With the 2015 trade deadline officially wrapped up, the Leafs have officially changed their direction, commencing their rebuild in the process. Here's a recap of all of the recent moves.
Out are pending UFAs Daniel Winnik, Mike Santorelli, Cody Franson, Marlies forward Spencer Abbott, more than half a decade of David Clarkson, defensemen Korbinian Holzer and a brief stint with Olli Jokinen.
In are former Marlies defensemen T.J. Brennan, waiver wire claim and former first round pick Tim Erixon, prospect Brendan Leipsic, a crippled Nathan Horton, fringe NHLers Zach Sill, Eric Brewer and Joakim Lindstrom, and several picks.
For the Leafs, the acquisitions of Sill, Lindstrom and Horton serve merely as placeholders in a group of moves aimed at a long-term objective. Sill, who was acquired from Pittsburgh in the Winnik trade, was brought in more to alleviate the Pens' cap concerns than for any real interest the Leafs likely had in him. The 26-year-old has just three points in 65 NHL games and with an expiring contract it's unlikely the Leafs have interest in having him burn a roster spot as they look to get younger and continue to rebuild. Lindstrom also serves merely as a contract in need of being moved in order to facilitate the pick-for-Jokinen swap.
Likewise, Horton, who suffers from a degenerative back issue, will likely never suit up for the Leafs. Despite being signed to seven-year contract worth $37.1 million, Horton's usefulness for the Leafs organization is facilitated only through his placement on LTIR, allowing the Leafs to rid themselves of David Clarkson.
Similarly, the T.J. Brennan reacquisition, with diminutive forward Spencer Abbott on the outs, doesn't provide much in the way of benefitting the Leafs long-term, but gives the Marlies some depth on the back-end and a much-needed powerplay quarterback as they push to climb into the playoffs.
The real substance to the Winnik and Clarkson departures comes in the form of long-term cap relief to the tune of $5.25 million and a 2016 second round pick and 2015 fourth round pick. While the Winnik trade didn't fill the Leafs' 2015 draft hole in the second round (they're without a second rounder due to the Toronto-Columbus-Los Angeles deals involving Frattin, Gaborik, Bernier, etc.), it's not uncommon to see team's flip second rounders if their 'guy' isn't available. Regardless, it provides some much needed picks for a team that has, within the last decade, had a tendency to deal instead of acquire picks.
The Santorelli and Franson trade brought back a first round pick, giving the Leafs two picks in the first 30 in the upcoming class and a talented young prospect in Brendan Leipsic, who has played well since joining the Marlies with six points in as many games. For potential targets for the Leafs' two first round picks, check out my most recent top 60 prospects ranking for the 2015 NHL Draft with McKeen's Hockey.
On a smaller scale, the deadline day deals for Jokinen to the Blues and Holzer to the Ducks with picks (conditional 2016 sixth round and fifth round) coming back gives the Leafs two more late-round swings. While it's unlikely they turn into much, the Leafs have shown a knack for taking risks on talented players in the latter rounds in recent years in picking Connor Brown, Andreas Johnson, etc.
The rebuild is on.