The Brilliance of the Toronto Maple Leafs Latest Trade

MONTREAL, QC - FEBRUARY 04: Alex Galchenyuk #17 of the Ottawa Senators skates against the Montreal Canadiens during the third period at the Bell Centre on February 4, 2021 in Montreal, Canada. The Ottawa Senators defeated the Montreal Canadiens 3-2. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC - FEBRUARY 04: Alex Galchenyuk #17 of the Ottawa Senators skates against the Montreal Canadiens during the third period at the Bell Centre on February 4, 2021 in Montreal, Canada. The Ottawa Senators defeated the Montreal Canadiens 3-2. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /
facebooktwitterreddit

The Toronto Maple Leafs won again last night and are now six points ahead of the second place team in the NHL.

And while skeptics will continue to doubt, no one, however, can doubt Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas’ ability to find useful players off the NHL scrap heap.

The success of the Leafs now and for the foreseeable future is tied to their belief that players on mid-range contracts in the 2-5 million range, do not tend to perform measurably better than players available at or near the league minimum.

This doesn’t mean that there are not differences between players, just that for practical salary cap purposes, most $2-5 million players don’t make any more of a difference than the players you can get for under $1.5.

Engvall, Spezza, Petan, Boyd, Anderson, Thornton, Mikeheyev, Simmonds, Lehtonen, Bogosian, Dermott, Brooks, Barabanov, Agostino, Vesey, Marincin, and Malgin  are 17 players the Leafs acquired or retained for basically nothing (most of whom can be waived with no risk or don’t need waivers) that give them a high probability  of finding players who can far out perform their contracts.

It’s a sound strategy that is almost mathematically guaranteed to work, and we are seeing the payoff in today’s standings.  But even though the Leafs have a ton of these players, they will apparently never stop looking for more.

Toronto Maple Leafs and Alex Galchenyuk

Enter Alex Galchenyuk, the third overall pick taken in the draft where the Toronto Maple Leafs picked up Morgan Rielly at fifth.  Galchenyuk has bounced around the league ever since the Canadiens traded him to Phoenix for Max Domi.

Since the Leafs are (seemingly) his fifth team this week, it might be easy to think he’s a bad player, but the fact is that he’s only a season removed from being traded for two star(ish) players and scoring at a 20 goal pace on a brutal team.

The reason this  trade is so smart is that Galchenyuk has offensive talent and could potentially look really good beside one of the Leafs superstar duos.  He is a former 30 goal scorer, and while he’s 27, a rebound year isn’t out of the question.

He  was acquired for free (more or less), has already cleared waivers, and he only costs against the salary cap if he’s in the actual lineup.  Which, if he is, then Jimmy Vesey probably isn’t, meaning that, at the very worst, the Leafs made a great addition to their second PP unit for no cost, and they added lineup flexibility because they can now experiment freely without losing anyone worrying about waivers.

dark. Next. Don't Romanticize the Failures of Lou Lamoriello

This is a great move because it carries absolutely no risk and the potential of a very high reward. Is Galchenyuk likely to recapture his 30 goal ability and give the  Toronto Maple Leafs a first-line quality player?  Not at all.  In fact, that seems incredibly unlikely.  It’s just not impossible.  Galchenyuk is a talented player, and whose to say that if you put him on a line with two star players that he won’t use all that extra room to rediscover his scoring touch?