No player who is the key to getting out of the first round of the playoffs will be available to the Toronto Maple Leafs during the draft. Perhaps a pick in the top five could help advance the team to the second round. Still, that kind of player is not available at 25, where general manager Kyle Dubas will be making his selection. Therefore, the choice is an obvious one. Toronto must trade that pick for a player that can make an impact now.
Dubas deserves a lot of credit for holding on to that first-round selection last season, especially on trade deadline day. The value of that pick has gone up. It’s now clear who is in a desperate rebuild, who could use selections, who needs prospects and who wants impact players. This just in, Toronto needs a playoff win – now! This team will not get there with a great pick that looks promising to be a good player in 3 to 5 years. No. This franchise is way overdue for a winner, and one solution is moving that pick out.
Maple Leafs Trading More Likely Now
Dubas is much more likely to do it now. It’s understandable why he didn’t trade it away last season after the Nick Foligno trade that was a complete and utter failure. Hindsight is 2020, and you just have to look at the Florida Panthers to see that the Leafs are not alone in getting burned by trading a first-round pick for rentals. It’s well known that the general manager is not a fan of rentals and prefers selecting a guy with some time left on his contract. A trade now would give him an entire season with a pending free agent player in 2023. Really, this should not be a concern. If he doesn’t get this team to the second round (at least), he won’t be the boss that has to worry about who is a free agent.
Dubas finds himself in trouble at a few positions where a player with a few years under his belt could come in handy. A first-round draft pick could be enough to acquire such a player. With the news that Ilya Mikheyev could be in the area of $5 million, there is now a hole in the top six. There are also no answers in the crease as the number one goalie is yet to appear. Finally, the defence could always use an improvement.
The first-round pick could be a way to package a player the Leafs want to move. There is no shortage of candidates in that category, just to name a few Petr Mrazek, Justin Holl, and Jake Muzzin. Trading the pick and one of these moves could get a good player in return, but it would also help with the salary cap crunch the team faces.
Dubas Enjoys the Draft
However, Dubas seems to relish the drafting process. After working for the Soo Greyhounds as a stick boy, locker room attendant and eventually a general manager, player development appears to be in his blood. Undoubtedly, his team of scouts got a steal in the second round of the 2021 draft, grabbing Matthew Knies at 57. He just went on to be a huge part of Team USA’s program, including representing the country at the 2022 Olympics.
Sure, there is always the gamble of trading away a pick that turns out to be a phenomenal player. That can simply not be a concern of anyone on the Maple Leafs’ payroll. No Calder Trophy banners for rookie of the year are hanging in the rafters. There would be ten of them if there were such banners. There is also a lack of Stanley Cup Champion banners, 13 to be exact, with the last one in 1967, in case you didn’t know. It’s time for Dubas to worry about that banner.
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.