A recent move by the Maple Leafs may suggest the team is preparing to make some blockbuster trades ahead of the fast-approaching deadline.
The Leafs have been at the heart of plenty of trade rumours, with the team searching for a Top-Four defenceman and depth at the center position. But that is all they have been so far – rumours.
With the Leafs led by the leadership group of Lou Lamoriello, Brendan Shanahan and Mike Babcock, the team have taken an almost stoic approach to discussions of team plans. But as they say, actions speak louder than words.
This week, the Leafs have made a move that suggests they are preparing to cut their rebuilding plans short and push for the best possible playoff run this season. Joffrey Lupul, Stephane Robidas and Nathan Horton have all been placed on Long Term Injured Reserve.
Why is this significant? The move gives the Leafs the freedom to spend above the salary cap without much penalty.
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NHL teams must keep their salaries below the league maximum $73 million, unless they have players that become designated LTIR. If a player is placed on LTIR, this effectively removes the contract’s cap hit from the team and gives said team more flexibility.
With Lupul, Horton and Robidas all being placed on LTIR, the Leafs have freed up an astonishing $13.55 million. With so much extra cap space now available, Toronto could be involved in a number of trades as the deadline approaches.
The Leafs have been linked with trades for high-profile players such as Kevin Shattenkirk ($4.25m cap hit), Matt Duchene ($6m cap hit) and Gabriel Landeskog ($5.6m cap hit). With so much cap space now cleared, they could arguably be in the running to make multiple trades – including at least one of these linked players.
Shattenkirk still appears to be the most likely candidate, with reports suggesting the American defenceman would be willing to move to Toronto and sign an extension with the team. Said extension could see Shattenkirk earn up to $7 million a year, making the Leafs’ cap clearance a necessary move if the team are interested in his services.
Fans appear divided on the trades the team should make, or whether they should even make any. However, the Leafs’ latest move to give themselves cap flexibility this season suggests that fans should expect something big to happen.
What do you think? Will the Leafs make some big trades before the trade deadline? Let us know what you’d like to see the team do in the comments below!