This week, TLN will be providing in-depth coverage of the Toronto Maple Leafs as the March 2nd trade deadline approaches. We’ll talk who’s on the block, who the Leafs should target, and make some bold predictions – like Daniel Winnik will be traded. TLN5.
Today, we’ll talk inventory. What kind of assets do the Leafs exactly have? What do they need? Follow the jump for the full breakdown…
Areas of Need
The Leafs should be looking for three specific things at next week’s trade deadline; draft picks, prospects and cap relief. This team, after all, should not be looking to improve their roster in any way. That’s not to say they should tank (though they should), but it makes no sense to deal assets for immediate help.
I’d say the biggest need, though any futures asset would be nice, is a 2015 second round pick. While the Leafs currently own two first round picks in the upcoming draft, their second round pick currently belongs to the Columbus Blue Jackets – that pick had originally been sent to the Los Angeles Kings as part of the Jonathan Bernier deal, but was then flipped to Columbus in the trade that brought Marian Gaborik to Los Angeles.
If the Leafs could recoup a second round pick, and draft three players in the top sixty picks, that would go a long way to kickstarting their rebuild.
While most deadline deals don’t take place until a day or two before, you know, the deadline, this year has already seen a few trades made in month of February – two of them involving Toronto.
First, we saw the Leafs ship minor league prospects Carter Ashton and David Broll to the Tampa Bay Lightning for a conditional 2016 draft pick. This was a move simply designed to afford Toronto some extra flexibility. Of course, there wasn’t much value coming back for two young players, but there is value in two extra contract slots and a few extra dollars in space space. Prior to the trade, the Leafs were right up against the limit on both counts.
The second Toronto deal saw the Leafs send pending UFAs Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli to the Nashville Predators for a 2015 first round pick, prospect Brendan Leipsic, and veteran centre Olli Jokinen, the latter being thrown in for cap considerations and likely to be moved again before the March 2nd deadline.
This was the deal that essentially “set the market” for the rest of the league, with a first round pick being exchanged for a top four defender, and a ‘B’ prospect moved for a handy, middle-six forward.
All further dealings will likely be compared to this, and that’s good news for the Leafs. According to Damien Cox and Elliotte Friedman on Hockey Night in Canada’s Saturday Headlines segment, there simply aren’t any first round picks available, save for perhaps the New York Rangers’ first rounder which is owned by the Tampa Bay. As a contender, the Lightning may use one of their first round picks to acquire help.
If it turns out that no other rental defenceman can fetch a first round pick, the Leafs will have made out like bandits.
The other three deals made in February, strangely enough, didn’t do much to help establish market values.
First, and least significant, was the trade that sent Evgeni Nabokov from the Tampa Bay Lightning to the San Jose Sharks for future considerations. Nabokov was drafted by the Sharks in 1994 and spent 16 seasons within the organization. Two days after the trade, Nabokov announced his retirement – this was a non-move.
Next was the blockbuster deal between the Winnipeg Jets and Buffalo Sabres, with Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian and Jason Kadorf to Buffalo in exchange for Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, Joel Armia, Brendan Lemieux and a 2015 first round pick (the latest of the Sabres’ three first round picks). All this deal really taught us is that if you want a 23-year old star, you need to give up two good prospects and a first round pick.
As they only have just over a million dollars in cap space, it would be difficult for the Leafs to add to their lineup even if they wanted to. If anything, it’s more likely that Toronto will shed some salary at or before the deadline.
Some players that have been rumoured to be maybe on the move: Joffrey Lupul ($5.25M cap hit), Tyler Bozak ($4.2M), Roman Polak ($2.75M), Olli Jokinen ($2.5M), Daniel Winnik ($1.3M) and Korbinian Holzer ($787K). Moving even a couple of those contracts will clear some significant cap space.
In terms of prospects, Toronto only has one blue chip piece: William Nylander. Beyond the 2014 eighth overall pick, the Leafs do own a good number of ‘B’ level prospects in Connor Brown, Andreas Johnson, Stuart Percy, Josh Leivo, Matt Finn, and the aforementioned Leipsic. You’re not going to hear a lot of talk about trading any of these young players for immediate roster help, but it is possible that one or more of them may be used in deals in order to acquire better quality prospects or young, NHL-ready players.
In terms of picks, the Leafs have two first round picks in the 2015 draft, as well as their own third, fourth, fifth and sixth round picks. Their seventh round pick was traded to Columbus in the Matt Frattin deal, though it was a conditional pick, and as of now we don’t know what the conditions were or if they have been met. Frattin has played nine games for the Leafs this season, so if the condition had something to do with a 10-game threshold, let’s not make him the first call up, yeah?
Similar to the Leafs’ prospect depth, it’s highly unlikely that any of these draft picks are dealt, unless they will be part of a deal involving the acquisition of prospects or young, NHL-ready players.
Be sure to come back tomorrow for TLN’s continuing coverage of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 2015 trade deadline.