The NHL trade deadline is over a month away on April 12, but that time is shorter than it seems for teams in Canada looking to trade for a player on the US team. There is no chance the Canadian government’s requirement for a 14-day quarantine will be lifted, so any cross-border trade will involve a delay. The Leafs season is half over on March 11, and that means they have 28 more games to play in the run up to the playoffs. Any two week period means missing some games.
In the past, Kyle Dubas has tried to make trades early, acquiring Jake Muzzin and Jack Campbell in January and February. With not much “early” left, and very few games remaining, it seems like the Leafs will move now if they move at all.
Complicating their decisions on timing is the list of goalies slightly injured, and the eventual return of Wayne Simmonds. When all the goalies are healthy, which should be soon, Michael Hutchinson can go back on the Taxi Squad and a very small amount of cap space is created. They haven’t been able to bank a lot of space, so fitting in a new player is a question of cutting down the existing roster to the bone, and then adding the new player as the 21st rostered player.
If the Leafs were to make a trade today, March 8, and assuming they aren’t averse to sending their plane to wherever it needs to go to fetch the player they acquire, the minimum plausible delay is 15 days or March 23. Sheldon Keefe doesn’t like to just dump players onto the game roster without some kind of practice, so the next game on March 25, a road trip to Ottawa is possible, but implausible. The home game on March 27 is much more likely, and that would mean the new Maple Leafs player would be available for 22 games and would miss seven. Any trade on March 9 or 10 would return the same scenario.
The later the deal, the fewer the games played by the new player:
- March 11 - first game at home March 29 - 21 games played and 6 missed
- March 13 - first game on the road March 31 - 20 games played and 6 missed
- March 14 - first game on the road March 31 - 20 games played and 5 missed
- March 15-19 - first game on the road April 2, 4 or 5, and 19-17 games played with 6-9 missed
- March 20- first game at home on April 7, and 16 games played with 8 missed
- March 21-24 - first game at home on April 10, and 15 games played with 8 missed
The confounding factors are the road/home schedule and the two four-day breaks in May. This is the reason why Elliotte Friedman suggested March 11 as a good day for a Leafs trade on HNIC a week ago.
The last minute deal of April 12, is a bad deal for anyone in Canada trading for an American unless they’re desperate to make cap space for the new player first. If the Leafs did that, they’d have the player ready on the travel day to go to Montreal on April 27. Of course, if he was just driving up from Buffalo, he might cut one day off of that. But regardless, he’s likely to debut on April 30 vs Vancouver, and that would give him six games for the Leafs before the end of the regular season.
If there’s a deal going down, it’s more likely to be this week than on deadline day. But it’s a big if.