As the saying goes, “rules are meant to be broken” and obviously, this rule has it’s limits as well. If the Toronto Maple Leafs could make a tangible upgrade to their roster by acquiring a relatively young player who is locked up (or under team control) for multiple seasons, I’d be willing to move a top prospect.
This could also apply in situations where there is an extension involved (see Mark Stone trade). Some examples would be; Jakob Chychrun, Conor Garland, Brock Boeser, JT Miller, Maxime Comtois, etc.
These players would be top of the lineup players who are either locked up for at least one more season after this, or who are under team control as a restricted free-agent. One of the big points I advocated in favour of keeping the top prospects, is prioritizing multiple cup runs. All teams in a cap league will need to replace players and so if you can keep players under control for as long as possible and get “cost certainty” out of them, it’s a big asset.
Trading high value assets for rentals is risky business and as serious potential to blow-up in your face.
One famous example is the FIlip Forsberg for Martin Erat swap, it undoubtedly set the Capitals franchise back years. If you don’t know, the Capitals traded then prospect Filip Forsberg to the Nashville Predators in exchange for veteran forward Martin Erat.
He played briefly for the Capitals and scored rarely, and the team didn’t do anything in the playoffs. Forsberg on the other hand, is well on his way to being the Predator’s franchise leader in every major offensive category. He even just set the franchise record in goals with his 211th of his career. It also begs the question, would the Caps have won a cup sooner and potentially won multiple cups had they kept Filip Forsberg?
The only other exception I would argue is reasonable, is if for some reason the Toronto Maple Leafs front office feels a player won’t live up to their potential and feel their value might be inflated by the market.
We’ll obviously never know as the Leafs will surely never publicly admit to such a thing but it can make sense. An example of this might be when Vegas traded Erik Brannstrom for Mark Stone, it’s hard to speculate but given that Brannstrom hasn’t seemed to live up to the hype, it’s possible Vegas saw something that made them second guess the sky-high potential in Brannstrom and made them more open to trading him.