Should The Leafs Be Buyers or Sellers at the Trade Deadline?
The Leafs have too many question marks surrounding their roster and not enough draft capital to be significant players at this year's NHL trade deadline.
Too many teams have passed them since the start of the season to risk future assets on a suspect roster. Even with a couple of additions, it's hard to imagine this team getting through the Boston Bruins and the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference.
The Western Conference has multiple teams that are likelier options than the Leafs to win a championship.
The Leafs need to be prudent. They should hang on to prospects like Fraser Minten and Easton Cowan along with their high draft picks.
What's the End Result For the Leafs This Season?
The ceiling for this edition of the Leafs is third place in the Atlantic Division. Despite holding games-in-hand on the Bruins and Panthers, the Leafs don't seem capable of catching either team.
They have yet to have a significant sustained winning streak or consecutive game-point streak. Without either, they won't catch the Bruins or Panthers.
The floor for this team is a wild-card spot. The Leafs have allowed the Tampa Bay Lightning and Detroit Red Wings back in the picture for third in the division, but they do have games-in-hand on both of those teams as well.
The Leafs have also created some separation from the cluster of playoff-contending teams in the Metropolitan Division. It would be a disaster and unexpected if the Leafs don't make the playoffs.
A wild-card position and facing the New York Rangers or Carolina Hurricanes might be a preferred playoff route for the Leafs. Either would be a more favorable matchup than facing the Bruins or Panthers.
Looking at the big picture, this does not look like the year for the Toronto Maple Leafs. An upcoming increase in the salary cap and Brodie and Giordano coming off the books makes next offseason the time to reset the defense.
The Leafs star forwards can soon be surrounded by the promise and entry-level contracts of Minten and Cowan. Starting next year, and the 2-3 following years, will be the Leafs best window of contention.
Leafs fans don't want to hear "Wait until next year!", but now is not the time to go all in.