Trade Deadline Day Primer

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I’ll do a quick run through the rumour mill:

Jacob Middlton

My personal favourite.

Call me a pessimist if you’d like, but losing to the Montreal Canadiens last year still has me doubting this core’s will to win. For this reason I don’t think I’d be thrilled with paying, for instance, a 1st and two 2nd round picks for a rental defender, such as the Boston Bruins did for Hampus Lindholm. Now, there’s something to be said about the fact that they are on the cusp of re-signing the rangy defender to an 8 year contract extension and that’s something the Leafs wouldn’t be able to do if they added a significant piece this year, but I digress.

Jacob Middleton is a restricted free agent this summer and makes just $725K towards the cap. He’ll get a raise next season, but it won’t come close to the rumoured $6.5M that it will cost to re-sign Lindholm. Instead, my guess is that it will come in at around the same rate as Travis Dermott’s $1.5M contract.

Middleton is really just breaking into the league at 26 years old, but is playing 19 minutes a night for a poor San Jose team. He’s logging around a minute and a half a night while shorthanded and playing 5v5 minutes on the top pair with Brent Burns. The hulking blueliner (6’3″ 210lbs and he plays like it) isn’t about to light up the score sheet, but his 6.16 Hits/60 would put him among the top of the Leafs in that category, behind Ilya Lyubushkin (12 Hits/60), Kyle Clifford (11.93 Hits/60) and Wayne Simmonds (11 Hits/60), and just ahead of Rasmus Sandin (6.10 Hits/60). If being so close to Sandin throws you off don’t worry, he throws more hits than you think, they simply aren’t as noticeable due to his smaller frame.

He’s also a willing shot blocker. His 6.16 Blk/60 would lead the Leafs. For reference, Justin Holl (4.61 Blk/60), T.J. Brodie (4.03 Blk/60) and Timothy Liljegren (3.76 Blk/60) currently lead the way for the team. I’m surprised that Jake Muzzin, long touted as the clubs most physical defender is so low in both categories (6th in hits and 4th in blocks), he has historically been among the top, but perhaps that is simply part of why things haven’t been clicking for him this season.

Last, but certainly not least, theres the fact that Middleton is a willing pugilist. Something that the Leafs have been missing for a very long time now is a player on the roster that’s willing to drop the gloves but can also play more than a 4th line role. Their blueline has been very thin on heavy hitting/physical players in particular, due to management mainly opting for pure enforcers such as Matt Martin and Kyle Clifford. Wayne Simmonds was brought in to fill more than a protection role but through the natural regression from years of physical play, it appears that hes limited to an enforcer role as well at this point in his career. The hope would be that Middleton could be closer to Scott Mayfield than that. In fact, Mayfield is exactly the player I’d use as a comparable based on the fact that he was also in his mid 20s before he stuck in the NHL and they play a similar style of game. The biggest difference being that Mayfield is a right shot and Middleton shoots left. Rumour has it that the Islanders are willing to move on from Mayfield, but the cost is substantially higher than the one for Middleton, with a 1st round pick as the starting point. While he’s more of an unknown quantity than Mayfield, the rumoured price, potential upside and the fact that he could be on the roster for the next 5-8 years makes the lower price much more palatable.

Mark Giordano

Not what the Leafs need in my opinion, but it certainly seems as if the Toronto, Ontario native is destined to finish this season with his hometown team.

Giordano doesn’t throw the body around very much, but he’s not afraid to block a shot. His 4.97 Blk/60 would lead the Leafs defenders, which, at this point, might be an indictment on the Leafs blueliners, rather than a compliment to anybody they bring in. Shot blocking is a skill and it isn’t one that this team has.

At 38 years old Giordano is nearing the finish line of his career, so this would be an opportunity for him to wear the Maple Leafs jersey and, hopefully, push this team to another level. He’s a legitimate top 4 defender on most teams in the league, but what has most fans worried is that he’s really just more of what the team already has. He’s better than some players on the roster, such as Justin Holl, Travis Dermott (more on him later) and Timothy Liljegren, but, like them, he doesn’t add a different element to the team. One of the biggest criticisms of this team is that they aren’t big enough and/or strong enough on the blueline, which leads to the inability to box to players out of the slot and to fight for pucks in the corner. At 6’1″, 200lbs, Giordano isn’t changing that.

However, there are positives. As I said, he’s a legitimate top 4 defender and plays with veteran savvy. He’d come with built in chemistry with T.J. Brodie, who he played with for years in Calgary and it’s my theory that this is why they’ve been trying to pair Morgan Rielly with players such as Timothy Liljegren and Ilya Lyubushkin. If they can find a suitable partner for Rielly that isn’t Brodie, then they can trade for Giordano and hit the ground running, instead of having to give him time to acclimate to a new partner.

Giordano has been playing over 21 minutes a night in Seattle this season, in all situations. They wouldn’t demand that much from him here, as Morgan Rielly, T.J. Brodie and Jake Muzzin (when/if healthy) are capable of taking on those big minutes. You have to wonder if the veteran defender would be a little more effective with slightly less time on ice. With fresh legs he could really bring an honest effort every shift, which would improve the teams depth and bolster their chances at defending against some of the deeper teams in the playoffs.

The price to trade for Giordano is up in the air. It’s believed that Ron Francis wants a 1st round pick, but Kyle Dubas is hesitant to trade his top assets after the Nick Foligno flop. With a modified no trade clause in hand, Giordano does have some control over where he goes and the belief is that Seattle would prefer to grant his wish and send him to whichever team he wants to play for. However, this doesn’t mean the Leafs can trade scraps for him. If the return isn’t there then Gio will end up somewhere else for the stretch run.

Justin Braun

The belief is that Braun would be the backup option for Kyle Dubas if he strikes out on Mark Giordano.

Braun is a big RHD that can give you 18-20 honest minutes every night. He’s a sound penalty killer and terrific shot blocker.

With an expiring contract that pays him just 1.8M, Braun would be a solid addition to bolster the depth of this group. If the Flyers are willing to retain 50% of his deal this could also leave room to add elsewhere.

Andrew Copp

I won’t spend much time on this one because I believe the Leafs are simply kicking tires, rather than showing genuind interest in Copp.

There’s this:

I watch a lot of Jet games, Andrew Copp is a hard working guy, never seems to take a shift off, Jets have reached the sellers stage, might be a good pickup cheap.
– maple1967leafs

Copp would be terrific scoring depth (13G, 32Pts, 55GP this year) for a team that needs just that and is always short on players that work hard. He leads all of Winnipeg’s forwards in TOI/GP while shorthanded (2:31/TOI/SH) and is a steady contributor on the powerplay as well. On paper he’s the ideal addition to the team, but it’s unlikely that they could afford to retain his services after the playoffs end. The 27 year old will likely demand a raise over his current $3.64M contract, which should price him out of Toronto this summer.

Tyler Motte

I can’t seem to figure out why the Leafs would have interest in Motte. It’s believed that Kyle Dubas wants to bolster his depth scoring and that’s not something that Motte would accomplish. With 15pts in 48 games played this year, he’s on pace to blow his career high of 16pts in 74 games out of the water. That’s not to say that he doesn’t have his uses. Motte isn’t short on effort and can help your penalty kill, but this one simply doesn’t appear to be a fit to me.

Rickard Rakell

Rakell is more offensive minded than either one of Copp or Motte, which could help the Tavares/Nylander line down the stretch. They’ve been leaving a lot on the ice most nights and getting those two going has to be high on Kyle Duas’ priority list.

The Anaheim Ducks made out like bandits on the Hampus Lindholm trade, but less so on Josh Manson (who I really wanted the Leafs to get). It’s tough to gauge just how much they can get for Rakell based on those deals, but my guess is that it will cost enough to keep the Leafs from playing ball. If it does turn out that they can land a player like Mark Giordano for less than market value, maybe then they can consider spending the assets it will take to land a player like Rakell or Copp.

Vladislav Namestnikov

This one isn’t a rumour, more of a hunch.

In fact, there are very few rumours out of Detroit these days, as Steve Yzerman tends to keep a lid on his plans.

Namestnikov would be a depth scorer that could play on your 4th line. He has 13G and 25pts in 60 games this season, so he’s not about to challenge in the scoring race, but that’s not what the Leafs are interested in. They aren’t getting much from the Jason Spezza line and are currently at the point where they have moved Alex Kerfoot to that unit to see if they can create a spark. The problem is that they’re consistently skating with one of Wayne Simmonds or Kyle Clifford, who aren’t exactly helping on the offensive side of the puck.

With a contract that carries a caphit of $2M, the Leafs could easily add Namestnikov to the fray. If Detroit is willing to retain 50% of that deal it could be done while not tying the hands of the Leafs to add more from elsewhere as well. While Namestnikov isn’t the type of player I believe the Leafs need, he’s cheap depth that could be obtained at a very reasonable rate. Considering the fact that the Leafs are about 8 players away from being considered tough to play against, I’m not sure that the style of player will matter much at this point in time.

Philippe Myers

This would be a waiver wire addition, as Myers was waived by the Nashville Predators yesterday.

Myers is a 25 year old, 6’5″ RHD that has been playing mostly on Nashville’s secondary penalty kill unit and 3rd pair this season. He’s taken a sudden fall from his days in Philadelphia, where he was playing more consistently in their top 4. Myers is signed through next season at $2.55M and will likely be claimed by a team with a higher waiver priority than Toronto. However, they should definitely put in a claim and hope he drops to them. Myers still has top 4 potential, but is a reclamation project. He skates well for a big man, which is the toughest thing to teach. Considering he has that going for him this is a project worth taking on.

Honourable Mentions

There are always a ton of names floating around, but I don’t have the time or patience to spend on most of them. There aren’t a lot of forward’s being talked about, as defenders are the name of the game right now. Other players to keep an eye on include Scott Mayfield (NYI), Colin Miller (BUF), Nick Paul (OTT), Max Domi (CLB), Derick Brassard (PHI), Calvin De Haan (CHI), Marc-Andre Fleury (G) and Paul Stastny (WPG).

Travis Dermott

This is a different type of trade candidate. It appears that last night was Dermotts final game as a Toronto Maple Leaf and he knows it:

Here’s his post game interview:

Travis wore the Leafs jersey with pride, so while many will choose to remember his ill timed spin-o-rama pass that resulted in a goal against last year in the playoffs, I’ll simply wish him luck in the future, hope he does well elsewhere and will never forget the look on his face after he scored his first NHL goal as a member of this organization:

Good luck Derms, you’ll be missed around Leafs Nation.