Don’t Read Too Much Into the Leafs Trading Down Rumours

Dylan Strome
Dylan Strome of the Erie Otters [photo: OHL Images]
Could the Leafs trade down in the upcoming draft?

Of course they could. Anything can happen, and until the pick is traded or used, we live in a world where either is a viable possibility. Probably a universe exists where each outcome has already happened. Or will happen, I am , admittedly a little rusty with my quantum mechanics.

Still though, I doubt it happens and I wouldn’t read too much into it.

Nearly every word in the preceding sentence will link you to an article discussing the Leafs trading down in the draft, and I could do the same with this sentence, if I included articles about the Coyotes doing the same thing.

The point is, people love the NHL, and they love reading about and discussing trade rumours. The draft is exciting and it’s only a couple of weeks away, but in the meantime (and especially while the Final is still going on) things are slow.

So, what you get is a lot of discussion about something that is  unlikely to happen. I stress that it could happen – the premise at least makes sense: A team (the Leafs or Coyotes) likes a player slightly lower and can get an extra asset or two move back a couple of spots while still getting the player they covet.

Add in the fact that both Don Maloney and Brendan Shanahan have said they  would move the pick and you get yourself a solid story with legs for days.

(Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)
(Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Why It’s Not Likely to Happen:

Sure, they said they would move the pick, but we need some context here. First, GMs lie. Like, all the time. Consider how much dissembling and B.S you saw at your last poker game. Now, imagine the stakes were a million times bigger – wouldn’t you use the media to cloud what information your competitors might have about your plans?

Of course you would, and NHL GMs do that all the time – just ask any coach what he thinks is going to happen after the GM gives him a media vote of confidence?

So, yeah, Shanahan may have said or implied he’d trade the pick, but of course he’s going to say that. It would be dumb and serve no purpose to say “No, I’d never trade it. We don’t explore options here in Toronto.”

Here’s an extreme example: If you asked Shanahan directly if he had interest in acquiring McDavid or Crosby, he’d probably say that of course he was interested. That doesn’t make it a realistic possibility.

Phil Kessel Maple Leafs
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Now, trading down is obviously slightly more realistic than acquiring Crosby, but I still don’t think it will happen because it’s just too risky in this year’s draft when the separation between picks is so low.

Sure, that gives you incentive to make something happen and move down, but it also means that you can’t have any clear idea of who the teams picking between you and the pick you traded will take.

Furthermore, the Leafs really have no reason to get super risky. All of their managers are locked in for the long-haul and everyone expects the team to be bad for several years, so there’s no pressure to hit a home-run right this second. On top of that, they have two assets that they have the option of trading that could possibly get them another top-ten pick (Kessel and JVR) as well as assets like Bernier, Phaneuf and the 24th pick, which they could also use to get creative and add another high-end pick.

In the end, they might trade down. Obviously the team will be open to anything that adds value and if they think they can get the player they want an extra pick, it’s a possibility. I just don’t think that if you factor in all the reasons that this rumour is out there, with the other options the team has, that it’s has a very good chance of happening.

If I was a betting man – and I am – my money would be on the Leafs and Coyotes both keeping their picks.