Toronto Maple Leafs: Go Big or Go Home
Here is a list of players on teams who won’t make the playoffs, with reasonable contract situations.
Patrick Laine: He’s 23. It would cost a ton, but he’s a pending RFA and is the kind of add that would put the Leafs completely over the top. This is the type of thing you immediately dismiss out of hand as being stupid, but you could pay a ton for him and recoup a lot of that in the summer if you didn’t want to re-sign him. An outside the box pick, but something the Leafs should be thinking about.
Claude Giroux: He’s old but still statistically one of the very best players in the NHL. Likely the most impactful player actually available, his contract is insane, but he’s a pending UFA and Philly would likely absorb half of it. The best of the realistic targets.
Alex Debrincat: He is 23, the Hawks didn’t mention him when they mentioned the players they wouldn’t trade. Two more years at nearly $7 million.
Elias Pettersson: Also 23. His inability to live up to his contract, which has two more years after this one at over $7 million is a key reason why Vancouver is in such a mess. They likely don’t want to trade him, but crazier things have happened.
Joe Pavelski: Yeah he’s 37, but he’s also having one of the best seasons a 37 year old has ever had in the NHL. Like, he’s probably not that far off being in MVP talks. Dallas isn’t making the Playoffs, he’s a pending UFA and he is probably the cheapest player you could get with the biggest return.
Jacob Chychrun: In a world where the Leafs could somehow get Jake Muzzin to waive his NMC, this would probably be their prime target. It would be hard to play a team who always has one of Morgan Rielly, Jacob Chychrun or Rasmus Sandin on the ice.
Damon Severson: An elite right-handed puck mover with great defense. There is not another player who is better, who is on a non-playoff team, with a reasonable salary and a right hand shot. This should be, and almost certainly is, the Toronto Maple Leafs prime target.
Filip Forsberg: Only makes $6 million, has been scoring almost as much as Auston Matthews, and is a pending UFA. Only problem is Nashville is currently in a playoff position.
Dylan Larkin: Two years left at $6 million, but he’s in his absolute prime and Detroit won’t be good until he declines. They should trade him, but they likely don’t have the guts. Another player who the Leafs should go extremely hard after.
These are nine star players, any of which could put the Leafs over the top. They should do everything in their power to get at least one player on this list. If they land a star forward, a player like Mark Pysyk or Justin Braun will look more attractive as an add on the blue-line. If they add a star defender like Severson, they could likely get away with promoting Nick Robertson and Ilya Mikheyev up the lineup to replace Kerfoot.
Either way, don’t expect the Toronto Maple Leafs to tinker around the edges.