Toronto Maple Leafs general manager (GM) Kyle Dubas has been busy recently as the Leafs traded forward Denis Malgin to the Colorado Avalanche for forward Dryden Hunt. It was a swap of fourth-liners who haven’t produced much offence this season. The move gives Malgin a change of scenery in Denver and Hunt a chance to try and make an impact with the Maple Leafs as a defensive-minded forward for their bottom six.
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More moves are coming as the Maple Leafs are expected to be busy before the March 3 trade deadline. However, don’t expect much over the Christmas break, as the holiday roster freeze begins Monday night.
Here’s a look at three Maple Leafs who could be moved in early 2023:
Speaking of defensive-minded forwards, the first trade candidate to showcase is Pierre Engvall. At 6-foot-5 and well over 200 pounds, Engvall can be frustrating to watch because of his lack of physicality, especially for a checking-line winger. He only has 29 hits through 30 games this season.
Engvall has appeared in 30 games so far this season, collecting five goals and nine total points. He’s making $2.25 million against the cap this season before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. To this point, there hasn’t been much discussion reported on, when it comes to Engvall signing a contract extension with the Maple Leafs.
He is a perfect trade candidate for the Maple Leafs, who will need to be financially creative to acquire some talent before the deadline. Engvall is replaceable, and his salary could help make the money balance out. The defensive-minded forward could easily have his roll filled in by several of the Maple Leafs prospects currently playing with the Toronto Marlies in the American Hockey League (AHL).
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One of the biggest surprises this season has been Pontus Holmberg. The former sixth-round pick has burst onto the scene after an impressive training camp and has found himself as a staple in the Maple Leafs’ bottom six.
In 17 games for the big club in 2022-23, the 23-year-old center has two goals and seven points. He’s averaging less than 10 minutes of ice time per game and is rarely used on the penalty kill. His five-on-five play, however, has been outstanding, and his defensive-minded approach has impressed head coach Sheldon Keefe.
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Holmberg has shown flashes of brilliance and some serious potential to be a shut-down centerman. If the Maple Leafs make a big splash and land someone like Bo Horvat from the Vancouver Canucks or Ryan O’Reilly from the St Louis Blues before the deadline, Holmberg would likely be included in the deal as other teams might value his upside. Dubas will have to give up talent to acquire it, and that could be the case here for Holmberg in early 2023.
With goaltenders Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov showing the ability to bounce back this season, I expect to hear Joseph Woll’s name mentioned in trade chatter. The Maple Leafs appear set with their current duo and considering both goalies are in their prime, why not use this organizational depth on the trade market to help out in other areas of the hockey club.
The former third-round pick has recently returned from injury for the Marlies in the AHL and won his fourth straight game . Woll has been amazing in the small sample size this season, recording a .926 save percentage. He’s a big, athletic netminder who given his age and potential, still has value on the trade market.
With Murray signed for next season and Samsonov a restricted free agent at season’s end, there won’t be much room for Woll to move up the depth chart. The Maple Leafs may be wise to include him in a trade package to land an impact forward for their Stanley Cup Playoff run.
Dubas is going to be actively making adjustments to the roster before the trade deadline. Malgin is out, Hunt is in, and more moves are on the way. The team needs a second-line left winger, so I expect a bigger trade involving an impact player for Keefe to plug into the lineup. The Maple Leafs are going for it all this season, and Leafs Nation is hopeful this season’s playoff run will be longer than seven games.