of $7.8 million USD and will take up roughly all of the Bruins remaining cap space. This trade has given them considerably more depth, as Nash, an ex-alternate captain of the Rangers, is a well-seasoned veteran who’s made the playoffs for the last five consecutive seasons.
Did the Bruins overpay? Perhaps, but only time will tell. It depends on how well Nash plays for the remainder of this season, how much he contributes in the playoffs and if the Bruins end up winning the Stanley Cup. If he ends up being anything like how Marian Gaborik was for the Los Angeles Kings back in 2014, then he’d definitely be worth the first-round pick it cost the Bruins to get him, as well as whatever amount he asks for when it comes to re-signing in the offseason.
The Tomas Plekanec Trade
The Maple Leafs acquired centreman Plekanec and right-winger Kyle Baun from the Montreal Canadiens on Feb. 25, 2018, in exchange for Rinat Valiev (a third-round pick from the 2014 Draft), Kerby Rychel and a second-round pick in the 2018 Draft. It’s reported that the Canadiens will retain 50 percent of Plekanec’s salary as well.
What does this mean for the Leafs’ lineups? Well, their all-star centreman Matthews received a second-degree shoulder separation injury against the New York Islanders a few days ago, and that could take up to a month or even longer to heal. The Leafs added Plekanec to the roster in an effort to provide centreman depth, likely placing the Canadiens’ ex-alternate captain on the fourth line.
Did the Leafs overpay for Plekanec? Probably not, but again, time will tell if he’s worth the second-round pick they had to give up for him. Some fans are saying this trade will help the Leafs beat the Bruins in the playoffs, and yes, Plekanec’s plethora of playoff experience may bring some much needed mental fortitude to the Leafs’ young roster.
The NHL trade deadline is always an exciting time for fans because teams are desperately trying to improve their chances of making the playoffs or improve their chances at making it deep into the postseason. Sometimes, teams will overpay to get what they want while others won’t make any changes at all. Thankfully for Bruins and Leafs fans, each team strengthened their lineups without paying an arm and a leg. However, over the course of the rest of the season, we’ll soon realize which team made the better trade.
I’m a Hockey Journalist based out of Barrie, Ontario, a Contributing Writer for The Hockey Writers covering OHL, and NHL prospects with an insatiable thirst for all things LA Kings, and PR gal for Abel Sports Management.