Toronto Maple Leafs: Was trading Nikita Soshnikov the right move?

TORONTO, CANADA - MARCH 07: Nikita Soshnikov
TORONTO, CANADA - MARCH 07: Nikita Soshnikov /

The Nikita Soshnikov trade was slightly surprising, but something had to give for the Toronto Maple Leafs, due to their excellent depth and health.

How times have changed for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Considered a laughing stock around the league not that long ago, they are now one of the NHL’s model organisations.

With the trio of Brendan Shanahan, Lou Lamoriello and Mike Babcock, fans are now confident in the direction and future of the Leafs. However, this doesn’t mean they’re totally exempt from questioning.

Case in point was the decision to trade Nikita Soshnikov to the St. Louis Blues on Thursday. As per Sportsnet‘s Mike Johnston, the Leafs received a 2019 fourth-round draft pick in exchange, but did they make the right move?

We knew something had to give. The Leafs were at the 23-man roster limit, partly due to enjoying excellent depth and remarkable health.

Previously, the thinking had been Kasperi Kapanen would be sent back to the AHL to make way for Soshnikov, as he didn’t require waivers. However, Kapanen is now at a point where Babcock trusts him, thus complicating matters.

In this respect, recent speculation indicated Josh Leivo or Matt Martin would be more likely to be moved. Both players have been healthy scratches of late thanks to Kapanen’s fine form, with Leivo going as far to demand a trade if the Leafs weren’t going to play him.

The argument against trading either player, would start with Leivo having good upside, while Martin is an elite body checker. But it was still a surprise to see Soshnikov go, with Babacok admitting before Christmas he wanted the winger to be a Leaf for a long time to come.

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Taking everything into account, the reality is that no matter who the Leafs moved, there were going to be those who questioned the wisdom of it. This is the price you play for having a strong roster, thus making it an enviable issue to have.

Regardless, you can question why the Leafs only received a fourth round pick for a talented played with decent upside? However, their position was conceivably compromised by a clause in Soshnikov’s contract which allows him to return to the KHL, if he is not on an NHL roster.

In addition, there may also be concerns about the 24-year-old’s durability. Although this is merely conjecture, based on his injury issues since arriving in Toronto.

Ultimately, the Buds get something for Soshnikov, who has the opportunity to get his NHL career on track. He finishes his Leafs stint with seven goals and seven assists in 70 games.

Understandably, there will always be an element of what might have been, but the Russian is appreciative of his time in Southern Ontario. As reported by the Toronto Sun‘s Lance Hornby, Soshnikov’s agent Daniel Milstein said in an email:

"“Nikita would like to thank the entire Leafs organization for everything they have done for his development. He is extremely excited for the next chapter with St. Louis.”"

Next: Leafs' biggest need ahead of trade deadline

What’s your take on the Soshnikov trade? Do you agree with the move by the Toronto Maple Leafs, or would you have picked another player to leave? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.