The Toronto Maple Leafs are ready to kick off another season as training camp opens this week. Most of the team has been together for a few weeks now, holding informal skates and friendly scrimmages to work on some chemistry and shake off some summer rust. The Maple Leafs’ roster in 2021-22 will have a very different vibe to it and general manager Kyle Dubas will continue to look for ways to upgrade his roster as we begin the first half of the season.
The Maple Leafs will have a surplus of talent for their NHL club and expect to see a trade or two early on during the season, and then at the trade deadline, there’s no doubt Dubas and company will once again go all-in. Even if the Maple Leafs get off to a slow start this season, don’t expect to see any big names traded. If those types of changes are coming, it will be next offseason. For now, let’s dive into a few players who are the most likely to be dealt in 2021-22:
While much of the trade chatter surrounding the Maple Leafs has been geared towards Morgan Rielly, it’s Travis Dermott who, to me, is more likely to be traded this season. He recently signed a reasonable contract of two years at $1.5 million and now the Newmarket, Ontario, native will try and secure his position on the team’s bottom-pairing for 2021-22. Look for Dermott to start the season with Rasmus Sandin on the Maple Leafs’ defense, but keep an eye on the likes of Timothy Liljegren and Kristians Rubins, who will be scratching and clawing to get into the lineup.
As for Dermott, he finished last season averaging a career-low in ice-time with only 13:13 a night, and with the addition of TJ Brodie last season, he was pushed down the depth chart. During this past summer, there was a ton of speculation about Dermott being either ending up selected by the Seattle Kraken during the expansion draft or traded to the Detroit Red Wings. Talks have seemed to quiet down as of now. Still, once training camp gets into full swing and teams around the league figure out their needs, a 24-year-old defenseman with offensive upside will undoubtedly interest some general managers.
The Russian speedster is an easy target, as Ilya Mikheyev made it known to management that he was not happy with his role on the team after last season. Mikheyev has asked for a trade, but the Maple Leafs want to hang onto him a little longer and didn’t move him during the offseason. In 2020-21 the undrafted free-agent scored seven goals and 10 assists in 54 games, often playing on the third line and rarely seeing power-play minutes.
While Mikeyhev’s second season in Toronto did not go as planned, his frustration was also likely because his minutes decreased even more during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, where he only saw 13:22 of ice-time during the seven-game series against Montreal Canadiens. He needs to find different ways to impact the game and this will be a significant focus come training camp.
The soon-to-be 27-year-old is entering the final season of his contract and will be a player to watch very closely in training camp and during preseason games. One of the reasons Dubas wanted to hold onto Mikheyev was that the team is throwing a bunch of wildcards at their left-wing positions and seeing what sticks. The native of Omsk, Russia, has a tremendous opportunity lying in front of him to produce as there’s a chance Mikheyev will be looked at as one of the team’s top lines. If he can avenge some snake-bitten hands from early on in 2020-21, there’s a good chance we see more than seven goals out of the winger this season. Regardless, it will come down to how he’s producing compared to the other mix of wingers. Mikheyev is a Maple Leaf to watch on the trade market this season.
Like Mikheyev, Pierre Engvall is in a group of about 10 forwards fighting for roughly six spots. While he plays the game with speed, the 6-foot-5 versatile forward isn’t the most physical winger and doesn’t possess amazing offensive attributes, so sometimes you wonder where exactly he fits in. Engvall may get a look as the team’s fourth-line center and will have to battle it out with Adam Brooks if he wants that job on a regular basis.
While Engvall was never a highly-touted prospect, the former seventh-round selection is going to have a spotlight on his back entering training camp this week, as the pending restricted free-agent is on a one-way contract paying him $1.25 million. He’ll look to improve from his 12 points in 42 games last season; the only problem is, he may be in tough for playing time.
Engvall plays the game with speed, has underrated hands, and loves to let go of his signature spin-around wrist shot that was effective for him in 2020-21. If he can play a more physical game consistently in Toronto this season, there’s a chance he sticks around. If he doesn’t buy into his role, look for him to be wearing a new jersey sometime before the new year.
While injuries, down seasons, and unexpected production can certainly change the course of some trade talks, expect to see some movement from the Maple Leafs this season. Dubas and company know they have to produce serious results this season, and another first-round playoff exit is unacceptable. The Maple Leafs will make some moves this season, and these three players could very well be packing their bags at some point.
Shane covers any and everything to do with the Toronto Maple Leafs & Pittsburgh Penguins. A constant contributor to the THW family, his passion and unique perspective on the game results in some diverse content. Certainly versatile, you can also find him contributing at NHLTradeRumors.me, BaseballRumors.me & BBallRumors.com. Follow along on Twitter @ShugMcSween