Why the Toronto Maple Leafs Should Explore a Mitch Marner Trade

TORONTO,ON - JANUARY 22: Mitchell Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs warms up prior to action against the Edmonton Oilers in an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on January 22, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Oilers 4-2. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
TORONTO,ON - JANUARY 22: Mitchell Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs warms up prior to action against the Edmonton Oilers in an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on January 22, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Oilers 4-2. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /
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UNIONDALE, NEW YORK – FEBRUARY 22: Jack Eichel #9 of the Buffalo Sabres  . (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
UNIONDALE, NEW YORK – FEBRUARY 22: Jack Eichel #9 of the Buffalo Sabres  . (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

How Could a Marner-for-Eichel Swap Help Toronto?

For one, Jack Eichel is a top 10 NHL player when healthy. There is no denying his capabilities as he represents a better scoring option than Marner. Eichel’s career-high in goals was set last season with 36 in 68 games – a 43 goal pace. Marner, for that matter, had his best goal pace this season with 20 in 55 – a 30 goal pace.

Another appealing factor in Eichel is the fact that he is a center. We all saw what happened when John Tavares went down with a serious injury in Game 1 as Nick Foligno and Alex Kerfoot were thrown into a position they may not be suitable for at this stage in their careers.

While Kerfoot did succeed alongside William Nylander and Alex Galchenyuk, you would feel a lot better with Eichel in the fold and him filling in as second-line center. Plus, as Tavares continues to age, a move to the wing feels inevitable, and an in-house replacement ready to go is an excellent luxury to have.

A first line of Zach Hyman (assuming he re-signs), Matthews, and Eichel is extremely enticing, and with the powerplay struggling for the majority of the season – and into the playoffs – the right-handed shooting Eichel would surely be a welcome present on the man-advantage.

Currently, the Leafs face-of-the-franchise lines up on the right flank in order to set up the one-timer. But with Marner as a complete non-shooting factor, penalty kill units can load up onto Matthews’ side and force the play away from him.

But with Eichel on the opposite flank, PK groups would be unable to cheat as much as they would normally like to do, creating a potentially potent five-man machine.

As a superstar who was drafted in 2015, the Massachusetts native has never appeared in the Stanley Cup playoffs and should the Toronto Maple Leafs make it back there in 2021-22 (which they likely will), you can bet Eichel will be amped up for his first taste of postseason action.

Clearly the Matthews-Marner friendship and connection is strong and moving Marner could cause a rift between the team and the player, but it is not as if Matthews and Eichel would be complete strangers as well.

The two of them were teammates with the USA Hockey National Development Program, the 2015 USA World Juniors team, and the 2016 World Cup of Hockey North American team.

Next. Toronto Maple Leafs Board of Executives Makes the Right Call. dark

As a Leafs fan from the Greater Toronto Area myself, I also grew up with those same dreams while playing driveway hockey as Marner did and nothing would be more enjoyable than seeing a fellow hometown kid win the Stanley Cup with the Blue and White.

But as the Toronto Raptors showed with the DeRozan-Kawhi trade, sometimes moving a core piece in pursuit of the greater good can lead the team to finally getting over the playoff hump.