The Toronto Maple Leafs are in quite the predicament.
They are one of the deepest teams, and they are among the teams with the most talent.
For most teams, it’s a no-brainer: You’re a competitor, you add at the deadline.
But this team might not need to do anything major: The defenseman they will scratch when fully healthy has seven points in his last eight games. In that situation, their “sixth” defenseman and the one they’d lose to make an upgrade, has played the most minutes so far this season, and the team is in second place overall.
They could add to the top line left wing spot, but Alex Kerfoot outscored both Nylander and Tavares at 5v5 last year, while Jarnkrok has looked perfectly fine in the spot as well.
Then there is Nick Robertson and Matthews Knies, two NHL-ready league-minimum potential stars.
Are they trade bait? Or is having a potential star *or two* on an ECL worth the risk of playing rookies and not making a trade.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, if they hadn’t lost six straight opening round series, would probably stand pat. However, given the circumstances and the pressure to win, I don’t think they can.
This makes the upcoming trade deadline season more interesting than usual.
What the Toronto Maple Leafs Should Do
If I was in charge, I wouldn’t want to lose the potential of entry-level scoring, so I wouldn’t want to trade Robertson or Knies, and I’d make sure both can play in the top 12 as soon as they are available.
I would also be very happy with the blueline going forward, and would have no problem sitting Conor Timmins and using Justin Holl as my sixth defender.
However, since I have no pressing issues, I’d look to add the best player available.
The Leafs don’t need any depth, so expensive depth players like Josh Anderson, Connor Garland, Max Domi, Connor Murphy, Vladislav Gabrikov are not going to happen.
In fact, this set of popularly suggested Leafs targets is completely terrible. Not one of those guys should get dressed ahead of Justin Holl or Pierre Engvall. Every single player on that list would make too much money for the slight (if that) improvement they’d offer over what the Leafs already have.
To be sure, not everyone agrees, but the Leafs believe that there is no point in paying for mid-range players because the difference between non-star players at the NHL level is basically nill. That means they aren’t going to bring in a nearly six-million dollar grinder.
It means they won’t pay for Josh Anderson when they have Joey Anderson, etc. etc. etc.
What the Leafs will do, is look for a star at any position.
Timo Meir, Patrick Kane, Patrick Laine, Bo Horvat, Vladimir Tarasenko, Dmitri Orlov, Troy Terry etc. are the kind of players the Leafs should be looking to add. Star players who will make a big difference.
And since they don’t really need to make a trade, they should only make a move if that move brings in a huge, big-time, obvious upgrade in the form of a superstar.