BUYERS OR SELLERS:
It’s pretty clear the Toronto Maple Leafs have already proved to the rest of the NHL, that they are sellers this deadline, and are still in the rebuild process. Are they “Sabres Tank” mode, or more subtle Florida Panthers or New Jersey Devils rebuild mode. I’d say somewhere in between. I don’t see Lou Lamoriello trading away every piece that has value in order to make sure they bottom out and finish in last place. First, because the lottery system makes it harder for teams that finish in 30th to land the top pick (odds can be found here). Second, because this draft doesn’t have the same jam-packed, star studded draft class that last year did. That’s not to say this year isn’t as good as other years, it’s probably on par with 2014, but it doesn’t have 3 generational talents that 2015 NHL Entry Draft had.
So, now that we now Toronto isn’t going to go nuts this deadline, what should we expect? What players will be rumored, and what players will actually be dealt at the deadline? If we look purely on RFA and UFA, there are a couple of notable names that will garner some attention. For UFA or unrestricted free agents, the list of notable players are Michael Grabner, P.A. Parenteau, Brad Boyes, Mark Acrobello, Roman Polak, and maybe James Reimer. Where the team could get creative is with RFA or restricted free agents. The team could move notable players such as Nazem Kadri or Morgan Rielly. Both are former 1st round picks, and definitely have a lot of trade value. The Leafs should hold onto Rielly, but could package him and a lesser prospect for another team selling a young forward such as Jonathan Drouin, Tyler Ennis, or one of the forwards from Edmonton
Nazem Kadri is having a down season with only 28 points in 52 games, and isn’t really developing into the player the Leafs had hoped when they drafted him in 2009. His best season was in the lockout shortened season, when he had 44 points (18 goals, 26 assists) in only 48 games. Yes the next year he had 50 points (20 goals and 30 assists) but that was over the course of 78 games. He had 30 more games and only produced 6 more points. Easy to say, after the lockout season in 2012-13, fans expectations were extremely high, hoping he’d develop into a point per game player. Those expectations have not been met, and he might benefit from a change of scenery. I definitely can see him being moved at the deadline, as he still has value. If David Perron was able to get a 1st round pick in return, I don’t see how the Leafs wouldn’t be able to do the same, if thats the route they decided to go.
Could the Maple Leafs move James van Riemsdyk, even though he is currently on IR? He would fetch a great return if the team decided to move on from the young big forward. It would certainly create a hole in the offensive category, and would only make sense in order to clear up room to make a full Stamkos run. This trade could come into fruition during the offseason, and could bring just about whatever GM Lou Lamoriello wants. This is something that is less likely to happen, but definitely could help bring in more prospects and picks, if Lou wants to try to restock the player prospect pool.
The UFA list for the Leafs has some decent names, that might be good depth players on some teams, but I do not see them moving more than 2 players at the deadline. The Leafs would be wise to keep the course of the current rebuild and go all in on trying to land Steven Stamkos this off-season if he becomes available. Mitch Marner and William Nylander will be ready to contribute, to in my opinion a playoff bubble team next season, so the necessity to blown this up isn’t there. The Leafs won’t be very active deadline day, and will most likely fill the rest of their needs in free agency this upcoming offseason.