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Speculating On Who Needs a Forward

Last night TSN produced a handy dandy list of teams that are in the market for forwards around the NHL. This list was presumably made before the Oilers solved all their problems by acquiring Mike Cammalleri, but it’s a list that makes for good discussion when the Leafs have a seemingly endless supply of NHL level forwards. With Soshnikov and Leivo both fighting for ice time, and the Leafs still having options like Kapanen, Gauthier, Fehr, and Greening available for call-up, it seems worth entertaining the idea that the Leafs would want to make something happen.

From Bob McKenzie on Insider Trading:

“Trade talk has really picked up in the last week or 10 days, especially after the Matt Duchene trade. And with NHL general managers meeting later this week in Montreal, the talk has really picked up now.”

“Anaheim, Montreal, and the New York Rangers have been looking for a centre since the season began, that’s not new. The Florida Panthers, looking for a scoring winger, have really stepped up their efforts lately. (A lot of) teams are looking for forwards, I’m not sure there are that many great fits for teams that are looking to divest themselves. Right now there’s a lot of talk, but whether or not we see action remains to be seen.”

McKenzie then threw some cold water on his words this morning during his TSN 1050 radio hit, saying there wasn’t any sense of urgency for the Leafs to get anything done but that they had to remain mindful of the number of games that Josh Leivo needs to play this season.

Admittedly, I find cold water less fun than imminent trades. While all evidence points to the Leafs enjoying their depth, they do have depth stacked on top of depth at this point, and making a trade on another team’s timeline in a market with few sellers might be a chance to accumulate assets that could help Toronto when they are ready to add as well.

With that in mind, let’s work our way through TSN’s list and see if we can find a worthwhile fit.

Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks are a much better team than their record indicates. They’ve suffered through a ton of injuries and need to get in assets who can keep them competitive in a relatively bad division and help them climb back into a playoff spot. The Ducks are a team that could benefit from either rentals or youth. Rental would likely be the preference, but the salary cap means sending money back to Toronto to make something work. The Ducks were specifically identified by McKenzie as a team wanting a center, which really makes Bozak the ideal offering for the Leafs, especially given Carlyle comfortably relying on Bozak as his 1C for years. Anaheim could take on Bozak and rely on injury reserve cap relief until Getzlaf and Kesler return in January, though there’s probably a need to take at least a little salary back, with Kevin Bieksa being the poster child for Anaheim salary dumps (although he would be an upgrade on Polak).

Additionally to Bozak the Ducks could be interested in a cheaper option, in Eric Fehr, who has been loaned to the Ducks AHL affiliate. Fehr could probably be had for a song, but that wouldn’t be the worst thing for the Leafs to do.

As far as what the Leafs could want as a return, players like Sam Steel are certainly off limits, but if the Leafs let the Ducks dump salary in the deal it’s entirely possible that Jack Kopacka or Max Jones could be an option. More realistically we’re probably talking draft picks or the next tier of prospects which would include Josh Mahura and Julius Nattinen.

Boston Bruins: I can’t imagine the Leafs wanting to do too much to make a team competitive within their own division, especially one that if it improves too much it could push for the playoffs this year. The Bruins have one really great forward line, and a collection of garbage after that. They’ll get relief if Krejci, Backes, and Spooner return in timely manners, but they’ll probably want something to supplement their forward group until then. The Leafs aren’t going to send high calibre rentals their way, or really anything, but if one name were to come up it would probably be Josh Leivo. I don’t see why the Leafs would do this unless they get an overpayment in return, and for me that overpayment would have to be Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson. Odds are this isn’t happening.

Columbus Blue Jackets: The BJs are still staying afloat in the Metropolitan, and have a bit more cap room to explore any and all options. The challenge is most likely in finding a deal that could be compatible for both teams. The best young players in the Columbus organization have either graduated to the team or would be untouchable like Abramov. Maybe it’s worth dealing a depth forward like Soshnikov for a long shot project prospect like Paul Bittner, but that’s a stretch. It’s also possible that as we get much closer to the trade deadline that Columbus could be a team that puts a really competitive offer together for van Riemsdyk, but we are nowhere near the point of that being worth discussing.

Edmonton Oilers: They made their move yesterday to acquire Mike Cammalleri, so it’s probably safe to say they won’t be active again for a while. If anything they’d be ones to watch regarding Leivo and Soshnikov, but the return they are most likely to offer up is an under-performing winger of their own.

Florida Panthers: The Panthers are in a horrible mess of their own doing. They are all but certain to miss the playoffs this year. They paid Vegas to take two of their best forward assets, and somehow now look like they are desperate to restock their organization. Firing Dale Tallon should be the logical first step, but to the benefit of teams that will be making trades with Florida, he’s likely sticking around. Obviously Florida shouldn’t be interested in rentals, but cheap, youngish talent that could get some time with their club this season would be a plus.

The Panthers have Alex Petrovic and Mark Pysyk as right handed defensemen that could be worth targeting and at the moment Petrovic isn’t cracking the lineup. While Petrovic not cracking a bad team’s lineup sends up some red flags, he’s got the luxury of only having to be better than Roman Polak to potentially earn time on the Leafs. He plays a hard nosed style, that Babcock is likely looking to add to his blueline, and his shot suppression numbers should comfort those of us who worry when the label stay at home and hard nosed get thrown around. If there was any Leafs deal I could see playing out in the short term, it’s probably something along the lines of Leivo for Petrovic.

Montreal Canadiens: Hahaha, let them burn.

New York Rangers: Would they do the typical Rangers move where they acquire any name brand rental player thrown on the market or do they stick with their subtle attempt to get younger while clinging to low playoff seeds for as long as possible? Since Bob McKenzie identified the Rangers as a team seeking a center we’ll go with the former and talk Bozak. I honestly don’t know where the fit would be between the Rangers and the Leafs given that the Rangers are less likely than ever to give up futures and there seems to be a shortage of players the Leafs would want in return, but they are an intriguing destination. I’d just put money on Anaheim being a better fit if the Leafs dealt Bozak.

Ottawa Senators: It’s been a couple of years since the Leafs have fleeced the Sens, so maybe it’s worth doing again. Maybe trade them back a rebuilt Colin Greening. The Senators have sent all their futures to Colorado, and their roster is terrible so it’s hard to figure what gets done here. Leivo and Soshnikov are potential trade chips for the Leafs and the Senators have been shopping Nick Paul according to Elliotte Friedman. While a winger is far from the Leafs needs, it’s a chance to at least get a little younger at the position with some potential upside in exchange for a player who can play in the NHL now with a more limited upside.

St. Louis Blues: This is an ideal team to have on a list like this because the possibilities are endless, and the idea of trading a player out of conference is a lot more bearable than having to be burned by the player you dealt away for the rest of the season. The Blues seem pretty locked in on their top seven D, so none of those are likely coming to Toronto in the return and this is probably a deal focused around futures.

If the Blues are seeking rentals like Bozak or JVR, they have players like Kostin, Kaspick and Kyrou that are worth asking about. If the Blues are looking at depth options like Leivo or Soshnikov, the options probably shift to Barbashev or Schmaltz (with the Leafs likely having to still add in both cases). The thing with the Blues and the Leafs is that both teams seem to have mutually interesting pieces that they should be able to match up on something. Will they? Probably not. It’s still the NHL and trades just don’t happen that often, even though this year seems more active than recent years.

Tampa Bay Lightning: It’s unlikely that the top two teams in the Atlantic are going to make a deal with each other. I know that Tampa has a lot of players that Leafs fans would like in their organization, but we’re probably going to have to accept that they are off limits. If these two teams make a deal it’s going to be something like Ben Smith for Erik Condra.

To Summarize…

There doesn’t seem to be any shortage of teams that have probably made calls to the Leafs about forwards and while I mainly focused on Bozak, van Riemsdyk, Leivo, and Soshnikov, because they are seem like the most likely to have their names out there, there’s a good possibility that Dominic Moore, Eric Fehr, and Leo Komarov are also players that the Leafs wouldn’t think too hard about parting with if a deal could be found. Despite how often we hear Mitch Marner’s name thrown out there, it seems like a safe bet that he’ll be a Leaf for a long time and entertaining the idea of trading him seems foolish unless the name Oliver Ekman-Larsson is tossed out there. It’s very likely that Lou is getting calls for guys like Connor Brown and Kasperi Kapanen, but speculating on either of them seems like a stretch because I’d want to believe it would take an out of the world deal for the Leafs to part ways with them.

While I don’t expect to do anything in the near future, I’d certainly identify the Ducks and Panthers as teams I’d be most inclined to keep an eye on. Petrovic for Leivo just makes sense to me, despite being in the same division and Anaheim might have a renewed sense of urgency after two division opponents swapping forwards in a time where they are desperate for improving that position.

As for the Leafs, it seems like there is very little out there that would be a chance to improve their roster by dealing with these teams. That doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t acquire futures in hopes of making their next deals easier, it just means they aren’t facing any pressure to do anything, and we’re probably going to see what Toronto has in Soshnikov before any decisions are made.

 

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