The Toronto Maple Leafs are close to a perfect team.
Not only are the Toronto Maple Leafs in first place, but they have almost everything a team could want: elite players, tons of depth, strong goaltending, four good lines, three good defensive pairings, depth, good players in the AHL, and to top it off, great special teams.
But that doesn’t mean the team is perfect, and so you can definitely expect them to try and upgarde their roster ahead of the playoffs.
Most people might say left-wing is the place to upgrade, but I disagree. I say the Leafs should seek out a defenseman.
Toronto Maple Leafs and the Trade Deadline
At 5v5, Michael Bunting has a points per 60 rate of2.93 P/60. This is second on the team, and 2.00 is considered first line scoring. He has six goals and 17 points in 24 games despite no first-unit power-play time. He has a 56% Corsi and a 61% expected-goals rating.
In short he’s everything you could ask for a first line left winger, and he’s dirt cheap. There is zero need to upgrade this position on the roster.
At 5v5 Alex Kerfoot has 2.72 points per 60, which is third on the team and, keep in mind, that 2 points per 60 is a first line scoring rate. Kerfoot has four goals and 16 points in 24 games, which is incredible production for a player who doesn’t play on the first power-play unit. He has a 50% Corsi and a 51% expected-goals. These are absolutely fantastic numbers for the statistically worst player in your top six to have.
Considering how great the top four players of the Toronto Maple Leafs top six are, there is no reason to upgrade on Bunting and Kerfoot, unless one of them falls off of the proverbial cliff in the next several months. (all stats from naturalstattrick.com).
The third line is unimpeachable, and on the fourth line has Spezza, Simmonds and about 40 other decent options.
Clearly the blue-line is where to spend the money and assets to improve, though that isn’t strictly necessary. On the blue-line I think you could create cap room by moving Dermott, Holl and Nick Ritchie, then using the money to get a really good partner for Jake Muzzin, leaving in tact the fantastic pairing of Sandin and Liljegren.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are clearly one of the best teams in the NHL, and if they were to add another star level player to pair with Muzzin they’d be nearly unstoppable. If they are going to try to improve their team, this is how they should do it.