The Toronto Maple Leafs have made a minor trade today, sending forward Nicolas Deschamps to the Washington Capitals in exchange for defenceman Kevin Marshall. Normally, one shouldn’t look too much into what amounts to a minor league trade, but there’s a lot of factors that have me wondering if there’s more roster shuffling to come for Toronto, at both the NHL and AHL levels. But first off, a bit of background on what’s changing hands.
Nicolas Deschamps goes to the Washington Capitals. Drafted 35th overall in 2008 by the Anaheim Ducks, Brian Burke’s last QMJHL pick, he came over to the Maple Leafs in a one for one trade for Luca Caputi back in January 2012. Both Caputi and Deschamps were struggling, and once switching over, saw significant boosts in their production. However, Deschamps’ 30 points in 40 games and 12 points in 17 playoff games to close out last year have been nowhere to be found since, racking up just 7 goals and 9 assists in his 50 games this year. He was looked at as one of the guys who would have a bigger role as players went to the Leafs, but he’s only racked up 2 goals and 5 assists in 19 post-lockout games.
Deschamps is a skilled forward with a tendency to look for the pass, requiring a strong finisher on his opposite wing or at centre. His foot speed is very good, and he’s shown great examples of creativity in his year or so with the club. With that said, he still struggles with split second plays, often making less than logical choices under pressure, an issue he had with Syracuse.
Kevin Marshall comes to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The 41st overall pick in the 2007 Entry Draft, Marshall started his career in the Philadelphia Flyers organization. He has ten games of NHL experience, earning zero points, 8 penalty minutes, and a plus/minus of -1. The Flyers traded him to Washington for Matthew Ford last February. Marshall has spent the year with the Hershey Bears, earning himself 1 goal and 5 assists in 52 games. He also has 77 penalty minutes, including a surprisingly low three fighting majors.
Marshall is a stay at home, physical defenceman. His skating ability has been said to be solid, though not mind blowing, and he’s capable at moving the puck.
The first thing that comes to mind is positions of strength and weaknesses. For the Marlies, a massive issue since the NHL came back has been a lack of scoring, typically needing to keep the other team to no more than two goals to win games. Something tells me that trading a creative forward for a stay at home defenceman isn’t going to help things, even if Deschamps hasn’t been particularly productive. Sure, it gets another one of the rookies in more often, but they’ve been just as inconsistent, if not more so.
On a similar wavelength, how many defenceman does this organization really need? The Leafs have Phaneuf, Franson, Komisarek, Liles, Gunnarsson, Fraser, Kostka, and Holzer. The Marlies have Mottau, Yeo, Gardiner, Ranger, Gysbers, Blacker, Grimshaw, and Syvret. Even without Marshall, that’s eight guys on each team. Grimshaw and Syvret are signed to tryouts that might not be renewed, but Morgan Rielly and Stuart Percy will likely be coming over from their respective junior teams soon to balance that out, leaving seventeen to nineteen defencemen between the two teams.
If one was to speculate, that log jam can’t last much longer. Depth is great, but if eight men holding six spots was bad on the Leafs, eleven holding six on the Marlies is overkill. If I had to guess, Syvret and Grimshaw are both going to be let go at the end of their tryouts, and this all but guarantees at least one defenceman gets moved. It also makes it likely that the Leafs take in a forward prospect that doesn’t require waivers.
For the Marlies, even with this team starting to win games, they can’t hope for a 1-0 or 2-1 result every time. There’s only a handful of people producing (a subject for another day), and if they intend on taking this year’s playoffs anywhere near as seriously as lasts, help will be necessary fast. As for the Leafs, training camp was in January. You can’t hold onto, shuffle, and scout guys forever. At some point, having clear NHL-capable talent in the press box will stop being cute and start being poor asset management, and that point is coming sooner than later.
In the meantime, going away from the big picture, it’ll be interesting to see if Marshall gets immediate minutes and how he does with them. I’m not expecting a ton, but a pleasent surprise is always nice.