Reviewing a Really Interesting Toronto Maple Leafs Trade One Year Later

Mar 20, 2024; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Capitals defenseman Rasmus Sandin
Mar 20, 2024; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Capitals defenseman Rasmus Sandin / Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Maple Leafs made a surprising move one year ago when they traded Rasmus Sandin to the Washington Capitals at last year's trade deadline.

The Toronto Maple Leafs were forced to make a decision on Sandin, who had just turned 23 (which doesn't sound old, but it's five years after he was drafted) because he was at the point in his career where he was about to change from a prospect to just another player who hadn't quite established himself.

With the acquisition of Jake McCabe, the Leafs had too many left-side defenders and no real place to play Sandin. They had just picked up Erik Gustuffson and Luke Schenn to play the right side, but already had Rielly, McCabe and Giordano on the left.

Sitting Sandin in the playoffs would destroy his value, but he was just 23 and had excellent statistics so the Leafs were able to get a late first round pick for him.

At it's core the trade was almost an automatic win for the Leafs, since they had drafted Sandin with a late first round pick in 2018, got to use him for 140 games, then traded him for practically the same pick they use don him.

But we all no trades have much more context than that, so let's see how things have worked out a year later. (all stats

The Toronto Maple Leafs Trade of Rasmus Sandin

This is a hard trade to evaluate. I was a huge Sandin fan and I immediately panned the trade when it happened. A year later though, and I think it was a good move.

It's hard to draft and develop defenseman, and the Leafs seem to be worse at it than most. How then can you put a positive spin on giving up on perhaps the best one they've drafted since Morgan Rielly?

The reason this trade works out is that the Leafs currently have Morgan Rielly and Jake McCabe on the left side, and have elected to go with the stay-at-home route with the bottom of their lineup (Edmundson, Lyubushkin, Benoit, Giordano) so once again, there is no real place for Sandin to play in the Leafs lineup.

Additionally, and this is the biggest factor, they chose Easton Cowen with the draft pick they recieved for Sandin. Cowen is tearing up the OHL and has become the Leafs top prospect with the duel graduations of Joseph Woll and Matthew Knies to the NHL.

At this point, I think it's clear that Sandin is an average to slightly above average top-four defender who isn't a star and likely won't become one. Everyone who cares about such things would likely prefer the Cowen's potential right now to a good but not great defender.

After an incredible, nearly point-per-game run last year (15 in 19 games) after being traded, Sandin has come back to earth and has just 23 points in 63 games this year.

He averages the most minutes per game on the Capitals at 5v5, but seems mismatched for such a role. He has a 46% Corsi, 46% Expected Goals rating, and the Capitals are losing his minutes by real goals as well, scoring just 46% of the time with him on the ice.

These are the kinds of numbers you like to see when you punt on a player. The fact that the Leafs timed it perfectly and received a first round pick for him is an added bonus, made even better because, as a competing team it's important for any competent GM to trade the first rounder to get better in the present.

Sandin allowed the Leafs to trade their pick and get one back - one, it just so happens that is looking like a winning lottery ticket at this point.

I'm glad Sandin is getting a chance to play on the Capitals in a role he'd never get the opportunity for on the Leafs, but based on his current numbers I was wrong about how good he'd be, and a year later, I can say I was wrong about my take on the trade at the time.


Sandin was Kyle Dubas' last move as the Leafs GM and it seems he went out in style.,