Leafs Need Lupul Healthy To Provide or Get Traded

The Toronto Maple Leafs woes continued Wednesday night. The team dropped their sixth straight game to the Ottawa Senators and the team will now head into the All-Star break on their worst stretch of games in 25 years.

The team has now gone 3-14-0 in their last 17 games and now look to be heading closer to the bottom of the Eastern Conference. The biggest reason for the team’s debacle has been that, the once top scoring team in the league, has struggled to put pucks past the opposition.

The team had their biggest offensive outburst against the Sens Wednesday when they managed to put three past goalie Craig Anderson. If the team wants to get back to winning and scoring more goals then maybe getting winger Joffrey Lupul might help to steer the ship.

Joffrey Lupul
Lupul has been out for the team’s last 10 games and the Leafs have gone 1-9-0. (John E. Sokolowski-US PRESSWIRE)

Since His Injury

Lupul and Peter Holland have been out of the team’s lineup since New Year’s Eve, when the team defeated the Boston Bruins 4-3 in a shootout. Since the two have gone down with injuries, the team has gone 1-9-0 and the Leafs’ offence has dried up.

Prior to the injuries to Lupul and Holland, the team had gone 5-5-0 in their previous 10 games. Lupul has been injury prone to injuries, not just during his time with the Maple Leafs, but his entire career. This season the 31-year-old has missed 22 games and his absence in the lineup has made the 2012 all-star one of the team’s biggest trade assets.

This season Lupul has nine goals and 17 points in 26 games. Though he isn’t solely to blame for the team’s lack of offence- the Leafs went 7-4-1 earlier in the season when he was out for 12 games- him being out of the lineup hurts in other reasons.

The Leafs have been rumoured to be interested in Ryan O'Reilly. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)
The Leafs have been rumoured to be interested in Ryan O’Reilly. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

The Leafs Best Trade Asset

Lupul might be the best piece if the Leafs want to make a trade to help turn the team around. However, it is also hard to trade the winger when he is injured. So, the team would likely benefit from him being in the lineup and producing for both the Leafs and to intrigue potential trading partners. He would either help the offence or could then be easier to move to other teams.

What also hurts the Leafs when Lupul is injured is that the team doesn’t have a ton of depth to replace his offence. The team has brought in members of the Marlies, but none have much if any NHL experience. The Leafs recently have been rumoured to have interest in Colorado Avalanche’s Ryan O’Reilly, Los Angeles King’s Mike Richards, and Edmonton Oilers’ Jordan Eberle. Though some rumours of an O’Reilly trade would include Jake Gardiner over Lupul.

Mike Richards battles Blackhawks center Marcus Kruger
The LA Kings would like to have Richards’ large contract off their books. (Robin Alam/Icon SMI)

How Lupul Could Influence Deals

Lupul is currently making $5,250,000 a season with the Leafs while O’Reilly and Eberle each make $6 million, and Richards is making $5,750,000. A one-for-one trade seems unlikely between Eberle and O’Reilly, so the Leafs would likely have to sweeten the deal if a trade for either of the two were to include Lupul. A second-round pick, a young prospect, or both might be needed to see a trade go through.

As for Richards the Kings would like to simply get his long contract off their books. His large cap hit will continue until the end of the 2019 season. So, there is a chance that the Kings could possibly swing a deal to get a bit of a cap relief and in return get a player who has put up more offensive numbers lately.

It is also important to note that Lupul has a limited no-trade clause that allows the Leafs winger to provide a list of 14 teams in which he can refuse a trade to.

During his career Lupul has never played a full 82-game season. He played 81 games during the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons. He along with Holland have begun skating with the team and were on the ice prior to the team’s practice Tuesday, though there is still no word on their return.

Rumours will continue to swirl as long as the Leafs continue to struggle. Lupul would be the team’s best trade option, but as long as he is out, the less likely it seems that a team will want to take on a salary of over $5 million for someone who will sit sidelined. So until then the Leafs seem to be in a pickle until Lupul gets back in the lineup.