The Toronto Maple Leafs are not perfect, but they’re close.
The Leafs are the only team in the NHL with zero bad long-term contracts. They have spent to the cap, but they’ve got the ability to clear cap space if they want to. In other words, a perfect situation.
But should they move people out to upgrade? Is there really anything that this team needs?
Toronto Maple Leafs Might Just Stand Pat
The Leafs are an ideal team for the cap era – they’re in the conversation for best team, for being the team with the most elite players, and for best depth. They are a versatile team with an ideal mixture of youth and experience, skill and grit.
They have 2 x first lines, the best shut-down line in the NHL, and Spezza and Simmonds are an unimpeachable 4th line. A healthy Leafs lineup probably has Pierre Engvall as the NHL’s best 4th line player.
Their defense is mobile, but they’ve got a solid shut-down pair. Their 3rd pairing posts ridiculous stats. Travis Dermott, their #7 has spent the last three years putting up some of the best 3rd pairing numbers in the league. If there is a team with a better defenseman off the bench, I don’t know about them.
In net their nearly perfect – an almost guaranteed to be Vezina finalist and a guy who’d be a starter on half the teams in the league.
This is a team on the verge of winning, so making a move to upgrade seems both necessary and obvious.
But is it?
The Toronto Maple Leafs are the NHL’s second-best team, winning over 75% of the points available to them since they turned their season around at the end of October. During this time, they are only microscopically behind the Avalanche.
The Leafs continue to lead the league in expected goals vs actual goals, which suggests that they haven’t even hit their full potential. The team’s 5v5 save and shooting percentage is average, and yet they’re hanging around the top of the standings.
Short of trading for a superstar, there doesn’t seem to be any reason to upgrade the roster. Bunting is playing better than Hyman ever did. Kerfoot is something approaching the best 2nd line left winger in the NHL this year.
Short of a Chris Kreider or Vladimir Tarasenko level player falling into their lap, I can’t see the Leafs adding any forwards.
On the blue-line, I’ve been a proponent of trading for Damon Severson, but the cost of a right-handed, top-pairing defenseman who is signed at half price for another season should be astronomical.
Anything less is likely not going to help much. In the end, 99% of trade deadline moves are depth moves that don’t really move the needle. I could see the Leafs tinkering at the fringes, adding in a bunch of Ben Hutton-types for a playoff run, but short of one of the biggest trades in franchise history, I don’t see them upgrading their roster at all.
It will be interesting to see what happens.