Toronto Maple Leafs Need to Move More Assets to Shore Up Blue Line

2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Round One
2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Round One / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

With the NHL trade deadline rapidly approaching, speculation is mounting as to what else Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brad Treliving will do to upgrade the roster.  The addition of defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin is a start, but there’s no shortage of holes to fill in a lineup that features top-heavy scoring along with a band-aid back end.

The Toronto Maple Leafs still need to find some consistent secondary scoring, and there are big questions in net.  Is Joseph Woll healthy?  Can Ilya Samsonov be trusted?  Will the team keep Martin Jones and carry three goalies?

The answers to the goalie questions may not be palatable, but the Leafs better hope for a healthy Joseph Woll, because it’s unlikely another tender is coming via trade.  The only available candidate with long term appeal is Nashville's Juuse Saros (currently has another year remaining on his contract at a cap hit of $5M, per, but the cost for him will be prohibitive.

Samsonov is okay as option #2 if he’s on his game, and Jones will have to remain on the roster for injury insurance, as somebody will pluck him off waivers if the Leafs try to send him down to the Marlies.

Up front, it would be nice to have some bigger bodies for the playoffs, preferably ones who can chip in a goal once in a while.  Unfortunately, the Toronto Maple Leafs limited trade capital would be better off utilized on blue line upgrades.

Toronto Maple Leafs Deperately Need Blue Line Help

The Leafs continue to battle onwards with an already thin defense corps that just can’t stay healthy.  Much has been written since the start of the season about Toronto’s need for another top-pairing defender, but it’s at the point where just dressing six players with NHL experience is a challenge.

Generally speaking, Treliving can’t deal away precious assets for rentals, but his hands may be tied somewhat by market realities.  Lyubushkin helps fill a need, and he was available, despite being a UFA at the end of this season.  The Toronto Maple Leafs need players with term, as 40 year-old Mark Giordano will likely retire this summer, and guys such as William Lagesson and Simon Benoit are not full time solutions.

What can Treliving offer?  The only expendable forward currently on the roster who may have some trade value is Nick Robertson, who doesn’t appear to fit on Toronto’s roster as currently constructed.  Robertson won’t bring a big return, but could be packaged with other assets to increase what comes back.

The assets that will have to be dealt to bring in the level of defensive help needed include any combination of Easton Cowan, Fraser Minten, Topi Niemela and Toronto’s 2024 1st round draft pick. Any of these could turn out to be star level players, but the Toronto Maple Leafs already have star players, at least up front.

Toronto's needs are immediate, and the focus is solely on defense. The absolute MUST is that Treliving get value for any player/pick he deals.  If value is not available, then he needs to eat some humble pie and stick with the current deeply flawed team.

Something should have been done long ago (last summer, perhaps?) to upgrade the defense, but it wasn’t.  No point in compounding that mistake with an even bigger one now.


But Treliving is being paid big bucks to run the ship, and it’s his job to work the phones and find solutions that work for this year as well as future seasons.  He has about a week left to show he’s up to the challenge.