This may come as the unexpected surprise on this list to say defensive stalwart T.J. Brodie will be gone by the trade deadline.
After all, Brodie has been solid as a rock ever since joining the Leafs via free agency back in 2020 on a four-year, $20 million deal.
Not only does he position well on the ice, he is superb in breaking up odd-man rushes and offensive cycles, along with providing high quality shot-blocking.
However this season, whether he is getting slower or Father Time is beginning to catch up to him, Brodie has seriously lost a step in his game. And with the fast-paced action in the game nowadays, that could spell trouble for someone whose main strength is being in the right place at the right time when defending.
Looking a little more closely at his stats at 5v5, Brodie has given the puck away 24 times compared to just 9 takeaways in 41 games played, marking the highest giveaway-takeaway ratio of his career. On top of that, he has seen his CF% decrease below 50% down to 49%, and for the first time in over five seasons, his expected goals rate and scoring chances rate also fell below 50% to 49%. (All stats from hockey-reference.com and naturalstattrick.com)
With the Leafs looking to upgrade at the trade deadline or prior to it, they will also need to balance the books properly to make things happen as they are tight right up to the cap space.
As a result, with Brodie’s annual AAV of $5 million and his gradually declining skills and abilities, he is the ideal trade bait at the deadline to help the Leafs land the necessary missing pieces to take them to the next level.
After all, with Brodie also becoming a free agent following the end of the season, it may finally be the time for the Leafs to not just let their star players walk in free agency for nothing like they did in the past.