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The Leafs need to trade some players

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It's getting downright crowded down the left wing.

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Having depth at any position is a good thing, but only up to a certain point. The Leafs currently have 22 forwards who should (not including Frederik Gauthier and Brendan Leipsic) play at least some time in the NHL next season, and only have room to play 12 or 13 of them. Meanwhile, on defence, the team has eight defenders who are likely to play in the bigs, and so carrying an extra forward may not be an option - they currently need the space to keep their defencemen. It sure looks like a trade is coming.

The following table represents the Leafs' forward depth in what should be approximately the order the team sees the players.

Left Wing

Centre

Right Wing

van Riemsdyk

Kadri

Nylander

Komarov

Matthews

Marner

Martin

Bozak

Soshnikov

Rychel

Holland

Brown

Greening

Froese

Leivo

Michalek

Laich

Kapanen

Lupul

Hyman

Lindberg

Johnson



There are some pretty big caveats to this list. Maybe a guy like Rychel will get a shot at the third line left wing spot, and maybe one of Greening or Michalek can also beat Martin out for the job, leaving Martin to toil on the fourth line, but given the recency of Martin's signing, he's probably the odds-on favourite. Lupul, on the other hand, may not even need to be on this list given how Lou has said that he "might not not be staying home". In any event, the list is subject to a lot of change, given that several of the more veteran players will likely spend at least a little time playing their off wing (or just any wing, as is the case with Laich), and so the specific ordering of this list is not to be taken too seriously.

Regardless of depth chart reorganizing, what is abundantly clear is that the Leafs are going to be hard-pressed to clear out the forward depth that they have. Greening, Michalek, and Lupul are the obvious ones that need to go from the left wing ranks, but, aside from sending Lupul home (at least for next season), how the Leafs manage to do that is unclear.

Greening could possibly be traded if the Leafs retained the maximum 50% of his contract, though it might be a bit harder to do so for Michalek, and it would probably still be next to impossible to deal Lupul. If they wind up shelved for half the year, they're going to be virtually impossible to trade at the deadline, too. Oh, and since the Leafs retained salary on the Phil Kessel's contract, they can only retain salary two more times.

It's theoretically possible that the Leafs retain 50% of their salary and then take back a smaller, unwanted contract to level things off, but then they're stuck with another player anyway. Of course, David Clarkson was dealt, so it's worth remembering that anything is possible.

But wait, that's just for the left wingers.

At centre, the situation is somewhat less clear. If Auston Matthews is going to start on the third line, does that mean Tyler Bozak is definitely staying on as the team's de facto second line centre? With the recent re-signing of Peter Holland, it seems like he has a spot on the roster, but that could leave Babcock favourite Byron Froese on the outs.

Babcock has also gone on record as saying that Hyman and Soshnikov "are here to stay", but perhaps he was only referring to last season.

Then, there's the defence. The depth chart back there probably looks something like this through the eyes of the team:

Left Defence

Right Defence

Gardiner

Zaitsev

Rielly

Carrick

Hunwick

Corrado

Marincin

Polak

Again, I'll stress that this is a depth chart, not a bunch of pairings, and it's entirely possible the team sees things differently. Also worth noting here is that Rielly played all of last season on his off-side, but with the number of LD and RD being balanced at this point, it seems possible  that he could return to the left side. Time will tell on that one.

With so many forwards to deal with, it seems unlikely that the Leafs would want to carry 8 defencemen all the time. The two names that jump out as possible trade candidates here are Hunwick, who is on a very reasonable contract for a depth defenceman, and Corrado, who barely got a sniff last year until trades and injuries nearly forced him into the lineup.

Add to all of this that General Fanager has the Leafs' SPC count at 46 after the Trevor Moore signing, and the Leafs have yet to sign Martin Marincin or a backup goalie (Jonas Enroth?) and the team is getting awfully close to the 50-contract limit.

Finally, it's probably worth noting that the Marlies may not be the best place to dump a bunch of veteran players that the Leafs no longer have use for. Not only is it bad for whatever trade value they may have left, it impedes the development of other players. As for some of the Leafs' younger players, there aren't many on the lists I've provided that have much to prove at lower levels. Kapanen, Lindberg, and Johnson could all easily go down, but Brown is probably about as ready for the NHL as he's going to be, and he's certainly more talented than the likes of Soshnikov.

Long story short: the Leafs need to make some trades.