Most insiders have the Toronto Maple Leafs being an active team prior to this year’s NHL trade deadline. A roster that is talented, but inconsistent at times is built to win now. With two regulation wins in their last six games, the team isn’t necessarily concerned, but they happen to be coming upon a stretch of days off with very few games on the road. It’s a perfect window and a clear break ideal for evaluating their situation, pro scouting other players, and potentially making a smaller trade, which could eventually lead to a bigger one.
As such, the time to make a deal might be now.
Maple Leafs to Make Two Trades?
Steve Dangle and his cast of podcast characters talked about the need for the Maple Leafs to potentially make two deals. Playing in an incredibly competitive Eastern Conference, the prospect of being able to win a playoff round against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, or Carolina Hurricanes — but not being the favorite in any of those series — is scary and not ideal. The Leafs are good, but perhaps not good enough. With that in mind, the show argued that making a small deal now and then evaluating that deal before making another might be the best course of action.
It’s not a reach either, as the Maple Leafs have often been a franchise that likes to work ahead of the rush that is deadline day. As for what this small deal would be, all three men focused on the Maple Leafs adding to the defense. John Klingberg‘s name has been out there and with the focus on Jakob Chychrun by most of the other teams searching for blue line help, there could be an opportunity there. He perhaps doesn’t qualify as a “small deal”, but he’s potentially a necessary piece to their puzzle, allowing to Leafs to add the final one in a few weeks.
Perfect Time to Evaluate a Trade
If the Leafs do make a trade, specifically for a defenseman, it takes some of the pressure off overplaying blueliners like Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren. With Jake Muzzin and Justin Holl having poorer seasons than last year, experienced defenders with the ability to bring everyone down a notch in terms of expectations will be key.
The Maple Leafs just defeated the New York Islanders, but will now get three days off before playing the Anaheim Ducks at home — where, interestingly, they will get a chance to evaluate a player like Josh Manson. From there, the team plays three games in 11 days and faces the New Jersey Devils twice. Interestingly, Damon Severson just came out of COVID protocol, is a 25-minute per night defender, and is an underrated asset in the eyes of many.
With so many days off and the chance to work on systems in practice, it could be the ideal time to bring someone in to get acquainted with the new team, test line combinations or pairings and see where things sit in a back-to-back situation against that team that has struggled this season.
Last Run and No Guarantees Campbell Returns
At the end of the day, what’s important to remember is what this season represents for the Maple Leafs. This is potentially one of their last runs at a Stanley Cup with this current roster and coaching/management team in place. There’s an argument it would be unwise for the Maple Leafs to move their first-round pick three years in a row. At the same time, this window is the window Toronto knows they have Jack Campbell in the net. Beyond that, there are no guarantees.
This kind of run is why you trade those picks in the first place; for the chance at the league’s biggest prize. Unless Campbell is willing to take less than $6 million per season, the Leafs may be hard-pressed to bring him back. Win while you can, worry about the rest later. And, if you’re going to go all in, do so when you have a chance to see what you’ve got, can test out the success of a trade to make sure it worked, and then pull the trigger on a final deal to give the team that the last piece it needs before the big push.
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Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”