Toronto Maple Leafs stick to the plan by not trading for Ryan McDonagh

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 23: Nazem Kadri
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 23: Nazem Kadri /

While it will be business as usual for the Toronto Maple Leafs; losing out on Ryan McDonagh will impact the team’s chances in the short-term but keeps the long-term plan on track.

As the clock ticked on trade deadline day, many Toronto Maple Leafs fans were left wondering whether Tomas Plekanec would be the only addition at the trade deadline. For weeks many players were being linked in rumours, but nothing appeared to be close to getting done.

Instead it was the Tampa Bay Lightning who stole the show by acquiring Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller from the New York Rangers. One of those players was a rumoured target of the Leafs and now McDonagh ends up on a rival team.

The immediate reaction when the trade broke was the implications it will have during the final stretch of the season and of course the playoffs.

Then as people started to look at what the Lightning gave up to the Rangers, it left many underwhelmed. No top prospect was going to New York and the roster player that Steve Yzerman sent to New York (Vladislav Namestnikov) was essentially a swap for Miller.

Sure the Rangers got a first round pick out of the deal and the potential for another one if Tampa Bay wins a Stanley Cup in the next two seasons. Libor Hajek and Brett Howden do have potential, Howeden was the second ranked prospect by writer Corey Long.

More from Tip of the Tower

Hajek was the 10th ranked prospect by Dobber Prospects and is seen as a poised two-way defenceman. Back in 2016, Sportsnet’s Eric Engels wrote that the Czech defender models his game after Drew Doughty.

So how does this trade impact the Leafs, other than the Lightning adding a workhorse on the blueline? In the short-term, this trade certainly makes the Leafs’ path through the playoffs even tougher. In the long-term, Toronto can regroup and look at other options in the offseason. while continuing to rely on internal improvements.

Scott Wheeler from The Athletic tweeted what the Maple Leafs would have had to offer to the Rangers for McDonagh, based on what they got from Tampa Bay.

For starters, it would have been tough to see Zach Hyman going anywhere, so Connor Brown would have been the roster player. Jeremy Bracco and Carl Grundstrom are talented prospects that could end up in the NHL at some point, but are not knocking on the door just yet. That something else Wheeler mentions might be a defensive prospect like Andrew Nielsen or Eemeli Rasanen.

Would that price make sense for management to get a deal done? It appears that whatever package they offered was not satisfactory for New York and probably nowhere close to the one mentioned above.

This team has steadily grown during the season and that was apparent with the impact Travis Dermott has had and Kasperi Kapanen earning his spot on the roster. This was a factor that played into the Leafs’ approach to the deadline, as Lou Lamoriello points out.

"“There’s no question that the development of Dermott has played a role in a lot of our thought process,” Lamoriello said to reporters after the deadline. “But if we could have added someone who would have made us better and would not have subtracted (from the future) we certainly would have done that.”"

The Leafs did end up losing to the Lightning 4-3 in a shootout on Monday night, in their second without Auston Matthews and Plekanec making his debut. One area that certainly struggled was the powerplay which went 1-for-4, but Toronto was also perfect on the penalty kill.

One player who could have made a difference for the Leafs in that department was Mike Green, but he reportedly blocked a trade to Toronto. It also appears that the feeling might have been mutual.

Whether McDonagh or Green were targets for the Leafs, it looks like they have moved on. However, if the defence struggles and they get eliminated in the first round, some questions will be raised.

That is something the team seems content to live with and given the impact internal improvements have had so far, the organization will gladly choose that over overpaying with future assets.

Next: Leafs solidify centre depth with trade for Tomas Plekanec

What do you think about the Leafs’ trade deadline approach? What do you think their chances are after the moves Tampa Bay and the Boston Bruins made? Let us know in the comments.