Who might the Leafs get at the deadline? Everyone wants to know. No one actually does. But here’s five guys they won’t get:
Horvat would be awesome on the Leafs. There’d be a London area player there again, as there should always be, and he’s legitimately an excellent player. He’s affordable now in the last year of his contract at $5.5 million, cheap for a real top-line forward. He likely grew up a Leafs fan, and it would be a dream come true to go from being the guy who slept on Leafs-patterned sheets to being the guy wearing the jersey.
And that’s why he’s not going to come to Toronto. He’s 28 in three months, which means he’s just too close in age to John Tavares. If the Leafs didn’t have Tavares, if they’d been born just a few years farther apart, this might work, but sadly this romance is doomed by bad timing. He will instead go to a team that wants to hand him a monster eight-year contract as soon as the trade is final.
To outbid the teams that can do that, the Leafs would have to pay Giroux to Florida prices which was a guy who could walk into the NHL in Owen Tippett, a first and a third. Then they’d have to pay another second for salary retention and possibly something even more on top of that because the market for Horvat is a lot hotter than it was for Giroux.
Meier is even better than Horvat, in fact, he’s likely the best forward to be out there at the deadline in some time. He’s a better fit on the Leafs, he can play Leafs hockey, and also add some forechecking power. If you cooked up a player in a vat who is perfect, he’d be it.
And he’s not getting traded to the Leafs.
This is the same story as Horvat, only more so. Meier is younger, having just turned 26 in the fall, and he’s an RFA this summer, not a UFA. Everyone has heard by now his qualifying offer is $10 million, which makes it impossible for the Leafs to have him as anything but a pure rental because they’d never qualify him at that amount.
Meier also has a very high salary this year, which makes paying for salary retention very expensive. As just a rental, he’d cost multiple high picks and the top prospects in the system. But that is all moot anyway, because much more so than Horvat, the Sharks are likely to facilitate a trade to a team that has that eight-year monster deal all ready to go. There’s a reason everyone is guessing the Devils.
Like Meier, Erik Karlsson is having such a good year for the Sharks, their lottery odds are pretty bad now. They’d love to trade him. I’m sure Mike Grier dreams about trading him, possibly in a package deal with Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
Karlsson has heaps of points this year, and a lot of his most meaningful contributions to points come with Meier or Tomas Hertl, so before we even laugh loudly at the contact or the cost, there’s that fact to consider. He’s riding a shooting wave not all of his own making.
No one is going to trade for Karlsson without full retention, and that’s the thing Grier thinks about while awake. Which is worse, trading him now and having $5.75 million in dead cap for four more years, or waiting a few years and buying him out. For the Sharks the question is one of how soon will they be good? For Karlsson, it’s reconciling to the fact that his contract is a prison that will keep him on bad teams for the rest of his career. Because the only deal Grier is going to get is as a contract dump to a tanking team in a couple of years.
If Chychrun was a righty, there might almost be a point to this endless speculation that the Leafs might want him. He isn’t, they don’t, and the acquisition cost would be too much for the risk of what he’s got to offer. His claim to fame is points, mostly power play points, and if it isn’t obvious yet that the Leafs don’t care about points from defenders, I don’t know what to say.
They aren’t messing about with a five forward power play because they’re bored, after all. And you don’t hand Morgan Rielly that contract and then go looking for some other guy to play the top power play unit out of capriciousness.
Nope. Someone with more need for his type of game will do this deal.
One they might get: Jake McCabe
I’m really on the fence on this guy. He showed signs of brilliance on the Sabres, he’s been replacement level or worse in Chicago, and it’s the age-old problem of trying to identify potential on bottom feeder teams where players are used way above where they should be. I’m not sure his $4 million cap his is legitimately his value, and he is 29. The Leafs have made one bad defender choice in recent years in Tyson Barrie (Ceci was not a choice, he was a price). And I don’t think Barrie was much more than the only guy they could get. So I actually trust them more than myself to pick defenders. But there’s no way this prospect is exciting.
There’s obviously more players they won’t get than they will. And I do believe the Leafs would be looking for a middle-aged defenceman who can at least be a three or four guy consistently. That might actually be the thing they do in the summer, and if so, then pivoting to putting more cap space into a forward might be the smart move. And no, they won’t trade Kerfoot to make space.