The Toronto Maple Leafs find themselves in an unfamiliar position than in years prior. This team has underperformed to a certain extent but is also not good enough. So what do they do at the deadline?
At the time I'm writing this the Toronto Maple Leafs are coming off a win against the Dallas Stars and sit third in the Atlantic Divison. Right now they are caught in a tight race with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Detroit Red Wings. Due to the inconsistency throughout the year, the Bruins don't look catchable and the Florida Panthers are six points ahead however, the Maple Leafs do have a game in hand.
The Leafs currently sit 7th in goals for, 15th in goals against and 22nd in team save percentage (stats from naturalstattrick.com). Just based on those three stats it is pretty easy to see where the problems are with this team. Team defence has been a problem all year, goaltending has been hot and cold and while they are seventh in the league in goals, depth scoring has been an issue. Outside of the core four, the Leafs top five goal-scorers are Jarnkrok (10), Knies (8), Rielly (7), Robertson (7) and Bertuzzi (6).
In terms of cap space, the Leafs don't have any, but they do have a lot of players on expiring contracts which gives them a lot of flexibility. So how should Brad Treliving approach this deadline?
The Toronto Maple Leafs Should Stand Pat
For me, this team is not good enough to go all in unless Brad Treliving can make one move. The move I'm thinking about is if Treliving is somehow able to bring in Tanev and Hanifin. Bringing in two defencemen of that calibre could make a huge difference in how this team plays. NHL insider Elliotte Friedman speculated about this deal in the latest 32 Thoughts article he released.
"Calgary is holding to see if that first-rounder comes into play. It’s poker, but if Toronto really wanted to do that, it would be done already. We will see. He would help them, and they know it. (Maybe Toronto solves this by trying to trade for both Tanev and Noah Hanifin.)"- Elliotte Friedman
The thing about a deal like this is not only do you add their talent, but you also push other guys down the lineup into better roles. Specifically, TJ Brodie who has had a glaring drop-off in play this season.
This team needs help on the blue line. If Treliving can pull off a Tanev and Hanifin deal then I would be happy with going all in however, I think they need to focus more on tinkering with the defence. Former General Manager Kyle Dubas made the Luke Schenn deal last deadline and I think those are the type of deals Treliving should be looking at.
Maybe there is a deal there with Anaheim for former Leafs defenceman Ilya Lyubushkin? Or maybe they can get Andrew Peeke out of Columbus. Another guy I look at as a potential trade target is Nick Seeler from the Flyers. Seeler is a 6'3'' defenseman who also has some pretty good underlying stats.
Seeler has also posted 66 hits and 147 blocked shots however, he is a left-handed shot. Another name Toronto could look at is Mario Ferraro from the San Jose Sharks. This is an option with term and can help the Leafs later down the line but may cost a bit more than Lyubushkin and Peeke.
Most of these guys are bigger defencemen which is typically what Treliving likes and all these names make sense to me as guys that could get traded at the deadline. With these moves, the Leafs add to the blueline for a cheaper price instead of spending first-round picks and prospects for a team that isn't good enough.