Training camp for the 2021 season begins tomorrow for the Toronto Maple Leafs. From there, they’ll have 10 days to organize their roster for opening night before the 56-game sprint that will follow. By many accounts, the Leafs will be the clear favourite in the North (Canadian) Division and at the end of the year, anything less than first and playoff round wins (with an s) will be a disappointment.
The Leafs haven’t been a contender in a while, they probably still aren’t when looking at the league on the whole, but for all intents and purposes they should be acting like one now. A symptom of being a contender often involves buying talent at the trade deadline, not just another fourth line centre — though I hear Frederik Gauthier might be available at the deadline this year.
Last year, the Leafs had aspirations of buying at the deadline, but the team (particularly the defense) failed to give the team confidence at every turn. This year, Dom Luszczyszyn’s model estimates the Leafs to have the 10th best defense in the league after the acquisition of TJ Brodie over the offseason. Even if the Leafs are a middle-of-the-pack defense, that’s more than good enough for this team with their offense.
Like most years, the Leafs could go after another defenseman at the trade deadline — I would encourage them to if neither Justin Holl or Travis Dermott impress — but friend-of-the-blog Kevin Papetti brought up a good idea last night. What about a forward?
I'm excited to see the Leafs head into a potential playoff series with a competent defence. No more Zaitsev/Ceci in the top four.— Kevin Papetti (@KPapetti) January 2, 2021
I expect them to add a pretty significant forward at the deadline. Their prospect pool got deeper, and teams will be interested in their prospects.
As he states, the Leafs have a good stock of prospects that have been playing a full season in Europe. The top prospects from our Top 25 Under 25 won’t be moved, but not everyone in the second tier will end up playing games for the Leafs one way or another. For the Leafs, getting a talented NHL contributor to help push them farther in the playoffs is the smart thing to do.
Maybe a team that drafted Jack Quinn will want a playmaker like Mikhail Abramov, or a team that drafted Miska Kukkonen will want a partner like Mikko Kokkonen. If you haven’t gotten the hint, I’m talking about the Buffalo Sabres. Why am I talking about the *blech* Sabres?
One guy without a boaters license. Taylor Hall.
The Leafs have four first-line players, they also have Zach Hyman, but after him, it’s Alex Kerfoot and a big bowl of third-ish line guys that don’t exactly impress there or in the top six. Why not bring in another star and make those forward lines really pop.
If you’re asking if the Leafs can afford him, the short answer is yes. The long answer is if the Leafs play their salary cap smart and paper down players to the taxi squad or minors on off days (taking the projected cap space from $280k to $1.2 million), they’ll be able to bank enough cap space for a $5 million dollar cap hit player at the deadline. Taylor Hall makes $8 million on a one-year deal with the Sabres, a deal perfect for 50% salary retention.
In terms of the trade, Hall has been traded once before as a rental. In the Fall of 2019, Hall went to Arizona for Nick Merkley (22-year-old AHLer, 30th overall in 2015), Kevin Bahl (second round in 2018), Nathan Schnarr (third round in 2017), a 2020 first, and a 2021 third.
The Leafs can easily make a trade with equivalent pieces. Merkley and Egor Korshkov are comparable players at this point, Bahl and Mikko Kokkonen are equally unimpressive LDs, and Schnarr can be anyone from Denis Malgin to SDA. The Leafs have their 2021 first and all their 2022 picks. Would you give up those pieces for one hot playoff run with Taylor Hall? My mind says yes.
I’m sorry for bringing up some of these prospects by name, I know in the T25U25 we gave them names and started to garner attachment, but unfortunately, most of them will go one way or another.
Taylor Hall trade, anyone?
|I hear Korshkov is Hall-lite!||72|
Leafs and Branches
- David Warsofsky is on waivers, if he clears today at noon he’ll either be on the Practice Squad or be a big part of the Marlies defense. — Seldo (not Katya)
- Mikhail Abramov was suspended for Russia’s quarter-finals game against Germany for a slew foot. That game will be played today, Rodion Amirov will still be there. — Katya (not Seldo)
- Here is the schedule and bracket for the knockout rounds of the World Juniors. All six Leafs prospects have moved on. — Katya
- Andreas Johnsson is ready to be a big-minutes player on a young rebuilding team in “nice spot” New Jersey. — NHL dot com
- Kasperi Kapanen will miss the beginning of Pittsburgh Penguins training camp due to an immigration issue. — Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
- The Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights, Philadelphia Flyers, and Boston Bruins are reportedly looking to play a pair of hockey games outdoors on Lake Tahoe (California-Nevada border)? — Mile High Hockey
- The WHL is reportedly looking for a private bailout. If one doesn’t come, there’s a good chance the league doesn’t play the 2020-21 season. The Leafs have no prospects in that league. — Dub Network/