The Seattle Kraken expansion draft and NHL Entry Draft have passed with a flurry of trade activity in the league. The Toronto Maple Leafs have been quiet so far and may remain so with free agency starting on July 28th.
If the team were to get in on the trade fun, who would be the most valuable Leafs trade assets? This is the end of a three-part series examining the most coveted players the Maple Leafs would have in a trade. Part one looked at the players rated 11-20 on the list, while part two unveiled players 6-10.
More from Tip of the Tower
- Cam Phillips making his mark on Toronto Argonauts offence
- Toronto Argonauts: 4 storylines ahead of matchup against Redblacks
- Federico Bernardeschi ready for new challenge with Toronto FC
- Toronto Argonauts overcome Roughriders in entertaining Touchdown Atlantic
- Buffalo Bills: Von Miller drawing inspiration from Bruce Smith
As a reminder from the first two sections, this list is based on a player’s production, current age, future outlook, contract amount and length, and positional scarcity. It is about what the Leafs could fetch on the open market.
The list includes players currently signed, who have a good chance at being on the 2021-22 team. Prospects such as Rodion Amirov, Topi Niemela, and Roni Hirvonen are not included but would have other teams interested.
Future draft picks and 2021 selections are also not being considered for the purposes of this exercise, even if they hold value throughout the NHL.
The cream of the crop for a Maple Leafs trade
5. John Tavares – Age: 30 – $11,000,000 – 4 Years Left ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Never say never but Tavares has a full no-movement clause all four years left in his deal. After coming to his hometown team in 2018, the Leafs captain has been remarkably durable. Tavares has played in 201 of 208 regular-season games for Toronto, piling up 198 points. He was won 55% of his draws in three seasons and is third on the team in point shares during that time.
The former number one overall pick is a quiet leader who lets his play do the most talking. The Mississauga native has chipped in eight points in 12 playoff games with Toronto. The twelfth game was cut short by a terrifying injury last year against Montreal. Indications are that Tavares will be a full-go for next season in Toronto.
The Leafs likely would not even entertain the idea of moving their captain and even so, an $11 million cap hit is tough for any team to swallow. Tavares is worth the money, especially to a young Maple Leafs roster, but it seems unlikely he would move anywhere.
4. William Nylander – Age: 25 – $6,962,366 – 3 Years Left ⭐⭐⭐⭐
The longtime whipping boy for frustrated Maple Leafs fans, Nylander feels underrated at this point. The lack of two-way game and his nature to float at times justifies some of the criticism. But when he is on, Nylander is a dangerous player. The former eighth overall selection has 263 points in 358 career games as a Maple Leaf.
In the playoffs, Nylander has 23 points in 32 games. The Swede was among the best Leafs in last year’s first-round exit against Montreal, scoring five times in seven games. His production is not elite but neither is his cap hit. Nylander is being paid appropriately for what he produces, if not something of a bargain for Toronto. Leafs fans wanting to ship him out of town on the first bus should be careful what they wish for.
3. Mitchell Marner – Age: 24 – $10,903,000 – 4 Years Left ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Speaking of players who have drawn the ire of Leafs Nation, Marner has taken his share of heat for lackluster postseason results. He has produced 25 points in 32 career postseason games, which is below his career 1.01 points per game in the regular season. The former London Knight was an All-Star selection last season after posting 67 points in 55 games.
Last year’s four-point playoff performance is what brings the critics out. Marner was 14th in the NHL in offensive point shares in 2020-21. The former fourth overall pick was also 10th among forwards in defensive point shares last season. Marner plays a well-rounded game. Sure, he may not be a number one option in the league, which is fine in Toronto because they have Matthews.
The trouble comes down to whether or not he is worth a $10.903 million cap hit, the seventh-highest in the NHL. If he were on the market, would any team be able to absorb that kind of financial commitment? General Manager Kyle Dubas is keen on sticking with the core of the roster, so it is unlikely fans will find out. Marner is also just 24 years old, so perhaps a little patience is in order.
2. Morgan Rielly – Age: 27 – $5,000,000 – 1 Year Left ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Rielly is one of the best bargains in the league as a top-pairing defenceman making just $5 million. That good deal is in its final season though, and with some of the money being thrown at top defenders this offseason, a raise is coming. For this season, the former fifth overall pick of the Leafs has a massive trade value.
The ex-Moose Jaw Warrior has averaged nearly 22 minutes of ice time per night in 572 career regular-season contests. Rielly is steady in his own end and has the offensive upside to put up 305 points in his career. He is not the number one option that the team envisioned when drafting him in 2013, but the 27-year-old is a proven commodity in the league.
Were his name to become available, the list of suitors would be long, especially at this salary. After his next contract is in place, some value will be lost unless his game hits a new level. As of this writing, there is only one player on the Maple Leafs that is higher on the list.
1. Auston Matthews – Age: 23 – $11,640,250 – 3 Years Left ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The quick answer to any GM calling would be “$#%! NO”. There are very few players in the league that would be a fair return one-for-one in a hypothetical Matthews deal. He has one of the highest cap hits in the league, with three seasons left on it, and is still an incredible deal. A generational talent, Matthews already has 199 goals in just 334 regular-season games.
Since entering the league in 2016, the former number one overall selection trails only Alex Ovechkin in goals. The Arizona native is improving every season and is now at the tippy top of NHL stardom. If the Maple Leafs trade Matthews, it better be for Connor McDavid or they are losing the deal. At 23 years old, Matthews should serve as a reminder that the present and future are still awfully bright in Toronto.
What do you think of this Maple Leafs trade value list? Can you see a Leafs trade involving any of the players in the top 5? Let us know in the comments below.