The Toronto Maple Leafs are starting to turn the corner after the first few weeks of the season had Leafs Nation creeping towards the panic button. The team has won three games in a row and continues their tough week against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins. While their roster is starting to take shape and players are getting accustomed to their roles, from the sounds of it, a trade could be coming before the Christmas pause.
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According to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, the hockey insider believes the Maple Leafs have let it be known to teams around the league that they are open to moving a defenseman. More specifically, one that plays the right-side. I have been tracking this for a couple of months now, and I can easily see this coming to fruition in Toronto.
Justin Holl or Travis Dermott Will Be Moved
With Holl on the outside looking in at the moment after a shaky seven games and with Dermott being elevated to a top-four role recently, the easy way out would be to say they’re moving Holl, but that’s not likely the case. Capable right-handed defensemen are much harder to come by these days, and Friedman noted it’s likely Dermott that ends up getting dealt.
The Maple Leafs are set with Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin, and TJ Brodie signed long-term. Throw in the newbies in Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren, making up five of six spots. The young duo has shown they have the skill set, poise, and hockey sense to keep up to the NHL game, and at this point, they don’t appear to be going anywhere.
Their development has been a hot topic within Leafs Nation this season. The two are former first-round picks that the organization has been loyal to their development since day one, and both Sandin and Liljegren likely get locked up long-term next summer. For those two, the future is now.
That brings us back to one of Holl or Dermott. Holl is roughly five years older at 29 and more expensive at $2 million versus Dermott, who makes a reasonable $1.6 million. Both are signed for next season and come with some perks and flaws. Both players will hover around the 15-20 point mark and are best suited for depth roles on the bottom pair.
Dermott Likely the Maple Leaf Who Ends up Traded
As I mentioned in October, Dermott has become prime trade bait. At under 25, he still has a ton of potential and would fetch more on the trade market in return. It would a tough pill to swallow for some as the Newmarket, ON native has grown a ton this season and has seen an increase in ice-time because of it. Dermott played a season-high 16:24 of ice-time last week against the Detroit Red Wings and was on pace to shatter that against the Vegas Golden Knights this past Tuesday. A foot injury stapled him to the bench, and now it’s being reported he’s day-to-day.
Will the injury hinder teams from calling the Maple Leafs? Likely not. It doesn’t appear to be serious, and from all accounts, x-rays were negative. He was just uncomfortable in his skate on Wednesday and decided against practicing. Teams likely to be interested include the Detroit Red Wings, Calgary Flames, and Los Angeles Kings.
Maple Leafs Should Move Holl and Keep Dermott
After being someone who wanted Holl protected in the Seattle Kraken expansion draft, I have admittedly changed my tone on Holl staying in Toronto. The Leafs have only 15 players signed for next season off their current roster and only have just over $6 million in cap space to currently work with. There’s zero chance the team can afford to have Holl being paid $2 million and playing on the team’s bottom pair, or as like right now, not playing at all. Jack Campbell needs a new deal, and he’s going to eat a bunch of their remaining cap space up.
Dermott is younger, cheaper, more versatile, and a better skater. Holl is right-handed and more physical and someone Auston Matthews had grown frustrated with in his previous few games before being told to head to the press box on game nights. It’s never good when your best player loses confidence in a teammate and visibly displays his frustration on the ice. Matthews needs to learn to hone in his emotions, but Holl needs to play better too.
So what happens now? Nothing likely this week, with two tough opponents and Dermott banged up. Once the Maple Leafs know he’s 100 percent healthy and back to full strength, look for the trade chatter to pick up and one of him or Holl to be shipped out of town.
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Shane’s been a part of The Hockey Writers team since 2020, covering the Toronto Maple Leafs & Pittsburgh Penguins. A constant contributor, his versatile perspective on game results and everything off the ice produces diverse content. You can also find him on the Maple Leafs Lounge podcast with Peter Baracchini and Alex Hobson. Follow along on Twitter @ShugMcSween