Maple Leafs Missed Big on Ryan Reaves Trade

The Toronto Maple Leafs need a strong, physical and intimidating player. The problem is that type of athlete is a rarity in today’s NHL. However, one of those tough-to-find gems was on the trade market, and for some reason, Toronto didn’t make it happen.

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Instead, the New York Rangers traded Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a fifth-round draft pick. That’s a bargain for a player who has spent his career defending skilled teammates. With Toronto’s highly talented players constantly harassed, Reaves was the obvious answer and yet another miss for Kyle Dubas.

Ryan Reaves New York Rangers
The New York Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 5th-round pick (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Yes, Toronto has two throwback-like players on the payroll, Wayne Simmonds and Kyle Clifford. However, they are not on the NHL roster, having been waived and sent to the minors. Sheldon Keefe has seen enough of their ineffective play and has moved on.

Related: Maple Leafs Have a New, Unsuspecting Enforcer

Reaves is in the same boat. The New York Rangers have not been playing the big man. The Blue Shirts acquired the 225-pound, 6-foot-2 beast to even the rosters when playing Tom Wilson and the Washington Capitals. But he’s been a healthy scratch in seven of the last eight games in the Big Apple, and when he got into games this season, his playing time was heavily restricted, around the eight to nine minutes mark. But the season is young. Reaves’s presence shows up later when games get a little more intense, with playoffs nearing.

Matthews Needs Protection

Auston Matthews, the back-to-back scoring champion, has been targeting since his first game in the NHL when he scored four goals. After last season’s 60-goal performance, opposition players have no intention of letting Matthews win his third straight scoring title. As a result, he has been tightly checked, evident by his slower-than-usual start. But the real issue has been the pokes, slashes and checks he receives with and without the puck.

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A few nights ago, the superstar narrowly missed a knee-on-knee collision when a fourth liner stuck his knee out with intent. Rasmus Sandin, the 182-pound, 5-foot-11, 22-year-old Swede who had never fought in the NHL or AHL, played the role of enforcer. He got punched several times in the face for it, but he did what any good teammate should do. Would Matthews have been targeted with Reaves on the Leafs’ bench?

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A few weeks ago, Matthews had enough of the slashes against the Philadelphia Flyers, and 39-year-old Mark Giordano had to play the enforcer role. A guy who has never fought and a veteran who shouldn’t be fighting should’ve been more than enough of a wake-up call for Dubas to start doing some general manager work.

Maple Leafs Don’t Need a Fifth Round Pick

But could Toronto afford a fifth-round draft pick to bring in an enforcer? Well, here’s the Buds history with the coveted fifth-round choice: Nikita Grebenkin (2022), Ty Voit (2021), Dmitry Ovchinnikov (2020), Michael Koster (2019), Filip Kral (2018), Fedor Gordeev (2017), Vladimir Bobylev (2016) Dmytro Timashov (2015), Dakota Joshua (2014), Fabrice Herzog (2013). I could keep going, but the pattern is evident. The fifth-round pick has done nothing for the Maple Leafs. The 2023 pick could’ve done something right now.

Ryan Reaves New York Rangers
Ryan Reaves, New York Rangers (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

Sure, Dubas has been busy scraping the bottom of the barrel to find some replacement defensemen for a beat-up blue line. However, he has a staff, right? There must’ve been somebody who heard that Reaves had requested a trade. Even before that, they should’ve inquired when the big man was left in the press box. Toronto could’ve easily paid the fifth-round pick, heck even a fourth, for some much-needed protection of the star players.