The Giant Potential From the Maple Leafs Least Important Trade

Newest Toronto Maple Leafs player Antti Suomela (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Newest Toronto Maple Leafs player Antti Suomela (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs made a trade that flies under the radar. It just so happens that their sleeper deal has the potential to be significant.

The Toronto Maple Leafs were active on the NHL’s trade deadline day as well as the days leading up to it. Kyle Dubas and his assistant general managers, Brandon Pridham and Laurence Gilman made several moved to enhance the roster. They were a clear indication that the franchise is preparing itself for a long run in the playoffs.

Certain deals were more significant than others. The biggest news was the acquisition of Nick Foligno. While Toronto paid a steep price, there is a lot to like about what the veteran will bring to the roster in addition to ensuring there is a captain playing on every Leafs line. Much has and will be written about Foligno. Instead of dissecting that high-profile transaction, we will focus on what was surely the least impactful trade the Leafs made.

The Toronto Maple Leafs Least Important Move of the Day

The final trade the Leafs got in just before the deadline saw them ship out forward Alexander Barabanov to the San Jose Sharks for the center, Antti Suomela. It was a swap of fringe NHL players who have demonstrated little impact in the opportunities they have thus far received.

There was excitement over the Leafs winning the Barabanov sweepstakes, bringing the 26-year-old over from the KHL. He managed to play in 13 games this season where he averaged 8 minutes and 37 seconds of ice time. In that time, he managed to register just one point. It was an assist on T.J. Brodie’s only goal of the campaign. Despite the potential Barabanov has, the Leafs decided it was time to move on and give him an opportunity in San Jose.

Suomela is a player with whom many Leafs fans aren’t familiar. That is because, in three seasons, he has played just 51 games. Four of those games came this season. The Finish 27-year-old actually has a similar story as Barabanov.

With two players who haven’t lived up to their potential, some may be asking, why trade them instead of being patient in their development? For the Leafs, and this is just a guess, but the team probably promised Barabanov some playing time as part of his signing here, and since they couldn’t provide it, it’s most likely that they are trying to give him an opportunity to earn another contract.

The exchange of these players gives both organizations a reclamation project. Each team gets an opportunity to see if their newest acquisition can thrive in a new system. It was a low-risk gamble for both Toronto and San Jose. Ideally, both players find the next gear with their new teams and develop into full-time NHLers.

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There is a good chance that Suomela will spend more time in the AHL than NHL for Toronto. However, the worst-case scenario is that the Leafs just added some injury depth to their team, which for the price they paid, seems to have been just another good decision by management.