The One Trade the Toronto Maple Leafs Need to Make

The Toronto Maple Leafs have made a number of moves this off-season, but they still have one trade to make.

If you look at the Toronto Maple Leafs roster, it’s easy to say that the team will be competitive. They have firepower up-front and a more well-rounded defense that should bring their goals-allowed number down.

However, they’re still not proven. It doesn’t matter what a team looks like on paper, until they play the games. For all we know, every single new addition could be a bust. Remember how happy we were when Tyson Barrie arrived last year and how that worked out? People could turn on T.J. Brodie the same way they did with Barrie.

The biggest argument with this team over the past few season’s is their salary-cap allotment. Although the team has four of the most skillful forwards in the NHL, they eat up $40M. Can you win with so much skill up-front instead of a well constructed team with depth? It hasn’t been done yet, but the Toronto Maple Leafs think they can change the narrative.

Whenever an individual or a team goes against the grain, they’re instantly criticized for being different. Why would you change something if it already works? Every professional sport has someone who changes the game for the better, despite being looked at like a clown at the beginning.

The Houston Rockets changed the NBA by dedicating themselves to outside shooting, when the game was previously played near the rim. At the time, other NBA teams thought it was a ridiculous approach, but now if you can’t shoot the three, you can’t win.

Even in the MLB, most recently as this year, analytics have played a huge factor in pitchers and the shift. If you watched a game 20 years ago and saw that the infield had four players on one side and the starting pitcher pulled after throwing a perfect six innings, you’d lose your mind. However, that’s the way the game is played today.

So how does this all tie back to the Toronto Maple Leafs?

Kyle Dubas and the organization believes in analytics, but more importantly, they believe that they can win with the approach of paying your top guys half of the salary cap. All while finding replaceable players at the bottom-end through veteran talent, entry level contracts and cheap deals.

The Toronto Maple Leafs Need to Trade Mitch Marner

As much as I like to think that backing up the “Brink’s Truck” to four highly talented players is a good idea, it’s not the best approach when it’s four forwards, with two of those players being wingers. I could watch a highlight-reel of Mitch Marner for hours but at $10.893M per season, you can do better.

I know that Marner and Auston Matthews together is unbelievably fun to watch, but all you need is “Papi” on that line to be productive. In my opinion, if you have a exceptionally talented centre, you don’t need high-end wingers to win. You only need creative wingers if the centre isn’t as skilled.

For example, just look at Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid over their careers. Sure, a duo of Crosby and Evgeni Malkin or McDavid and Leon Draisaitl is a point-producing nightmare for their opponents, but it’s not necessary. McDavid turned Zach Kassian into a 15-goal scorer and Crosby made Pascal Dupuis famous.

If you’re Batman, you shouldn’t need Robin to save you every night. That’s why Marner should be the odd-man out.

It has nothing to do with skill or talent, but has everything to do with salary-cap. Since 1964, there have only been 11 wingers that have won the Conn Smythe Award. 26 of those awards have gone to a goalie/defenseman and 18 have been awarded to a centre.

The Toronto Maple Leafs already have two centre’s locked-up to monster contracts, but they don’t have much money invested into a goalie or a defenseman. The team would be in a much better situation if that $10.893M was invested it into another blue-liner or goalie who the team can rely upon.

It’s like any successful business. If you’re over-performing in one category, should you continue to invest more money there or should you disburse that money elsewhere? In this scenario with the Toronto Maple Leafs, they’re one of the best at scoring goals and one of the worst at allowing them, so maybe they should invest where you’re struggling?

Offense is much more fun that defending, but the old cliché is correct: defense wins championships. You could upgrade the defense pretty quick by trading Marner, so the team should seriously consider it, especially if they don’t win this season.