According to a well-respected NHL Insider, the Toronto Maple Leafs passed on a trade to acquire Marc-André Fleury and Brandon Hagel from the Chicago Blackhawks.
TSN’s Darren Dreger tweeted that Toronto and Chicago had discussed the move, but the Leafs declined the deal because of the asking price. The Blackhawks wanted Matthew Knies, first-round draft picks and Petr Mrazek.
In a second tweet, Dreger said, “Toronto sees promise in Woll and Kallgren and most definitely, Jack Campbell.” He explains that the amount of futures, as in first-round picks and prospects, was a massive ask that Toronto can use to improve the defence.
Dubas not Sacrificing the Future
Toronto would be a better team for the next couple of months if this trade went through, but in trouble for coming years. There’s no doubt that Kyle Dubas, Brendan Shannahan and the entire front office are on the hot seat. The team must make it to the second round, at a minimum, for these guys to conceivably stay employed in Toronto beyond this season. This trade may have increased the odds of a second-round playoff appearance by grabbing a Stanley Cup-winning, elite goalie and a top-six forward with a very cheap contract to absorb.
Dubas would’ve happily moved Mrazek, but Knies and first-rounders were out of the question for this deal. Knies, who Toronto picked in the second round of the 2021 Draft, looks to be a steal and has a real chance to be playing for Toronto next season, if not this season. He put up 27 points in 29 games with the University of Minnesota; he was impressive at a shortened World Junior Championship and then played for Team USA at the Olympics. It’s not clear how many first-round picks Chicago wanted, but it was at least two since it’s plural.
Less than a month ago, another NHL Insider reported that Toronto backed away from a trade because the price was too high. On the 32 thoughts podcast, Elliotte Friedman said the Maple Leafs were at the table from John Klingberg, but the Dallas Stars were asking too much. He didn’t know the deal’s specifics but said the Stars were looking for a first-round pick and a top prospect with a trading partner. So again, another deal Dubas walked away from that could’ve improved his team for the short term.
Maple Leafs not Trading for a Goalie
The other big takeaway from this none deal-tweet is that Toronto is good to go with their goalies, minus Mrazek. This has to be a little bit concerning. Campbell has not been himself since the COVID pause in December; Erik Kallgren and Joseph Woll have a combined eight NHL games under their belts. Yes, both goalies have shown promise for the most part, but to be satisfied to go with these two rookies in net during playoff hockey seems problematic.
Now we have to question the timing of this leaked information. Two days before the trade deadline, on a Saturday that’s jam-packed with 11 games. Whoever tipped off Dreger wanted this information out there loud and clear. Did Toronto put it out there? If so, was it to show other general managers that Dubas won’t mortgage the future despite the pressure? Did Chicago put it out there to publicize the asking price for Fleury? Was the information disclosed to see how the hockey world would react to it? Does it increase or decrease Fleury’s trade value?
Dubas is in a difficult position, and everyone knows it. The general manager must win now to save his job. Yet, he continues to walk away from deals that would put Toronto at a disadvantage down the road. You have to respect the guy for protecting the future, but there’s a part of every Maple Leafs’ fan that wants him to do whatever it takes to win a Cup, even if it means a dark couple of years. It’s the Maple Leafs; fans of this franchise know about living through the dark years however, it would be a little easier with a Stanley Cup win in this century.
Kevin Armstrong is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of experience. He’s been rink side for World Juniors, Memorial Cups, Calder Cups and Stanley Cups. Like many Canadian kids, his earliest memories include hockey. Kevin has spent countless hours in arenas throughout the country watching all levels of the game.