Over the past week or so, a number of trade rumors have been swirling around the Toronto Maple Leafs as the team heads into the trade deadline on April 12. In this post I want to share some of them and link what might be a kind of crazy logic that might link some of them together into a cosmology that might make sense in the universe that is NHL hockey.
Setting Up the Backstory
During his state-of-the-team talk to the media around the middle of the Maple Leafs’ season, Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas shared his sense of where the team was and what its priorities were headed into the end of the season and towards what he hopes will be an extended playoff run towards the Stanley Cup.
Among other points, Dubas noted that (a) the team was looking for to make a trade for forward help, (b) he’d trade a top prospect to make a trade, (c) this season was an aberration because the impact of COVID-19 on the salary cap and NHL league revenues created a turmoil where trading for a rental was preferable to trading for a player with term on his contract; and, (d) a trade might be coming sooner rather than later – especially if that player were coming across the Canada/US border.
Rumor One: The Maple Leafs Are Interested in Los Angeles Kings’ Goalie Johathan Quick
On the face of this, the idea of the Maple Leafs going after Jonathan Quick seems ludicrous. Yet on March 23, Elliotte Friedman reported that he had been hearing rumors that the Maple Leafs might be connected to goaltender Jonathan Quick in trade discussions. However Friedman notes that he’s unsure how reliable such rumors are.
Why the Rumor Makes No Sense to Friedman
Specifically Friedman wrote that, as far as the Quick were concerned, “I don’t see it, even though I concede some circumstantial evidence: Quick’s fiery, competitive nature is the temperament Toronto likes; he’s tight with Jack Campbell; and the Leafs and Kings do deals together.”
On the negative side, Friedman noted that Quick “has battled injuries, and, does it really make sense to put that 35-year-old body through a quarantine, then ramp him up in three weeks for critical games? Not to me, it doesn’t.”
Allow Me to Consider Some “Wild” Logic
On the face of it, I agree with Friedman on this one. It makes no sense to pull in Quick to the Maple Leafs, except for two wild – and I mean wild – reasons (and I admit I am simply speculating here). Reason one is that the team has come to believe that – healthy or not – Frederik Andersen is not going to be the starting goalie either during this season or into the future.
The second part of that logic is that the Maple Leafs believe Jack Campbell will be the goalie during the remainder of the season and (perhaps) into the future as well. That would make salary-cap sense. If so, considering this season, could the team’s brain trust simply think it would be better to have Quick backup Campbell (or vice versa if they believe Quick would have a better chance winning in the playoffs)? If so, given this one crazy, COVID-19-impacted season, would Dubas make such a radical move?
Looking back, Quick has done something Andersen has not. He’s had playoff success. Specifically, he was the goalie of record for the Kings’ two Stanley Cup wins in 2012 and 2014 (by the way, the Calgary Flames’ new coach Darryl Sutter coached that Kings’ team). Quick played well enough last season, but he’s now backing up emerging goalie Cal Pettersen. He’s an easy move from the Kings perspective.
Friedman rightly believes the Maple Leafs wouldn’t make a trade unless they felt they were getting something better in return; and, he noted that would be hard to do if Andersen were the trade bait. I agree. I think the organization – even with all the questions about his performance in the playoffs – like Andersen. That said, I don’t think the organization will re-sign him and that someone else will be here next season.
A Second Piece of “Wild” Logic
Another – perhaps almost as crazy – idea is to create a package deal that would move Andersen and others and would bring back two players in return. As Maple Leafs fans recall, Dubas pulled a multi-player deal with the Kings when he pulled the twosome of goalie Campbell and tough-as-nails Kyle Clifford last February. He has some history trading with the Kings.
Rumor Two: The Maple Leafs Are Interested in the Kings’ Alex Iafallo
Since mid-February, there have been rumors that the Kings’ Alex Iafallo might be a player the Maple Leafs were interested in. In fact, two of my The Hockey Writers’ colleagues Zackary Weiner (who covers the Los Angeles Kings) and Alex Hobson (who like me covers the Maple Leafs) have written extensive posts about such a trade from both perspectives. These articles are worth reading for fans who care.
Going way out on a limb, could it be that the Kings might package Quick and Alex Iafallo to the Maple Leafs for Andersen and Alex Kerfoot, or Pierre Engvall, perhaps a mid-range prospect such as (and I’m just pulling one out of the hat here) Mikhail Abramov, or a lower-than-first-round draft choice. I don’t think that Dubas would move a first-round draft choice, but he always surprises me. And, he’s moved a first-round pick before.
I believe the Kings would trade Iafallo. He’s been playing first-line minutes with Anze Kopitar, but he’s likely a mid-six forward – similar to Kerfoot. The Kings are currently playing at a .500 clip this season, but have also shown signs of good play. Furthermore, the Kings are currently in a rebuild and have stockpiled a nice prospect pool of talent. Would they want to stockpile more? It doesn’t hurt.
I can see a logic for such a trade. The Maple Leafs’ general manager has gone on record that the team’s priority is seeking a forward before the trade deadline. Might Iafallo be that forward? One thing we know about Dubas is that he simply doesn’t rule out many options as they present themselves.
Support from Other Hockey Insiders
Just over a week ago, The Athletic’s James Mirtle and Jason Siegel reviewed potential trade candidates for the Maple Leafs and listed who they believed might be the top five trade targets who were forwards. (from “The Maple Leafs’ top 10 trade deadline targets: Taylor Hall, Eric Staal, Tanner Pearson and more,” Jonas Siegel and James Mirtle, The Athletic, 17/03/21).
Siegel’s list included Iafallo as his top priority, while Mirtle’s list included Mikael Granlund. Although Granlund has generated a lot of noise with Maple Leafs’ nation, for the purposes of this post, let me focus on Iafallo.
As Seigel notes, Iafallo’s a pretty good player. The 27-year-old current salary-cap hit is $2.42 million, which is attractive. He’s also known for his competitiveness, tenacity, and enthusiasm. He’s also a rental – of sorts – because he’s an RFA (restricted free agent), which offers Dubas some control over his future should he wish to keep him. If not, he’s a total rental.
What Might Happen?
Who knows where this might go? As I noted, I’m engaging in conjecture here; however, I’ve been adding the rumors together + my own logic + what general manager Dubas shared with the media about his priorities and his team’s needs + some recent trade history between the teams. This post is what has emerged.
Similar to other hockey writers, I’m going with what I have. I venture to say my logic might add up in a peculiar way; however, insofar as I’ve watched the Maple Leafs deal over the past few seasons, I expect I will be – and Maple Leafs’ fans with me – totally surprised.
I believe we shall see in the next two weeks.