Less than a week until the NHL’s trade deadline, and it’s setting up to be a very interesting next few days. Some executives feel it’s going to be quiet, while others think the goalie market has never been hotter. Two teams who are expected to be active before March 21, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Colorado Avalanche. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman mentioned on 32 Thoughts the podcast he was told to not be surprised if general managers Kyle Dubas and Joe Sakic once again do business together. This time around I don’t expect Nazem Kadri to be included.
Some interesting developments in all of this occurred Monday evening when Sakic pulled the trigger on a deal with the Anaheim Ducks for defenseman Josh Manson. The same defenseman who reportedly had Toronto on his no-trade list now ends up joining a powerhouse Avs team who add some more nasty to their blue line. A blue line that’s becoming very crowded, perhaps warranting a look from Dubas. Along with the one completed trade, Pierre LeBrun of TSN is reporting the Avalanche aren’t likely done making moves.
Colorado recently lost a fight with the injury bug as captain Gabriel Landeskog underwent knee surgery, likely keeping him out until at least the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Down a key forward, Sakic has been rumored most of the season to be looking to add another forward, an interest that’s likely accumulated as there’s a gaping hole without Landeskog included on the game sheet. The Maple Leafs have some options up front which may spark the Avalanche interest.
Related: Maple Leafs 2022 Trade Targets on the Columbus Blue Jackets
When Dubas traded Kadri to the Avalanche nobody was surprised — those things happen after playoff suspensions — however, Leafs Nation was pleasantly surprised after landing both Alexander Kerfoot and Tyson Barrie in return. While Barrie’s tenure in blue and white was short lived thanks to the coaching staff, he did have half his salary retained by the Avalanche, a win for Dubas in the deal. Given how it’s worked out for both teams, there’s certainly some decent odds of another one materializing in the future.
Maple Leafs Trade Targets Off the Avalanche a Mystery
When I heard the news Manson was heading to the Avalanche, I wondered if that makes Erik Johnson available. Colorado has $1.25 million in cap space remaining to use this season, along with $24.4 million to work with this upcoming summer. Johnson makes $6 million annually, and is signed through the 2022-23 season, perhaps the Avalanche could look to spend the money on other resources.
Colorado is stacked on defense with a group that includes Johnson, Cale Makar, Samuel Girard, Devon Toews, Ryan Murray, Bowen Byram, Jack Johnson, Kurtis McDermid and now also Manson from the Ducks. If Sakic makes another deal, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him move out a defenseman.
The Maple Leafs have Jake Muzzin on the side lines due to multiple concussions, and while he appears to be close to returning, their depth is no where near where it needs to be. If they don’t improve their group, Toronto has no chance of making noise past the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Makar’s untouchable, likely the same can be said about Girard, Toews and Byram, leaving Murray and both Johnson’s as potentially available at the right price. Toronto could use a 6-foot-4 right-handed defenseman who loves to play physical and has over 800 games of NHL experience. At $6 million though? The question we’ll soon find out the answer to as the deadline is less than a week away. Two buzzwords expected to be overused this trade deadline – ‘salary retention’.
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While the Maple Leafs GM came out a few weeks ago and gave Jack Campbell and Petr Mrazek a vote of confidence, citing how Campbell’s shown he can be historically good, meanwhile Mrazek is a veteran netminder he’s confident in due to his experience,
The numbers don’t lie, the struggle’s been real of late. Meanwhile, it’s going bad to worse, as Campbell’s gone down with a rib injury, keeping him out of action for at least a couple weeks.In addition, the shakiness in Mrazek’s game continued at the Heritage Classic. I wrote about four potential trade targets last week, and while Marc-Andre Fleury’s was among the four as his name continues to be linked to Toronto, Darcy Kuemper’s was not. For some reason the Avs continue to be tied to goaltending on the trade market as they’ve recently re-signed Pavel Francouz and Kuemper’s record is 28-8-2 with four shutouts, stopping 92.2% of the shots he’s faced. Compare this number to the combined .899 save percentage of the Maple Leafs tandem and yes, it’s an obvious upgrade. Imagine if Kuemper, the Maple Leafs and Fleury are all tied together in a wild mess.
Besides Johnson being a potential target as a right-handed defenseman who plays a similar style to Zach Bogosian — who Toronto dearly misses — and Kuemper being a complete long shot in net, Avalanche targets for Toronto don’t exactly jump off the page. My colleague Peter Baracchini mentioned Andre Burakovsky as a potential forward of interest, however with Landeskog’s injury I wonder Sakic’s interest to move anoter forward. Colorado is loaded on their back end, I see them using this to their advantage.
Maple Leafs Have Minimal Trade Candidates
While the likes of defensemen Justin Holl and Travis Dermott have been linked to trade rumors most of the season, the Maple Leafs don’t have a ton of names ‘out there’ on the trade market. The core will remain in tact, so let’s focus on some trade dilemmas. For instance, I could see Dubas and company being open to moving Mrazek over Campbell, Pierre Engvall over Kerfoot and Timothy Liljegren over Rasmus Sandin.
The Avalanche and Maple Leafs are two teams who were expected to make some noise this season, but not necessarily together. Toronto and Colorado surprisingly find themselves once again involved in trade conversations as we’ll see just how far things advance from here. T-minus seven days until we find out if Dubas and Sakic want to once again sign together on the dotted line.