The Toronto Maple Leafs should take a page out of the Toronto Blue Jays notebook and swing for the fences.
While the Jays didn’t ultimately end up with Shohei Ohtani, the fact that they came close was astonishing and inspirational. The Toronto Maple Leafs need to do something similar.
The Leafs should be interested in finding the elusive “number-one” defenseman, and while there usually aren’t any readily available, you would have to think the Columbus Blue Jackets would be interested in shaking things up.
They are terrible, they aren’t going anywhere this year, and teams in their position will almost always at least listen to ideas about their expensive players.
The Blue-Jackets invested in Johnny Gaudreau and Patrick Laine and it’s not going well. They appear to be once again headed for a top draft pick, and so the Leafs should try to get a couple of their best players.
Who knows if they’d consider making him available, but Zach Werenski is exactly what the Leafs need.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Blockbuster Trade With Columbus Just Makes Sense
Signed for five more years at a $9.6 million cap hit, 26-year old Zach Werenski is a left-shooting defenseman who would instantly make the Leafs a lot better, assuming he’d waive his no-trade clause to move north.
Werenski is an offensively gifted defenseman who can drive play and provide decent defense, while winning his minutes overall. He’s wasted most of his career on a horrible team and would be seen as an elite, top defenseman if he played on a good team.
His salary is huge, but probably not a big deal for the Leafs to take on.
Weresnki for Nylander is a trade that makes sense for both teams. The Blue-Jackets could get a superstar to build around, while the Leafs would fix their defense. Obviously trading Nylander stinks, but he’s a pending UFA having a career-year as he approaches his 30s. I’d still sign him if the team had an elite defender, but they don’t.
Teams stacked with wingers but thin on the blue-line are, at best, a long shot to win the cup, so it makes sense to trade from a position of strength for one of weakness.
The addition of Calle Jarnkork to the trade would get them within a half-million of the salaries being equal. The Leafs have Nick Robertson, Bobby McMann, Pontus Holmberg and Alex Steeves all ready to skate regular shifts in the NHL, so losing Jarnkrok won’t hurt them too much, if at all.
Furthermore, if the Leafs really wanted to get crazy, they could take this trade to a new level and make it one of the biggest blockbusters of all time.
The Biggest Trade the NHL Has Seen in Years
Why stop at Werenski when you can get a discounted Patrik Laine as well?
Laine may be down right now (he was recently healthy-scratched) but he’s an awesome talent. Laine makes $8.7 million and has been a total disaster in Columbus. On the Leafs though, he won’t have to be the man, and he can just shoot his little heart out against secondary defences.
To get out of his contract Columbus would retain half of it, as long as the Leafs paid a couple first rounders and prospects. That might sound like a lot, but think of what you’re adding to an already star-laden team.
Plus, trading Nylander for your biggest need, then replacing him with a player who is even more talented (if a far bigger risk to actually make use of that talent) is a tidy bit of business.
To facilitate the deal, they Blue Jackets have to take back Kampf and Domi, on top of retaining half of his contract, but that’s the cost of doing business.
You can instantly replace Kampf with Holmberg and Domi with Steeves or McMann.
The new lines would look like this:
Knies- Matthews – Marner
Bertuzzi – Tavares – Robertson
McMann – Laine – Steeves
Gregor – Holmberg – Abruzzese
This would be the new blue-line:
Werenski – Liljegren
Rielly – Brodie
MCabe – Giordano
In addition, Rielly would be on the second pairing, and McCabe on the third. The blue-line is fixed and the Toronto Maple Leafs would have, by far, the best roster in the NHL.
Its fantasy, probably, because I couldn’t tell you when the last time we saw a trade this big in the NHL was. However, the Toronto Maple Leafs have an obligation to try to win right now, and they can’t afford to waste the primes of their top players by taking baby steps and adding old, washed up second tier players.
And, as we’ve seen with the Jays pursuit of Ohtani, bring elite players to your favorite team, or even just he chance of doing it, is extremely exciting.
Right now is the time to go big.