In the last post, we took a look at the Blue Jays and how it is feasible for them to go in two entirely opposite directions in 2017. So far this offseason, it looks like they are picking the worst option which is not choosing any direction at all. The story is quite the opposite, as it should be, for the re-branded, reformatted and rebuilding Toronto Maple Leafs. They too can go in two different directions but ironically, they can accomplish both tasks at the same time by doing one move. Before we begin though, anyone else really, really hate this one week mini vacation the Leafs are on? I’ll never be mistaken for an athlete, but I’d prefer (and I assume players and coaches do too) the days off to be spread throughout the year and have less back-to-back games.
Anyway, we are all familiar with how the Toronto Maple Leafs bottomed out over the last couple of years and now “technically” are in the first year of their rebuild. To say there were no expectations for the Leafs this season would be an understatement specially considering they play anywhere from 6-10 rookies every night. Having said that…. these aren’t the same Leafs your daddy used to watch.
These Leafs have not only been fast and exciting, they have also won their fair share of games. From Auston Matthews 4-goal opening night extravaganza to Mitch Marner’s jaw dropping puck handling skills to Fredrick Anderson’s solid play between the pipes. This team is being noticed and already getting high praise around the league. Chicago Black Hawks’ Patrick Kane stated that the Leafs are “one of the funner teams to watch” while NBC analyst Pierre McGuire says that Auston Matthews is one of the top three players in the league already as “every night he does something to get me out of my seat.” Imagine how further ahead they would be if they knew how to hold a third period lead! So with all this unexpected success, what should the Maple Leafs do as they approach the trade deadline?
The Right Kind of Trade
Many of you might think it’s not wise to rush the process as so many Leaf GMs have done so in the past and each with disastrous results. I can’t believe the current brain trust will fall into that same trap. There is however, a valid reason to push for the playoffs as the experience these current players will gain will be invaluable. The only way to understand how to play in high pressure situations is to actually play in high pressure situations.
Most pundits agree that getting a top 4 defenseman is the upgrade this roster needs. The most common names on the trading block are the “veteran” players such as James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak. None of these players are going to get you what you need on their own, so the Leafs may have to package a draft pick and/or a young player (the Toronto Marlies Kasperi Kapanen comes to mind) or even more. If a deal like this can be made then the Leafs should jump all over it as a trade of this kind not only helps the team this year as they push for a playoff spot, but depending on the age of the defenseman will also help them over the next few years as well as they develop into a contender.
The Wrong Kind of Trade
Now if the Leafs aren’t able to swing a deal like that, as it does take two to tango, then there are a few alternatives. The Leafs can continue what they have done over the last couple of years and trade veterans for draft picks. Well, we don’t have Daniel Winnik to trade again for what would be the third year in a row. But why should they? The Leafs already have a number of young talent both on the main roster and in the AHL. The Leafs also have a large number of draft picks in this upcoming draft as well. I understand that having a large volume of players in the farm system (for potential trades like the Blue Jays did in 2015) is important and you will get more for JVR (and his team friendly $4M/year contract) this year than next, but I honestly don’t believe it should be done for that reason alone. I would accept however, getting a draft pick for Frank Corrado (to give a chance to play) or a pick as they did for Jhonas Enroth as he was no longer going to contribute to this team.
All in all, the Leafs are in a different position than the Blue Jays as they have an opportunity to have their cake and eat it too. If the Leafs can swing a deal for that fairly young top 4 defenseman, they should absolutely invest in it. Anything else however, I would probably stay away from.
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