The Toronto Maple Leafs rebuild has finally begun in earnest. Over the summer, they loaded up on players and signed them for one and two year contracts. The plan was to raise the value of those players as much as possible, then flip them leading up to the deadline in exchange for picks and prospects.
Three players have already been dealt. Shawn Matthias, Roman Polak and Nick Spaling were exchanged for future assets that should help benefit the Buds in the future. We’ll rehash those two trades and take a look at some other potential deals the Maple Leafs are kicking tires on.
Shawn Matthias Trade
The Maple Leafs brought in Matthias this summer on a one year deal. He was expected to be flipped for assets later on in the season and that is exactly what happened. He was dealt to the Colorado Avalanche for a fourth-round pick and minor league winger, Colin Smith.
Leafs acquire Colorado Avalanche’s 4th round pick in the 2016 Entry Draft and forward Colin Smith in exchange for forward Shawn Matthias.
— Andi Petrillo (@AndiPetrillo) February 21, 2016
Matthias played in 51 games for the Blue and White and posted six goals and 17 points. The year before, he had 18 goals with the Vancouver Canucks. He can provide grit and size for the lower lines of the Avalanche, who are sitting in the final wild car spot at the time of this writing.
In return, the Maple Leafs picked up a fourth rounder, which is never a bad thing for a club on the rebuild and young prospect, Colin Smith. The former Kamloops Blazer was taken in the seventh round, 192nd overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. He has spent this year playing for the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL, where he has posted 34 points in 54 games. He will join the first place Toronto Marlies and should bolster their playoff run.
Roman Polak Trade
This is a trade that worked out beautifully for both teams involved. The San Jose Sharks received two players who can help them now. Polak is a steady defenseman who can play decent minutes. It never hurts to have dependable depth guys, especially when the playoffs come around.
Nick Spaling is a guy who can give you some grit on the lower forward lines. He isn’t flashy, but he works hard and can play a regular shift without difficulty.
— Leafs PR (@LeafsPR) February 22, 2016
On the other side of the deal, the Maple Leafs received two second round draft picks which aren’t available until the 2017 and 2018 drafts. That’s a good return for the Buds. Obviously the more draft picks a team stockpiles, the better. They are a valuable currency in the NHL today and building a winner through the draft is a proven strategy.
The also received Raffi Torres as part of the deal, but he will remain with San Jose Barracuda instead of making his way to the Toronto Marlies.
They were also able to clear out nine million in cap space with these deals, which could end up paying off when the real wheeling and dealing begins shortly.
Obviously the Maple Leafs are not yet done making trades. The biggest names that could still move could be P.A. Parenteau, Michael Grabner and James Reimer. Tyler Bozak, Peter Holland, Nazem Kadri and others could be available as well if the right offer comes through the door.
The Buds have cap room. It might make sense to take on a bad contract if it nets them some good prospects or picks in return. The perfect candidate could be Bryan Bickell, the former Blackhawks forward who has been buried in the minors much of this year.
The Blackhawks would have to throw in something good to sweeten the pot, however, and if the Leafs get the right offer, they could take on his contract. He has another year left at $4.0 million that the Leafs would be prepared to eat if the right deal becomes available.
With the deadline a few days away, expect the trade talks to intensify. You never know exactly what Lou Lamoriello and company have up their sleeves, but be prepared for numerous deals as the Maple Leafs continue to build a winner for the future.