The Toronto Maple Leafs have previously been connected to the St. Louis Blues in regards to a potential deal ahead of the 2023 Trade Deadline. There were previous ties as there were discussions surrounding captain Ryan O’Reilly.
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While O’Reilly would be a great fit for the Maple Leafs, if the asking price is a top-end prospect like Matthew Knies, then that potential deal may be out of the question as he continues to shine in the NCAA. However, there are two other names that could potentially be great additions at cheaper prices in order to bolster the Maple Leafs’ forward depth.
St. Louis Blues insider Jeremy Rutherford recently stated on 101 ESPN St. Louis, that forwards Ivan Barbashev and Noel Acciari could be moved, with the cost possibly being a second or even a third-round pick for them. With forwards like Calle Jarnkrok and Zach Aston Reese playing well in their respective roles, it would be wise to get two more players with the same style of play.
Coincidentally enough, THW’s Shane Seney mentioned Barbashev as an early target while Spencer Lazary also mentions Acciari as a possible depth addition. Many feel that the Maple Leafs should be going all-in at the deadline. If general manager Kyle Dubas isn’t willing to make a deal for O’Reilly, he has two other options that could be intriguing deadline acquisitions for his team.
More Affordable Price
If the Maple Leafs aren’t willing to deal first-round picks or even top prospects, this might be a deal more suited for them, as both players could be significant pieces. They have a number of mid-level prospects and picks that they can move in order to acquire some middle-six help with players who can bring a mix of offense, defense and physicality.
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As it’s a deep draft and Dubas may not want to part with their first-round pick in 2023, plus a potential top-six forward in Knies, he has plenty of other assets that he can use to acquire both players. They have their second-round pick in 2024 as well as a fourth-round pick to move or even look to future drafts and move later round picks as well.
There’s also the potential of moving B-level prospects if they feel like they want to hang onto their draft picks. Roni Hirvonen, Nick Abruzzese, Mikhail Abramov or even Semyon Der-Arguchintsev could be some potential names that could be moved with some upside that could be of interest to the Blues. They all have decent skillsets, speed and drive that could be beneficial to any team.
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If they continue to develop and show promise, but can’t take the next step, they could be given an opportunity elsewhere in order to break into the league.
Acciari Strengthens Depth
The Maple Leafs still remain a good defensive team as they have the seventh best goals against per game average of 2.69. Though their play as of late hasn’t been what it was at certain points in the season. Their decision-making, leading to unforced errors and costly turnovers have plagued them tremendously.
While a top-six forward remains ideal, if the Maple Leafs could add another competitive, defensive minded forward in Acciari, he could be an ideal rental where he can help provide some stability in the bottom-six. Acciari has thrived in a shut-down role and a penalty killer in the past, as he’s been able to be a strong presence within his own zone.
This season with the Blues, Acciari has chipped in with 10 goals. He would be the eighth Maple Leaf with double-digits in that category as he could be another role player that can produce a timely goal. But it’s his ability to lay the body and get into lanes that would give the Maple Leafs more value. He’s first in hits on the Blues with 158 and sixth in blocked shots. If he were on the Maple Leafs, he would be first and tied for fifth respectively.
Acciari is a player who leads by example. Having a player like that on your team sacrificing the body and getting in the opponent’s face is just what the Maple Leafs need to hold their own when that kind of style amps up in the playoffs. He would be a fantastic option to make the middle of the ice more competitive as he and David Kampf would be a fantastic shut down centre pair.
Barbashev’s Versaility and Physicality
Barbashev could be utilized in a variety of different situations. The Blues as whole haven’t been connecting this season and may benefit from a change of scenery. With a cap hit of $2.25 million, that could entice a team like the Maple Leafs.
Adding Barbashev as a potential middle-six, secondary scorer could be a real possibility, as he did have a career best with 26 goals and 60 points last season. He hasn’t quite replicated that success this season as he’s up to 24 points in 51 games. Even his underlying possession numbers at five-on-five aren’t that great as his Corsi for is 46.77% and goals for is 49.12%. The production from last season wasn’t likely to happen again, though Barbashev still brings a lot to the table in terms of intensity, physicality and versatility.
Though Barbashev has played top-six minutes in the past, he could thrive in a role and provide decent production where he plays alongside captain John Tavares and either William Nylander or Mitch Marner. With his power-forward like game and strength, he adds that Tom Wilson-like aspect of being a physical presence as he’s second in hits with 105 behind Acciari.
If not, he’s a player that can be moved down the lineup to still provide that energy in a third-line role while also seeing time on the power play. We all know that a team’s bottom-six starts to flourish and become even more critical in the post season and Barbashev could be that high energy-forward needed to set the tone in a game. That type of play is what’s going to be a difference maker when the intensity amps up in the post season.
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While he may not have the same kind of production as in the past, Barbashev’s ability to still find the scoresheet and added physical element could be a big addition to a team that’s looking to add a spark to the top-six. He does have a Stanley Cup to his name and he was tough to play against when the Blues won it back in 2018-19.
The Maple Leafs might look to still address physicality as that remains a topic of discussion, but having that mix up front could be a great addition.
While a top-six forward remains as the Maple Leafs’ top priority, addressing the team’s middle-six forward unit and depth isn’t necessarily a bad thing. With Acciari and Barbashev, the team would be getting two highly competitive, physical forwards with the ability to still find the scoresheet who are built for the playoffs.
With the core forwards doing their part offensively, getting two more forwards could help alleviate some of the pressure off them as it gives them quality depth. That could be a big difference.
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