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A look back at two of the Leafs' trade deadline deals

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Hindsight is the best. You have all the data at your fingertips, and you know now what you didn't know then. When the Leafs made deadline deals, we guessed at how good or bad they are, now we can take another look and see how they measure up.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Leafs signed a basket full of free agents last summer with the obvious intent of trading all they could get value for at the deadline.  They made fewer trades than a lot of fans expected, but with the exception of the part of the San Jose trades that involved James Reimer, most Leaf fans were happy with the take at the trade deadline.

Now that some of those traded players are also done playing for the year, we can look back, apply some hindsight and see how those deals look now.

Daniel Winnik

Winnik was traded on the day before the deadline in a move that surprised no one.

Winnik and a 2016 5th round pick (previously acquired from Anaheim for Korbinian Holzer) are headed to the Washington Capitals. In return, Toronto receives Brooks Laich, the Capitals' 2016 2nd round pick, and prospect Connor Carrick.

This was closer to a straight player swap than the usual deadline deals. The Capitals wanted to get rid of Laich’s contract, which they obviously achieved, but they also wanted to improve the team by putting in a better depth player. They added no other players, so the salary difference only allowed them more flexibility in bringing up call ups as Brooks Orpik came off IR.

Anyone who has watched the Marlies, or the Leafs at the end of the season, knows that the Leafs got a gem in Connor Carrick. He’s moved up the depth chart ahead of Frank Corrado and will be fighting for an NHL job in camp this fall. The second round pick is just a juicy, juicy cherry on top of this deal, and the fifth round that went the other way is a token of little value.

Brooks Laich has proven valuable as a depth player and mentor, and while overpaid, may well be a useful piece next year on the Leafs.

How did the Capitals do on this trade?

Name Team Primary Points per 60 Corsi For per 60 Corsi Against per 60 Time on Ice per Game Individual Shots For per 60 Personal Shooting %
Daniel Winnik TOR 0.83 53.1 55.5 11.6 6.26 4.9
WSH 0.40 49.4 44.5 9.4 4.18 8.0
Brooks Laich WSH 0.48 51.1 45.5 8.4 6.82 1.7

Five-on-five, score adjusted data includes playoff games where applicable. Source: War on Ice.

Winnik’s usage in Washington was nearly identical to Laich’s, and his results were barely different. Winnik shot the puck a lot less, but he didn’t have Laich’s desperately bad shooting percentage to make it look worse than it was.

Winnik’s performance moving from ostensibly the worst team in the NHL to the best is interesting. Everything is worse but the shooting percentage. Winnik’s most frequent linemates in Toronto were Joffrey Lupul and Nick Spaling, while in Washington he was usually with Mike Richards and Tom Wilson.

It’s tempting to say the decline in Winnik’s performance is that the Mike Babcock system pumped up his numbers, and that might be, but I think a better explanation is the quality of the depth defencemen on the Leafs vs the Capitals. Mike Richards, by the way, has the best shot differential numbers by far of any of those four guys Winnik played with.

Winnik is still under contract for another year, and while he’s a discount on Laich, at more than double Mike Richards' salary, he’s no bargain unless he suddenly and dramatically improves above even his poor showing in Toronto.

The Leafs seemed to gently win this trade at the time. In hindsight, it was highway robbery.

Shawn Matthias

Matthias was sent off to Colorado a week before the 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.

Just like with the Winnik deal, Marlies fans know what Colin Smith has brought to the organization. He’s not very likely to be an NHL player, but he brings depth at centre to a team that will lose their number one and two centres next year. The pick is again the juicy sweetener in the deal.

The question with Matthias has always been: was that 18 goal season with the Canucks a fluke or a sign of his real talent. With the Leafs, he didn’t produce much, and the answer seemed to be fluke.

So why did Colorado want him? What the Avalanche were looking for was another Blake Comeau, a tough winger who could play with their top players and add some points. But why spend a pick and a decent AHL player—not something they have an excess of? Isn’t this just the Avalanche making absurd trades and wasting picks again?

It makes sense if you accept the premise that the Avalanche are a team beset my mysteriously underperforming stars and unfortunate injuries. They aren’t bad, just unlucky and lacking in character. If you believe that, and there’s no reason to think that the team that keeps repeating that via the GM, the coach and the players themselves doesn’t believe it, and you remember that at the deadline they were in a playoff position, it makes a kind of sense.

Shawn Matthias, before and after:

Team Primary Points per 60 Corsi For per 60 Corsi Against per 60 Time on Ice per Game Individual Shots For per 60 Personal Shooting %
TOR 1.02 55.8 57.1 11.5 6.55 10.3
COL 2.26 53.1 70.1 11.9 6.54 20.7

Five-on-five, score adjusted data includes playoff games where applicable.  Source: War on Ice.

And from some angles of view, Matthias produced for the Avs.  He had 6 goals as a Leaf, and 6 for Colorado at even strength.  He played similar time on the ice, didn’t change his shot rate, which isn’t high enough for a top six player, and he had a big juicy shooting percentage spike that made him look good.

Matthias didn’t cause the disaster of losing that saw the Avalanche drop their wildcard spot and hand it to the Minnesota Wild, who had gone on a losing streak almost as bad as the Avs.  But his games played on the second line didn’t help them much.

With two catastrophically-timed injuries to Matt Duchene and Nate MacKinnon in the stretch run, Matthias got a lot of top six minutes with Carl Söderberg and either Blake Comeau or Gabriel Landeskog. He was as blandly okay there as he was in Toronto with Tyler Bozak and P.-A. Parenteau. Not a plus, not really a detriment, but not a top line player. He dished out a lot of hits.

But look at that Corsi against! If his big body was supposed to help the Avs keep the puck, it sure didn’t work; that shot rate against was the worst on the team from a regular forward. Taken out of the Toronto system, he was lost, and he was playing with two new Avalanche players who had brought good habits with them from their prior teams and usually put up excellent numbers.

A trade that only made sense for the Avs if you lived in their version or reality, in hindsight looks like a hilarious overpayment for a player who looks bigger than he plays.

Will the Avs re-sign Matthias? Will the Leafs keep Colin Smith?  The answer to both might be yes.  They both looked better on their new teams. One of them actually was. Either way, the Leafs have another draft pick to add to the stack.

Frequent linemates and other individual performance information is from corsica.hockey.