Why the Toronto Maple Leafs Traded For Kyle Clifford, Again

Last week the Toronto Maple Leafs acquired Kyle Clifford from the St. Louis Blues for future considerations.  Clifford had one assist in his only two games played this season.

Clifford had just cleared waivers before he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs and was assigned the Toronto Marlies of the AHL.

Kyle Clifford is a familiar face for the Toronto Maple Leafs as he played 16 regular season games and five playoff games with Toronto during the 2019-20 season after being acquired from the Los Angeles Kings in the same deal that brought goaltender, Jack Campbell to the team.

After his original short stint in Toronto, Kyle Clifford chose to sign a two year deal worth $1 million per season with the St. Louis Blues as a free agent.

Why the Toronto Maple Leafs Traded for Kyle Clifford

Some fans were questioning why the Toronto Maple Leafs would trade for Kyle Clifford when they could have claimed him off waivers for free.  The answer to that is simple.

By waiting until after Clifford passed through waivers, the Maple Leafs could send him to the Mariles without having to place him on waivers a second time.  This is the same thing Toronto did last season when they acquired Alex Galchenyuk.

Often “future considerations” means “nothing,” so the Leafs got Kyle Clifford for nothing just like they would have if the claimed him off waivers.  St. Louis may have given Clifford away like this to benefit the player much like the Toronto Maple Leafs have done in the past for players like Alexander Barabanov and Mikko Lehtonen.

The St. Louis Blues also save $1 million, though it wouldn’t have effected their cap since Clifford would have been assigned to their AHL affiliate, the Springfield Thunderbirds, since he had cleared waivers.  The Toronto Maple Leafs seem to have money to burn in the AHL.

The Toronto Maple Leafs Plan for Kyle Clifford

Some say the Toronto Maple Leafs are taking on Kyle Clifford as a project much like they did with Alex Galchenyuk last season.  This may be true, but I think there’s another reason.

In my opinion, it seems like the Toronto Maple Leafs are stalking the Toronto Marlies with ” injury insurance” players.  These are players that could be called up during the playoffs when the salary cap doesn’t matter.

Last season, the Toronto Maple Leafs spent a lot of draft picks at the trade deadline to acquire injury insurance players, and I don’t think they’d like to repeat that exercise again this season.  For one, they’ve already traded their 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th round picks for the 2022 NHL Draft and secondly, they’d like to use their remaining picks to restock their prospect pool or bring in a player that can really help the team in the playoffs.

At the 2021 trade deadline, they traded a 5th round pick for Ben Hutton, a 7th round pick for Riley Nash and 3rd round pick for David Rittich.  None of these players saw significant playing time with the Maple Leafs, but they were additions made in case of injury.

Now, Kyle Clifford can play the entire season on the Marlies and be the Toronto Maple Leafs new “Riley Nash” for the playoffs.  Josh Ho-Sang, Kirill Semyonov and Brett Seney are new additions to the Marlies that could help out in the same way.

This season’s “Ben Hutton” (8th defenseman) could be Alex Biega or Carl Dahlström unless Kristians Rubins gets into some NHL games.  If Petr Mrazek gets healthy, maybe the Maple Leafs will have enough faith in Joseph Woll and/or Michael Hutchinson to be their number three goalie instead of using a pick to bring in another “David Rittich”.

Perhaps we’re not done seeing trades like this from the Toronto Maple Leafs.  It’s a smart move that could prove to be quite valuable down the road.