With a playoff spot in hand, courtesy of a win against Nashville, the Leafs return home to play the Florida Panthers, a team mired in a dog fight for the final wildcard position.
This has all the makings of an upset, as I’m sure the Leafs are a little more relaxed now that theres an “X” beside their name in the standings.
They should be primed to deliver though, as they are still jostling for home ice advantage over their 1st round opponent, the Tampa Bay Lightning. They currently have a 5pt lead on the Lightning, with 2 games in hand, so they aren’t in a terrible position there eight, but at this time of year you have to find any way possible to keep your intensity levels high, or else you’ll enter the playoffs too comfortable and that could mean a 1st round exit…. again.
Which brings me to the question of the day:
If the Leafs don’t make it to the 2nd round, which core forward would you trade?
William Nylander: My personal choice is Nylander. In return you would need to get a package of at least three things. 1) A blue chip RD prospect or young player. The better this piece is will directly affect the value of the next two pieces. 2) A 1st round pick. Again, if the defense prospect is that good you can go for a 2nd or 3rd round pick, but a 1st would be preferred, obviously. 3) A winger of lesser value that can slot in on the 2nd line in place of Nylander. This would likely be a 50-65pt player thats signed for a few more years at a reasonable contract, which would maintain the Leafs’ depth up front (this could also, in theory, be ROR if he re-signs and if he or JT moved to the wing, which would open the Leafs up to asking for an additional asset).
Mitch Marner: Mitch “The Straw” Marner would net a massive return, but how do you replace a player that has been at or above a 90pt pace for 5 years straight, makes his linemates better and kills penalties? He just might be the best RWer in the NHL so, while he is expensive, he’s worth it. With that said, he appears to be childish and doesn’t appear to be interested in leaving anything on the table in terms of contract demands. Some people just don’t like Mitch Marner and want him to be the first player out the door. To each their own.
Auston Matthews: Auston “Underpants” Matthews, like Marner, isn’t about to leave a single penny on the table by the look of it. However, he’s one of, if not the best goal scorer in the NHL, he leads all NHL forwards in blocked shots, is elite at stripping players of the puck and raised his game in the playoffs last season. He wants to win, you can see that, but some question his ability to do so. If management gets any inkling that he could walk for nothing it’s an easy decision, you take the insanely massive return you could get for him and run!! But if he’s willing to remain a Maple Leaf long term and costs them a marginal raise, then it’s a no-brainer to keep him. Interesting argument to be made for both sides in my opinion.
John Tavares: He has a No Movement Clause, which means he isn’t leaving unless he decides to go. I don’t think management will ask him to waive that clause either. For what its worth, Tavares has been consistent since he’s been in Toronto and he only has two more seasons on his deal. At the end of that I fully expect him to take a sharp decrease in pay, while remaining a valuable piece to the puzzle. Thats good, right? I think you’re “stuck” with the Captain right now, if you could call having a point-per-game player in the 2C slot being “stuck.”