Maple Leafs Bolster Centre Depth With McCann Trade

The Toronto Maple Leafs completed a trade in what was a chaotic 30 minutes around the NHL. With a flurry of moves ahead of the 3:00 p.m. deadline before the roster freeze, the Maple Leafs acquired centre Jared McCann from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for prospect Filip Hallander and a 2023 seventh-round pick.

The move comes in the midst of a tidal wave of trades around the league, including the Nashville Predators trading defenseman Ryan Ellis to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for defenseman Philippe Myers and forward Nolan Patrick. Patrick was then traded to the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for forward Cody Glass.

With the window closed for NHL teams to make trades ahead of the expansion draft, teams were scrambling to get any last minute deals in, and they did not disappoint.

What McCann Brings to the Maple Leafs

A 25-year-old from Stratford, Ontario, McCann is a dynamic two-way centre who has played for three different teams over the course of a six-year NHL career. The former Vancouver Canucks first-rounder spent one year with the team before being traded to the Florida Panthers ahead of the 2016-17 season. He spent just over two seasons with Florida prior to being dealt to Pittsburgh in 2018-19.

His career high in points in 35, but his best season production-wise came in 2020-21 with 32 points in 43 games. He played for the Sault St. Marie Greyhounds in junior, and will join a plethora of former Soo players on the Maple Leafs including Rasmus Sandin, Jake Muzzin, and Jack Campbell.

Standing at 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, McCann is essentially the definition of an offensive utility knife. He’s a great skater who can play both sides of the puck effectively, and he possesses an incredibly effective wrist shot. He can be used both on the penalty kill and the power play, and also has a little bit of bite to his game. To add the cherry on top, he’s a positive possession player as well.

Like fellow Maple Leaf Alex Kerfoot, McCann can be used both on the wing and at centre, and could be utilized either in a third-line centre role or in a top-six winger role. He played for Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe with the Greyhounds between 2012-13 and 2014-15, so there will be some familiarity between the two there. His main fallback is that he sometimes struggles with consistency, but if that’s his biggest issue, it’s a gamble worth taking.

Hallander, a former second-round pick of the Penguins, just wrapped up his third season with Timra IK of the SHL. The 21-year-old finished the season with 24 points in 51 games. He was originally acquired from Pittsburgh by the Maple Leafs in October 2020, along with a first-round pick (Rodion Amirov) in exchange for forward Kasperi Kapanen.

How the Acquisition Affects Maple Leafs Expansion Plans

With the expansion draft looming, I would imagine the Maple Leafs go the 7-3-1 route versus protecting eight skaters and one goalie. The acquisition of McCann could mean that the team uses one of their forward protection spots on him, while leaving both Justin Holl and Travis Dermott exposed for the Seattle Kraken.

With the big four of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and John Tavares all undoubtedly being protected, this would leave three forward spots open for the Maple Leafs should they protect seven forwards. If they do, I would guess that they use these spots on McCann, Kerfoot, and one of Pierre Engvall or Joey Anderson.

Meanwhile, on the defensive front, the three spots would without question go to Morgan Rielly, T.J. Brodie, and Muzzin. No further speculation required there.

Even if the Maple Leafs do protect Kerfoot, that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t try to move him after the expansion draft. He’s locked in for two more seasons at $3.5 million annually, and the team could be looking to shed that salary ahead of free agency.

Overview

While we obviously won’t know if this is a good trade or a bad trade until McCann plays for the Leafs, this looks like a very, very good deal on the forefront. When you factor in that Toronto originally acquired Hallander from Pittsburgh last fall, they essentially acquired McCann and Amirov for Kapanen.

The acquisition of McCann will give the Maple Leafs tons of options heading into the 2021-22 season. Having him as their third-line centre would undoubtedly give them one of the best centre cores in the league, and he can be a viable option on both the man advantage and the penalty kill. While the Leafs will have to do a lot to heal the morale of the fanbase after yet another first-round exit, the acquisition of McCann is a great start.


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