Nick Foligno joined the Toronto Maple Leafs expecting to go on a deep playoff run, but many factors contributed to that hope falling short.
With the Toronto Maple Leafs leading the North Division and looking set for a strong run at the post-season, Nick Foligno was the biggest name added by general manager Kyle Dubas to help bulk out the team ahead of the trade deadline.
Fast forward to today and the Leafs have been out of the playoffs for some time and Foligno’s tenure with the team amounted to just 11 total games across the regular season and post-season series against the Montreal Canadiens.
To say the Leafs’ end to their 2021 season has been disappointing would be an understatement, and Foligno himself will be sharing that view with anyone connected to the team.
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Landing Foligno cost the Leafs a lot. The Columbus Blue Jackets received a 2021 first-round pick (now 25th overall) and a fourth-rounder in 2022, while retaining 50% of his $5.5 million salary and sending him to the San Jose Sharks.
The Sharks then retained 50% on Foligno’s remaining salary and sent him (at just a $1.375 million AAV) and Stefan Noesen to the Leafs in exchange for a fourth rounder in 2021 (now 121st overall).
The hope was that Foligno would add some physicality to the Leafs’ bottom six and provide some protection during the post-season, but the 33-year-old’s time in Toronto accompanied a disappointing injury that limited both his impact and his chances to play.
With the Buffalo, New York native becoming an unrestricted free agent this summer, many expect that Foligno will return to Columbus, but what if he is interested in another go-around with the Leafs?
Foligno was extremely proud to join the Leafs at the time of the trade, with his father Mike having been a part of the Toronto Maple Leafs team that went to Game 7 of the 1993 Conference Finals.
Having been unable to play to his full potential, and seeing the team dumped out of the playoffs at the first hurdle, may have left a bitter taste in Foligno’s mouth that may entice him to return for a full season to try and put this disappointing spell behind him.
At his advanced age, with many hard miles on his body due to the physical style of play he has become known for, Foligno isn’t likely to earn a deal more than $2 million and could be paid that much to stick around in Toronto in 2021-22.
With the Leafs likely to lose Alex Kerfoot in the upcoming expansion draft, it would open up some cap space that would help Dubas have the chance to bring Foligno back, and see if he can have a bigger impact across an 82-game season and, hopefully, a deeper run in the playoffs next year.
If Foligno returns to Columbus, no-one would be surprised, but sticking around with the Toronto Maple Leafs for another year may be a gamble worth taking for the veteran forward.