It is improbable the Toronto Maple Leafs will make a significant trade. Despite certain commentators dropping random speculation every week, armchair general managers screaming for trades every day and Twitter trade talks by the minute, there is absolutely no reason for Kyle Dubas to make a trade.
Why would he? The general manager is finally seeing the fruits of his labour, and all those who’ve slammed him for years are eating crow. Outside of that, there are five significant reasons why Toronto will not make a roster trade.
Players in the System
The speculation that gets clicks and views is that Toronto is after a top-six forward. It would be great if Dubas could get a tough, fast and strong leader, who goes into the corners, gets in front of the net and fires his team up. Yes, trade for that guy! Oh wait, Toronto already has him. Wayne Simmonds checked all of those boxes and played in the top six when he broke his hand. He will be back next month.
We all know the Maple Leafs salary crunch. To make a trade for a rostered player would mean a current player would have to go. Not just any player but a player that has more than a couple of zeros in his contract. That opens up a lot of issues we will touch on in the next couple of points. Of course, there are other options, including a trading partner retaining a lot of salary. That would be a nice gesture but a very expensive one. That’s highly unlikely as you will see in the next point. By the way, according to our friends as Cap Friendly, Toronto currently has less than $30,000 in space.
There are only a handful of hockey teams that get the kind of attention the Maple Leafs do. Any move that takes place is dissected to death. There are articles and hundreds of comments when a fourth-line player is a healthy scratch. Do you think that is happening in certain southern states? Dubas is in a tough spot. He is in a high-pressure market that desperately needs a win. Other teams have all the leverage and will be asking for a lot in return. The front office has been steadfast in not mortgaging the future.
Although there seems to be better news on the vaccination front, the fact remains that a player coming out of the U.S. will have to quarantine. Again, referring to the previous point that a current roster player would have to go the other way, Toronto would be short a rostered guy while waiting for the new player to pass all the safety protocols. That’s not all. Sheldon Keefe’s rigorous system play needs more than a couple of practices. Sure, elite players may pick it up quickly, but again, read the salary cap section.
System Buy In, Team Cohesion
The recent series against the Edmonton Oilers demonstrated how good this team is when it sticks to the system. Sheldon Keefe and his coaching staff have been preaching that system since day one of training camp. Even after a good game, the coach’s post-game comments will be critical if he sees a shift he didn’t like.
It’s been a strange season. It’s been a difficult year. These players have lived in quarantine houses together and weathered all the other challenges 2020 and 2021 have offered. You see smiles on the bench, and in practices, players are complimentary of each other and genuinely seem to have each other’s back.
The NHL is unlike any other when it comes to trades – there is an entire day of TV programming dedicated to the trade deadline. As observers and fans, we like to imagine how a new player could elevate a team. However, given the current roster’s success and all the other factors described in this article, the Maple Leafs will not be making trade headlines during the 2020-21 season.
Kevin Armstrong is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of experience. He’s been rink side for World Juniors, Memorial Cups, Calder Cups and Stanley Cups. Like many Canadian kids, his earliest memories include hockey. Kevin has spent countless hours in arenas throughout the country watching all levels of the game.