Maple Leafs & Coyotes Could Make Mutually Beneficial Trade at Draft

We’re just under a month away from the 2022 NHL Draft, and with only three teams remaining in the fight for Lord Stanley, the majority of teams have shifted their focus to the offseason. Free agency and trades are always important topics, but before any of that, the first order of business is the draft. And as of right now, the Toronto Maple Leafs are staring down the barrel of one with limited picks to their name.

Related: THW 2022 NHL Draft Guide

This isn’t always a bad thing, though. Last year, the Maple Leafs didn’t have a first-round pick and only three picks overall. But they used their second-round pick to draft Matthew Knies, who quickly emerged himself as one of, if not the Maple Leafs’ top prospect, and it could be argued that he was talented enough to go in the first round. Going into the 2022 Draft, they once again only have three picks to work with, but as general manager Kyle Dubas has been known to do in the past, the possibility of trading down and getting more picks is always an option. One team in particular that could help them out is the Arizona Coyotes.

Coyotes’ Draft Capital is Loaded in 2022

It’s no secret that the Coyotes have had their draft-related struggles in recent seasons. They were forced to forfeit their 2020 second-round pick and their 2021 first-round pick for violating the scouting combine policy and renounced their 2020 fourth-round pick of United States Hockey League (USHL) defenseman Mitchell Miller, who was charged with assault after physically and mentally abusing a disabled black boy in 2016. And after once again missing the playoffs and finding themselves in the top five once again, they’re probably getting tired of competing for the Draft Lottery each year.

Kyle Dubas, Toronto Maple Leafs
Kyle Dubas, Toronto Maple Leafs, 2018 NHL Draft, Dallas, TX, June 22, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

To make up for the lost picks in 2020 and 2021, the Coyotes have accumulated an absolutely jam-packed chest of draft capital in 2022, with three first-round picks (including the third overall pick), and four second-round picks. Their second-round picks as of today are at 34th overall, 36th overall, 43rd overall, and 45th overall. With the Maple Leafs set to pick 25th overall in the first round, there’s absolutely a possibility that they could turn to the Coyotes to expand their own draft capital, especially considering the Coyotes’ other two first-round picks will be near the end of the opening round.

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In a draft like this one, trading down would be a smart move for the Maple Leafs. The 2022 Draft class is pretty stacked, at least compared to last season, and there isn’t much to separate prospects who could go 25th overall and prospects who could go 45th overall. We saw the Ottawa Senators take forward Tyler Boucher 10th overall despite his projection as a late second-round pick. Trading out of the first round doesn’t mean the Maple Leafs won’t draft a first-round talent, it just means they would be giving themself an extra shot to do so.

Coyotes Could Take on a Maple Leafs Bad Contract

Trades at the draft that involve swapping picks often only involve the draft picks themselves. But Arizona is in a little bit of a unique situation, so it’s possible the two teams could help each other with a trade like this. When I say “bad contract”, I’m obviously talking about the elephant in the room in Petr Mrazek. Although he has proven he can be a good goaltender at the NHL level in the past, his 2021-22 season could not have gone worse, and his contract isn’t one that the Maple Leafs can afford to gamble on him finding his game again. So, I’d have a hard time believing the Maple Leafs aren’t looking for a team to take on his contract.

Petr Mrazek, Toronto Maple Leafs
Petr Mrazek, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

As of right now, the Coyotes only have Czech netminder Karel Vejmelka under contract for next season. Like I said, as much as his performance in 2021-22 didn’t help his case in any way, Mrazek is a good goalie who can find his game again. The problem is, the Maple Leafs could use his $3.8 million average annual value (AAV) in other areas to improve, and betting on him finding his game again is a massive gamble, not necessarily one that I’d imagine the team wants to take.

The Coyotes, on the other hand, absolutely can afford to make that gamble, as all of their future pieces are locked up for the foreseeable future with the exception of Lawson Crouse and Barrett Hayton, and they have $33 million in cap space according to CapFriendly. If they took Mrazek’s contract, not only would they be able to eat his salary for the next two seasons, but if he ends up finding his stride again, they could even use him as a trade chip for a team looking to add a goaltender. They would have options, whereas in Toronto’s case, it’s a matter of hoping he revives his game and lives up to his money.

The only obstacle is that Mrazek has a modified no-trade clause, and it’s unknown which teams are on his no-trade list. Having said that, after the season he had in a media hotbed like Toronto, playing in a low-key market like Arizona could be just what he needs to find his game again.

Maple Leafs Would Have to Add Pieces to Sweeten Mrazek’s Contract

As much as Mrazek’s contract wouldn’t hurt the Coyotes like it hurts the Maple Leafs, it would still be a lot to ask for them to take on his cap hit and sacrifice two second-rounders in the process. Luckily for the Maple Leafs, their improved drafting under Dubas and his scouting team have left them with assets that they can afford to move on from, and use to sweeten the pot for trades like this.

One player that comes to mind is forward Joey Anderson. He was originally acquired from the New Jersey Devils for Andreas Johnsson back in 2020, but between his two seasons with the Maple Leafs organization, he’s only appeared in a total of six NHL games. He’s a player a rebuilding team like Arizona could offer regular ice time, whereas he probably won’t get that opportunity in Toronto. Players like Alex Steeves fit the bill for this as well, but with Anderson being 23 and the most experienced at the NHL level, he’d probably be first in line for a new opportunity.

Joey Anderson Binghamton Devils
Joey Anderson with the Binghamton Devils in 2020 (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

From there, the Maple Leafs could add a B-level prospect to further ease Mrazek’s contract. Somebody like Mikhail Abramov comes to mind here. Abramov was a fourth-round pick of the team in 2019 and he’s only 21, so there’s more potential there than there is with somebody like Anderson. Another option is Filip Kral, a fifth-round pick of the team in 2018 who just finished his first full season with the Toronto Marlies. The extra prospect would be somebody around the level of these two players. Somebody young with potential, but not somebody the Maple Leafs need on the team within the next few seasons.

A Hypothetical Trade Between Toronto and Arizona

As I said before, the Maple Leafs haven’t been afraid to trade down in the past, and the situation seems like something that could work for both sides. If I had to throw together a hypothetical trade, it would probably look something like this.

To TOR: Pick #34, Pick #45

To ARI: Pick #25, G Petr Mrazek, F Joey Anderson, F Mikhail Abramov

You might look at this trade and think “that’s way too much to give up for two second-round picks”. But here’s my reasoning – the two second-round picks from Arizona, in this draft class, are more valuable than the 25th overall pick, which is why I don’t think it would be as simple as a pick swap. That’s where Abramov and Anderson come into play. Those two prospects are likely more valuable to a team like Arizona, and the addition of these two players would tip the value in their favour, and at that point, they might take Mrazek to balance it out.

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Typically when teams trade down, it involves a first-round pick in exchange for a second-round pick and something like a third or fourth. A first for two seconds or early-to-mid-second rounders, likely wouldn’t fly, which is why I added the other pieces. Then again, I’m not an NHL GM. I’m just trying to make my best guess at what a trade between these two teams would look like. Either way, I would be very surprised if the Maple Leafs stood pat with their three picks the same way they did last season, and it’ll be interesting to watch it play out.

What’s your take on the hypothetical? Is it in Toronto’s favour, Arizona’s favour, or an even deal for both sides? Let me know your take in the comments below.

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