Toronto Maple Leafs need to tread carefully on the trade market

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 23: Frederik Andersen
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 23: Frederik Andersen /

Defence is clearly a position of need for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but they need to tread carefully as teams will look to take advantage.

Toronto Maple Leafs fans can easily count on their fingers and toes the number of times it has been mentioned that the team’s blueline needs an upgrade.

Every offseason it continue to be on the team’s shopping lis, but they have prioritized other areas in free agency and trades, which have proven to be easier to find improvements for. That shouldn’t be surprising, given how much teams have paid for defensive upgrades.

All it takes is looking at what it cost the Edmonton Oilers to acquire Adam Larsson. That trade has been referenced several times and for the right reasons because of the steep price paid, but it’s not the only example.

There’s the Travis Hamonic trade that cost the Calgary Flames a first rounder and two-second rounders, which they also paid to acquire Dougie Hamilton. Even the package to acquire Ryan McDonagh could potentially cost the Tampa Bay Lightning two first-round picks.

McDonagh was the player the Leafs were reportedly interested in acquiring and he was traded to the Lightning. I wrote about how it kept the Leafs long-term plan intact. One tweet I referenced to support it was this one from Scott Wheeler of The Athletic.

Would McDonagh have helped the Leafs get past the Boston Bruins in the first round and the Lightning right after that? Possibly, but it would have been costly going forward.

Unlike the Lightning, the Leafs do not have their core locked up for the long-term. They will need to rely on their depth with the Toronto Marlies to fill holes, if their pending free agents are not re-signed.

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Then there’s the talk of moving a player like William Nylander to get a deal done, something that is not an appealing option to Leafs Nation and it shouldn’t be. He was third on the team in scoring during the regular season and if James van Riemsdyk moves on in free agency, that’s a big chunk of their offence gone.

It’s not like the team has a player capable of filling in for Nylander right now and a replacement in free agency will be costly/limited. That’s what happened to the Oilers when Taylor Hall was traded and it’s a lesson that shouldn’t be repeated.

Kyle Dubas will explore every avenue available to the team; he sees the value the current core has and probably understands that a drastic move could set the team back. A possibility could be to explore Jake Gardiner‘s value on the trade market, with a year left on his contract.

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Other than this, the core of the team which is locked in for the long-term should remain untouched, unless the team is presented with a deal that is too tough to pass up. Unfortunately, a P.K. Subban for Shea Weber deal doesn’t come around too often.