The Toronto Maple Leafs certainly made news on Thursday, sending five prospects to the New York Islanders in exchange for right-winger Michael Grabner. Now, this trade was made to open up contract space under the 50-contract limit as the Leafs were at 49 prior to the trade. They now stand at 45 contracts and have the room to possibly sign the players they have on pro tryouts.
Just what did the Leafs give up, though? It’s not often you see a team that is rebuilding offload this number of prospects in an offseason, let alone one trade. Grabner could perform well, but the odds are not high that he will play long-term in Toronto. He is yet another player that has his contract expire on July 1 of next year. If even two of these prospects work out, the Leafs might regret the trade. Let’s face it, unless there is something up we don’t know about, the Leafs will use these contracts on players on short-term deals. This is yet another trade that might come down to what the Leafs get in return for Grabner in a potential deadline deal.
Let’s take a look at the players the Leafs gave up.
Oh, Taylor, how we hardly knew thee.
Beck was just acquired by the Maple Leafs on July 12 from the Nashville Predators in exchange for Jamie Devane. Beck played 62 games last season with Nashville and gathered up eight goals and 16 points. Only having a total of 85 games played in the NHL, Beck is still trying to establish himself in the league. As Beck was farther down the Leafs’ depth chart and possibly faced time with the Toronto Marlies, it’s unknown where he could fit in Brooklyn.
One of the more surprising names to be included in this trade, Finn is the highest-drafted player in the group. A early second-round pick in 2012, Finn has had trouble adjusting to the pro game after captaining the Oshawa Generals to an OHL Championship in 2014. He only played 28 games with the Marlies last season, also playing eight games with the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears.
With the depth that the Islanders have established on their blue line, Finn should have plenty of time to develop. He’s one of two players the Leafs might regret giving up the most.
This move might not work out that well for Gibson. With the Marlies, Gibson would have gone in as the incumbent starter with a good chance of retaining that job. The Bridgeport Sound Tigers have Kevin Poulin pretty much locked in as their starter, so Gibson might have to settle for backup duties.
Who this trade does work out for is goaltender Garret Sparks. Relegated to the Solar Bears, Sparks was one of the best goalies in the league last season. He will now presumably get the chance to be the starter for the Marlies once again.
One of a line of defensemen the Leafs have drafted out of Sweden, Nilsson made his North American debut last season with the Marlies. He played 44 games with the team, scoring one goal while adding five assists. Known more as a defensive defenseman who plays on the rough side of the game, he is closer to reaching the NHL than Finn is. Whether he can break into the Islanders’ lineup is the question.
Letting go of Nilsson and Finn will open up spots for some of the Leafs’ younger defenseman to get a chance with the Marlies.
Now, this is the most surprising name to be involved. Drafted in the third round of the 2013 NHL Draft (82nd overall), Verhaeghe has had two consecutive 82-point seasons with the Niagara Ice Dogs and was set to make his full professional debut with the Marlies this season. Now, that debut will happen with the Sound Tigers.
If Verhaeghe can bring his great offensive game from junior to the pros, his road to the NHL could be shorter than some think.