When the Toronto Maple Leafs traded Luke Schenn, it turned into one of the best in recent memory, but could a reunion with the defenceman be on the cards?
It’s not a common occurrence for a team to trade away a player, only for them to make a return as a veteran – but that is something that could potentially benefit the Toronto Maple Leafs this year.
On June 23rd 2012, the Toronto Maple Leafs sent right-handed defenceman Luke Schenn, who was the franchise’s first round pick (fifth overall) just four years earlier, to the Philadelphia Flyers for forward James van Riemsdyk.
JVR, the second selection in the 2007 NHL Draft, went on to become one of the most popular and productive players for the Leafs during a difficult period – one that saw the team make the playoffs in three of his six seasons before he re-signed with the Flyers in the summer of 2018.
At the time of the trade, the Leafs needed some serious help on offence and had a defensive group that included Dion Phaneuf, a 21-year-old Jake Gardiner that had just put up 30 points in 75 games and John-Michael Liles – meaning that Schenn, who was by no means a problem at the time, was expendable in order to address more pressing needs.
Schenn’s career has taken him to many teams across the NHL, including stints with the LA Kings, Arizona Coyotes and Vancouver Canucks. His two-year stint with the Tampa Bay Lightning, however, saw him raise the Stanley Cup on both occasions.
With two rings, the 32-year-old is now looking to play meaningful minutes and so far this season has had that with the Canucks. The former fifth overall pick has played an increased role for Vancouver and his physicality and seen him come to prominence as a potential trade deadline acquisition once again.
So far this season, Schenn has thrown 142 hits and blocked 42 shots while averaging 16:57 across his 33 appearances, and he could be a player that would help the Leafs when it comes down to the post-season.
The Leafs, while performing at a historic pace this season, have some serious questions along their blueline – primarily that of Justin Holl’s consistency and the future of Travis Dermott, a theme that has been ongoing for the last couple of years.
With Jake Muzzin having missed some time through injury, and the Leafs lacking that physical presence when he has been absent, the need to add a player that could be an effective shut-down defence on the bottom pairing is something that appears to be the focus.
Schenn is a cost effective player, with a cap hit of just $850,000 for this season as well as next, meaning he could be a key piece to the team for more than just one run at the playoffs.
With Dermott potentially on the block and Holl’s cap hit likely something the Leafs could try to move if he continues to produce mixed results, adding a player of Schenn’s proven skillset would give them an edge that they don’t have much of outside of Muzzin.
Seeing Schenn return to Toronto, donning the #2 jersey as he did previously, would be a unique full circle on his career, seeing him play a part of easily the best Leafs roster at any point of his career – with his early introduction into the NHL seeing him play big minutes right out of the gate due to the lack of quality at the time.
If the Leafs are serious about making a run beyond the first round of the playoffs this season, a big physical body on the blue line that can take the workload off Muzzin for shifts, is something that should be considered, and Schenn certainly fits that bill.