Earlier today, the Leafs announced the first of what one presumes to be many deals leading up to the trade deadline. Shawn Matthias has been traded to Colorado for 22 year old AHLer Colin Smith, and a 4th round pick in the upcoming 2016 NHL Entry Draft.
Matthias was one of many Leafs who were acquired this offseason on short term contracts (1 year, $2.3M in his case), seemingly with the intention that the Leafs would trade them later in the year. That's exactly what's happened here, and the Leafs get a pseudo-prospect and a pick as a result. Matthias is the first of these players to go, but you have to figure the Leafs will be exploring trades for the others as well in the near future. Colorado, currently in a playoff spot, adds to their forward depth for the stretch run, and get a solid possession winger who can chip in with some offense, without committing any long-term resources. He's primarily been deployed with Tyler Bozak and P.A Parenteau as part of a relatively sheltered scoring line (he's also seen a good amount of time with Brad Boyes). As sad as it sounds, those are a couple of the Leafs better offensive forwards. With 6 goals and 11 assists, he's shown some level of offensive production, though it should be noted that over half of those assists are secondary, and may not be representative of his actual playmaking ability. From a possession perspective, he's basically bang average as it relates to the Leafs.
I'd be lying if I said I was an expert on Colin Smith, but he seems to be a perfectly serviceable AHL player who can either plug some holes on that level when Marlies are called up later in the year, or be called up himself for a cup of coffee in the NHL. He has pretty solid AHL numbers this year, with 13 goals and 21 assists (only 6 of which are secondary). He's also a fairly decent shot generator at the AHL level, and as such, it seems like he'll be able to capably fill a top 6 role for the Marlies, if nothing else. I'm not sure who he was playing with in the AHL, but it's possible he was playing alongside 19 year old wunderkind Mikko Rantanen. A 4th round pick isn't anything earth-shattering, but it gives the Leafs a little more draft currency to play with, in a year where they already project to have quite a bit of it.
More than anything, this trade seems like the harbinger of the true fire sale we all expected the Leafs to have as the deadline approached. We'll see how the rest of the deadline shakes out - in the meantime, let us know what your reaction is to this trade in the comment section below.