We are just under a week away from the 2021 NHL trade deadline and all anyone can talk about is the possible moves Kyle Dubas could make for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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Should we be looking at this week as an important time for building the Maple Leafs? Last year the Leafs stood pat as punishment for a team who couldn’t be bothered to try hard and show up for practice after they lost to a damn zamboni driver.

Kyle Dubas talks trade deadline and emotions during David Ayres game

This year, as noted above, there’s plenty of chatter about adding a goalie due to Frederik Andersen’s injury this season, or some depth players to help round out the line up. Depth adds are usually what most people talk about with the Maple Leafs, with the top six solidified and the salary cap pushed to the limit. Have they made major moves this late in the season? Let’s take a look back at the week leading up to trade deadlines of GMs Kyle Dubas and Lou Lamoriello.

February 24th, 2020

Last year’s deadline was done for the Maple Leafs because in the eyes of Kyle Dubas the team didn’t deserve any help.

Kyle Dubas after the trade deadline: "We've shown enough since Sheldon has been at the helm to give you a great sense of optimism" | Maple Leafs Hotstove

We’ve shown enough throughout our run and since Sheldon has been at the helm to give you a great sense of optimism. We also have some games where we rightfully, I think, draw the doubts of a lot of people. The best way to put it is to use a Jekyll and Hyde way to describe it. I think it is up to our entire program — starting with me on to Sheldon and onto the players — to find our way out of it and be the best version of ourselves that we can every single day for our organization and our fan base in order to get where we want to go.

At the 2020 deadline the Maple Leafs did nothing but small, minor-league moves.

2020 Trade Deadline

Max VeronneauMichael Hutchinson
Denis MalginJordan Schmaltz
Miikka SalomakiMartins Dzierkals
2020 5th round pickBen Harpur
Matt LoritoMason Marchment
Calle RosenAaron Luchuk
2021 Conditional 6th round pick

All the names coming in and going out are nobodies. Heck, Martins Dzierkals was just a body thrown into the three way deal with Vegas and Chicago to make it legal. The 5th round pick acquired was originally the Leafs’ pick in the first place, so they just got their own back (it was used on Dmitry Ovchinnikov). A big ol’ nothing of a trade deadline. The Leafs’ big moves came well ahead of time, bringing in Jack Campbell and Kyle Clifford at the start of February.

February 25th, 2019

Two years ago was an even bigger pile of nothing. The day before the deadline the Leafs acquired Nick Baptiste from the Nashville Predators for “future considerations” and on deadline day itself the Leafs picked up Nic Petan from the Winnipeg Jets* for the oft forgotten Par Lindholm. Baptiste would end up in an AHL trade with Belleville for Miles Gendron, and Petan floats around between the Leafs and Marlies.

February 26th, 2018

Again only two trades in the week ahead of the deadline; Eric Fehr was sent to San Jose for a 2020 7th round pick (John Fusco) and on deadline day itself we got an actual trade that mattered:

From Montreal: Tomas Plekanec, Kyle Baun
From Toronto: Rinat Valiev, Kerby Rychel, 2018 2nd round pick

A real post-rebuild trade bringing in a veteran for the playoffs, Plekanec didn’t bring much in the regular season but in the series vs Boston he played like the Plekanec we knew he could be and scored four points in seven games. He’d go back to Montreal to play his 1,000th game the next season before leaving the NHL after that moment to play in the Cezch Republic. Kyle Baun was some guy.

The only big loss in the trade was the second round pick - Rychel and Valiev never panned out to NHL players. Montreal would select Jacob Olofsson, who is still playing in Sweden.

March 1st, 2017

A late deadline in 2017 gave the Maple Leafs time to make moves they thought would push them from builders to playoff participants, and participate they did.

Just over a week ahead of the deadline they moved Viktor Loov to the Devils for Sergey Kalinin who left the Marlies for the KHL as soon as he could.

Then five days ahead of the deadline they acquired Brian Boyle from the Lightning for Byron Froese and a 2017 2nd round pick (Alexander Volkov, later traded to the Ducks). Boyle wasn’t a huge impact for the Leafs and didn’t much care to be here. He would leave for New Jersey in the off-season.

On deadline day it was what the Leafs thought was their big move. They brought in Eric Fehr, Steven Oleksy, and a 2017 4th round pick (Vladislav Kara) for the often scratched internet hockey legend Frank Corrado. Fehr promptly got himself injured, and Oleksy never played in the NHL again. But, hey, Corrado got his much deserved full time NHL career that the Leafs were holding him back from, right? Right?

February 29th, 2016

Leap day gave the Maple Leafs an extra day to clear out some extra players they had lying around who were too good for the tanking team. After Dion Phaneuf was moved to the Senators at the start of February, the Leafs waited until the deadline to move a few more bodies.

February 21st: The Maple Leafs move Shawn Matthias to the Colorado Avalanche for Colin Smith and a 2016 4th round pick (Keaton Middleton). Matthias was a tank-year body, one of those guys who played every game ahead of the deadline and you forget was on the team. Colin Smith was an AHLer, and Keaton Middleton looks to be the same.

February 22nd: Maple Leafs send Roman Polak and Nick Spaling to the San Jose Sharks for Raffi Torres, a 2017 2nd (went to Anaheim, selected Maxime Comtois), and a 2018 2nd (Sean Durzi). The first of two trades with the Sharks, the Maple Leafs did Polak a favour and sent him to a contender while the Leafs would tell Torres to stay home. They would use both of the picks in trades - the 2017 pick was in the Frederik Andersen trade and the 2018 pick would become Sean Durzi who would be traded for Jake Muzzin.

February 27th, 2018: The Leafs hooked up with the Sharks once again, this time sending James Reimer and Jeremy Morin out west in exchange for Alex Stalock, Ben Smith, and a 2018 3rd round pick (Riley Stotts). Reimer would join Polak on the Sharks as they went to the Stanley Cup Final that year (losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins). Stalock would not be played by the Leafs in what he calls the “lowest point of my career”. Ben Smith was an NHL/AHL tweener, and Riley Stotts is still in the WHL.

February 28th, 2018: The next day the Leafs traded Daniel Winnik away for the second trade deadline in a row. The Leafs send Winnik and a 2016 5th round pick (Beck Malenstyn) to the Capitals for Brooks Laich, Connor Carrick, and a 2016 2nd round pick (Carl Grundstrom). The Capitals needed to move Laich for cap room, and Carrick was an uneven player at the time so he was easy to move.

Laich would later be assigned to the Marlies and waived for speaking out about his demotion, and Carrick would be waived a few seasons later and claimed by the Dallas Stars. Grundstrom would be moved to the LA Kings for Jake Muzzin.

Huh. Both prospects moved for Muzzin came out of this deadline. That’s kinda neat.

Those are all the week of moves from the Maple Leafs, and none of them were earth shaking. Parts of those trades became pieces of huge trades later on that gave us daily players for this team, but those moves weren’t done at the trade deadline.

The Maple Leafs in the cap era have never made a significant move at the trade deadline. The last time they made a trade that I would consider huge in the week leading up to the trade deadlines would be in the ahead of the lost season in 2004 when they brought in Ron Francis and Brian Leetch, and the deadline before that when they brought back Doug Gilmour and added Phil Housley and Glen Wesley.

Ah, the pre-cap days of insane deadline moves, I miss you.

The Maple Leafs could surprise us, but right now I’d bet on a quiet trade deadline.