The PPP braintrust has gathered from the four corners of the world to have opinions about the Leafs’ trade deadline activity. Let’s recap what that activity was.
The Nick Foligno Trade: The Leafs gave up their 2021 first-round pick, their 2021 fourth-round pick, and their 2022 fourth-round pick to get aging power forward Nick Foligno from the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Jackets retained the maximum 50% of Foligno’s salary and Foligno was routed through San Jose, where they Sharks retained another 50% of the salary remaining, so that the Leafs wound up with 25% of Foligno’s original cap cost. The Leafs also got AHL forward Stefan Noesen from the Sharks.
The David Rittich Trade: The Leafs traded their 2022 third-round pick to Calgary for goaltender Dave Rittich. Calgary retained 50% of Rittich’s salary.
The Riley Nash Trade: On Friday, the Leafs traded a conditional 7th to Columbus for bottom six grinder Riley Nash. The condition is that the 7th becomes a 6th if Nash plays in at least 25% of Toronto’s playoff games. Nash is recovering from injury and is not expected to appear for the Leafs until the playoffs begin.
The Ben Hutton Trade: Right at the deadline, the Leafs picked up defender Ben Hutton from the Anaheim Ducks for a fifth-round pick.
The Alex Barabanov/Antti Suomela Trade: As another last-minute move, the Leafs flipped depth forward Alex Barabanov to the San Jose Sharks for another depth forward, Antti Suomela.
1. How much help do you think Nick Foligno will give the Leafs?
Fulemin: Some! He’s not going to light the world on fire, but Foligno brings the things the Leafs seem to have thought they lacked in prior playoff series. He’s defensively very sound, a supercompetitor, goes to the dirty areas, makes sure everyone eats their Wheaties and so on. I think plenty of stats-minded fans are cynical about the value of some of those things, yet I do think they’re worth something, and I also like Foligno’s potential to fit at different levels of the lineup—either to drive a defensive third line or to add some bashing and solidity to a top six line until the Zach Hyman Cloning Program starts showing results.
Brigstew: More than nothing, less than everything. His defensive rating looks quite strong, most of the hockey analytics people actually like the trade, and other very smart teams like Colorado and Vegas reportedly wanted him too. If he can act as a Hyman clone, or anchor a shut down third line that can actually shut other teams down like the HEM line was supposed to, and if he frees up Hyman to stay on the top line, that seems quite useful.
Katya: I look at this the way Arvind described on the podcast. When your offence is already really good, you can’t get much better. When your defence is mediocre, and the Leafs still grade out as middle of the pack, you can. What’s most interesting to me is the rhetorical downgrading of Foligno’s isolated defensive impacts which are considerable. The Leafs currently have one forward with any sort of meaningful defensive numbers, and that is Alexander Kerfoot. I consider Foligno significantly more defensively capable than Kerfoot against tougher competition. I don’t care if Kerfoot ever scores a goal, and I don’t care if Foligno does. If he can help create the environment where Matthews/Marner/Nylander/Tavares score more goals, particularly in the playoffs, that’s a win. Maybe a big win. And I’m hard pressed to come up with a player better suited to that job who was available.
Omar: The thing I like the most about Foligno is that he makes the team more reliable, still has an offensive mindset and can be a contributing factor with skilled players. You can see it in his games with Columbus in that he can be a crutch for the offensive names to do their work and can get in positions to cover the point for the advancing defenceman or contribute to cycling pressure along the boards. I also love the significance of all this for him. He’s the son of Mike Foligno and took in that Leafs run back in 1992. He knows how special this is and I think he’s willing to put it all on the line to produce for this team. I’m really looking forward to him.
Seldo: This deadline feels like Dubas re-wrote the saying to “If you can’t beat ‘em, trade for ‘em”. I think Foligno will do well with the Leafs and as everyone everywhere has said he brings things to the team that the top players don’t. Dubas is staying true to his plan of “draft skill, trade for grit”.
2. Did the Leafs pay too much for Foligno?
Fulemin: It feels pricey. The contrast with the cost Boston paid to get Taylor Hall is obviously a bit painful, as we’ll address below. That said, I think the Leafs have been looking to fix the squad for playoff hockey, and they decided Foligno checked their boxes: defence, aggressiveness, toughness. They got their man, for better or worse. How worth it the price was depends a) how accurately you think they’ve diagnosed their problems and b) how capable you think Foligno is of helping cure them. I think Foligno will help and it matters, and I recognize Toronto was also paying for double retention...even if the cost is high.
Brigstew: I’ll be blunt — it will feel like paying too much if they don’t win the Cup. If they at least make a deep run to the semi-finals or Cup finals I might be more accepting it of it. But I will admit a personal bias to this, since I’ve spent so much time in the last year diving into draft prospects, but I am also of the general belief that giving up a first round pick for a rental is seldom a good idea if it doesn’t work out. I understand and accept the reasons why this trade happened and why it cost what it did, but that doesn’t mean I necessarily like it.
Katya: I don’t care, and I think the difference between a second and a first on average is not even as large as the value difference between Nick Robertson and Timothy Liljegren as prospects now.
Omar: In theory but I just wanted the Leafs to walk out of the trade deadline with Sandin, Robertson and Liljegren still in the organization. Additionally, you can find talent outside of the first round and the Leafs have proved that. If giving up a first is what it takes to make the Leafs a better playoff trade than the first round pick is a slow shrug for me.
Seldo: This is a make it up as you go along draft, with no real scouting this year or late last year. The position the Leafs are in right now is the perfect time to bring back the old “draft schmaft” motto.
Species: The downside risk here is we could have ten years of hearing about who that first pick turns into, even though the Leafs probably wouldn’t have drafted that same player anyway, it’ll be all about how “Dirk McShooter just scored his 30th goal of the 2024-25 season. He could have been a Leaf!” I think that risk is low. Yes of course, any player the Leafs could have selected could be of value to the team in future seasons, but I don’t see the possibility of transformative change coming from that selection in that draft.
3. How do you feel about the trade for Dave Rittich?
Fulemin: It’s fine. A third is about the going rate for this sort of thing, and it puts another layer of protection between us and Playoff Starter Michael Hutchinson, which I have always feared in my heart would come to pass.
Brigstew: Without Andersen coming back this regular season, if ever again, for the Leafs, they 100% needed another goalie. Campbell and Rittich looks a lot better than Campbell and Hutch. And if Campbell gets hurt? Their goalies would be Hutchinson and either Veini Vehvilainen or Joseph Woll. Rittich and Hutch looks a lot better than that, doesn’t it? They gave up a 3rd round pick for that peace of mind, which is just fine for me. Hopefully he’s as good on the Leafs as he has always been against the Leafs.
Katya: I’m a little conflicted. I said Rittich was my choice if Andersen was returning. If he’s not, and I now question heavily if he’s played his last game on the Leafs, then Rittich is an underwhelming addition. All the pressure is on Jack Campbell to continue to perform, no matter what, so at least the Leafs got a very good backup.
Omar: Big Save Dave has been a Leafs killer so I’m happy we get that on our side. I think back to what Colorado went through last season in losing both goaltenders having to rely on Hutchinson. You don’t want to run on the idea of “ifs” but at the same time, Rittich is more of a safety net than Hutch.
Seldo: He’s an upgrade over Hutchinson to platoon with Campbell until Andersen is back, and maybe next season if it works out.
4. Remember the Riley Nash deal? How does that factor in?
Fulemin: It’s of a piece with the Foligno deal. It probably came out of the same trade discussions, and it’s a lesser attempt to address the same issues; I also don’t think it’s coincidental that the Leafs paid for two forwards from the team that frustrated them so much in the August bubble. The price for Nash, unlike the price for Foligno, is fairly painless and I don’t mind buffing up our bottom six a bit. Defence is nice and injuries do happen, after all.
Brigstew: The Leafs, in theory, have different things they can do with their depth now, come playoff time. They have older vets and guys with more offensive flair, perhaps. Now they have some guys who have a history of being very good defensively, which the Leafs did not really have. It’s nice to have the flexibility when constructing their lines.
Katya: I assume Nash will play with Spezza and ... someone, and that might be a very interesting line. I do actually wonder if what we have seen is the end of the Wayne Simmonds experiment, however, which would be sad.
Omar: There’s no such thing as too much depth. Nash, as an option, strengthens the bottom six and gives Keefe more flexibility in the playoffs if he wants to change things up. The biggest part of that deal was the cap relief and we’re seeing the benefits of it already. There’s a lot of Disney Channel vibes I have imagining Nash in the playoffs as every year, a depth vet comes a live in the playoffs out of nowhere. It would be pretty cool if Nash can do that. And if not, at least he’s not on the other side of a team that eliminates us.
Seldo: I did not, thank you for reminding me.
5. How do you feel about Taylor Hall and Curtis Lazar going to Boston for Anders Bjork and a 2nd?
Fulemin: Our instinct with this, as with all events in the universe, is to ask: what about the Leafs? But before we do that, I have to wonder “what about the NHL?” How was this the winning bid for Hall? Everyone in hockey is extremely aware of Taylor Hall and knew he was available. The Sabres retained 50% of Hall’s salary—that still left him with a lot owing, but it suggests at least several teams could have contended for him. So why didn’t anyone beat the Bruins’ price? My guess is some combination of the belief that Hall is flawed, the feeling that injuries he’s suffered have sapped his effectiveness, Hall’s cap hit that would require some teams to get double retention to acquire him, Hall possibly using his NMC to rule out some destinations, and the potential for an extension (or the lack of one) led to this result. All of those make me a little hesitant to rush to judgment, since I can’t measure their impact. That said: it’s a steal for a player of Hall’s calibre and the seeming disinterest in him is weird to me, on the part of Toronto and of everyone else. Given the choice I would have taken him at this cost over Foligno. Is Hall more busted than I think he is?
Brigstew: I feel not very surprised, since any insider for a week now was saying that Buffalo was trying hard to get a first round pick for Hall but there wasn’t any team willing to do it. They said that if it got to Monday, he’d likely be had for a 2nd or even a 3rd round pick. Hall had a NMC so he could control where he went. His stock has REALLY fallen the past two years. He was traded one for one for Adam Larsson at his PEAK value, that’s how the league values him. This is a situation where I disagree with how the league apparently values players, but I can’t deny that’s just how it works. I don’t think anyone should be really surprised by this.
Katya: This trade has actually made me doubt my own evaluation of Hall, who I think is still a very good player. If the Islanders turned him down, and the Capitals weren’t interested in besting that offer, and Dubas seemingly never was interested... that’s a lot of disparate GMs all saying he’s not worth much. Or maybe Kevyn Adams is just bad at this. But Hall’s decline in shooting is not just this season, and his defensive impacts, which were massive, have vanished entirely, so it’s not correct to think Hall is as close to his prime as, say, John Tavares is. I don’t know. Maybe Boston got a bargain, but I don’t really think he’s upped their chances in the playoffs much.
Omar: I’m not surprised of the destination but I am surprised at the return. I’m not sure if the surprise is directed at Kevyn Adams for not getting much or at Don Sweeney for not having to give up much. I also think the perception and on-ice stats of Hall are more grained in the DNA of hockey GMs than we thought. No one wants to be the person who acquired Hall to do nothing in the playoffs. Yes, the Leafs gave up a first for Foligno but I think that speaks more to how badly they wanted him.
Seldo: It was all in Hall’s hands, so that dictated the price. He would only go where he wanted, and he wanted to be a Bruin so Boston could pay less. No need to compare this to other trades where the main target didn’t have an NMC.
6. Do you have an opinion on the Ben Hutton trade?
Fulemin: Not a strong one. For the sake of this article: he’s a capable lower defender and the Leafs can’t count on their top six defence group being perfectly healthy through the spring, so getting a guy who can handle a regular shift and not embarrass himself has some logic to it. He also can apparently kill penalties, in the event that comes up, and I assume that’s one reason the Leafs wanted him rather than just hoping Rasmus Sandin is up to the job. I don’t expect Hutton to displace any of the current six defenders, but he’s a perfectly fine and maybe overqualified 7D. Kyle Dubas has no qualms about burning draft capital this year, eh?
Katya: yeah, whatever
Seldo: He has a World Championship gold so he knows how to win!
Omar: I thought it was the goalie at first but that’s Carter. He’s probably a 7 or 8 on the team. I don’t see him pushing Dermott out of the lineup and it’s interesting that his shot suppression numbers are night and day between this season with the Ducks and last season with the Kings. He lip syncs well too.
7. What about the Alex Barabanov deal?
Fulemin: Barabanov wasn’t going to get much playing time once Foligno and Nylander joined and rejoined the lineup, respectively. This is much akin to the Mikko Lehtonen deal: it sends Barabanov to an NHL team where he’s more wanted. I wouldn’t be surprised if Barabanov scratches out some NHL time on a less competitive roster like the Sharks’; I also wouldn’t be surprised if he returns to the KHL next year. Antti Suomela is a Marlies/taxi squad guy. This is all fine and a nice professional courtesy and we don’t have to talk about it ever again.
Katya: I expected this, as did Kevin Papetti on Twitter. He can play, he’s not going to get minutes on the Leafs and his waiver exemption stopped mattering. They are right up against the SPC limit and some clearing out had to happen. I’m just surprised they took a player back.
Seldo: I forgot Barabanov was on the team.
Omar: I like it for the same reason I liked Lehtonen going to Columbus. Barabanov wasn’t playing anywhere higher than the fourth line and he’ll get an opportunity to get minutes on the Sharks. Would’ve been nice if he got that empty-netter on Saturday lol.
If you were to grade the job Kyle Dubas has done this past week, what would you give him?