With the combination of the Nashville Predators turning their season around, which in turn has appeared to have taken them out of the sellers market and a trade that saw Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac head to the New York Islanders, Leafs fans have had to reimagine who may be the team’s main target heading into the deadline. Originally it was believed that Palmieri and Mikael Granlund were on the top of Kyle Dubas’ list. Was that even accurate? Did Dubas get outbid by Isles GM and former Leaf GM, Lou Lamoriello? Or was he always looking elsewhere? We may never know the answer to those questions, but we can certainly speculate on his current targets.
Let’s begin. Some of these players have been in the rumour mill for a while, but others are new on the scene:
It wouldn’t be fair to write this and not mention Hall’s name. Edmonton’s former 1st overall selection is having a terrible season in Buffalo and is a lock to be traded before Monday. The only question is where will he end up.
I won’t bore you with stats and figures. The long and short is that Hall can produce a lot of points in the right situation and would look to slot in next to John Tavares and William Nylander, which could prove to be the most lethal second line in the NHL.
They would need to waive or trade a player in order to make the dollars work. That’s true even if they use a 3rd team to retain the maximum amount possible of his 8M cap hit. The CBA stipulates that a players’ contract can be subject to salary retention up to a maximum of two times. The idea would be to send Hall to, for example, the Chicago Blackhawks, with Buffalo first retaining 50% of his deal, which would bring his cap hit from 8M to 4M and then for the Blackhawks to immediately trade him to Toronto, retaining up to an additional 50%, which would bring his cap hit from 4M to 2M. That’s as low as they can get his cap hit, to 2M. However, the Leafs would need to send a player to the minors or taxi squad in order to accommodate that trade, with the best candidates being Alex Galchenyuk or Pierre Engvall. It’s assumed that neither player would pass through waivers and both have been playing well, so I’m not convinced that Kyle Dubas would be keen on waiving either player.
On top of the difficulties of fitting him in under the cap, it’s said that Hall would prefer to waive his no trade clause to a team that would be willing to negotiate an extension. Preferred, but not necessary. This adds a wrinkle, as Toronto wouldn’t be able to accommodate the type of cap hit he would command next season, without sacrificing current roster players. It doesn’t put an end to the possibility of trading for him altogether, but, again, it’s a wrinkle.
Lastly, TSN’s Frank Seravelli has reported that the Leafs are out on Hall and there are questions about them ever really being that involved.
So, in short, I just wasted the time of everybody that read everything above, so please accept my apologies.
One thing that keeps floating around is that the Leafs are interested in players that bring a gritty element to their game. Nick Foligno certainly checks that box.
Once upon a time you could hope for 50+ points from Foligno as well, but those days have passed him by. At 33 years old he can still play a depth role, can help a checking line and can still help a team to win, but he isn’t a top 6 winger. His coaches trust him on the powerplay as well, which the Leafs are desperate for.
I’d venture a guess that Schwartz is high on Dubas’ want list. He’s not the biggest winger out there, but he has a nose for the net and knows how to set his teammates up to score. His name is already on the Stanley Cup, so he knows what it takes to get there as well, which will be a big boost to a team that is lacking in players that have won it all. On paper he would be the perfect complement to Tavares and Nylander and with a cap hit of 5.35M, the pending UFA could fit on the Leafs roster if a third team were involved to retain salary.
The cost may be high and he is going through a down year, however, when he’s on he’s a terrific player.
Savard has been a favourite of mine for a long time now. He’s a physical defender that can help your penalty kill and can play in your top four. The question I have at the moment is where does the big, right shot defender fit? He’s on a lot of fans’ want list, but I’m not entirely sure he’ll make it onto Dubas’.
If you consider the fact that T.J. Brodie can move back to the left side, which would make him a possible partner for Savard or Bogosian, then you could be looking at one of the deepest bluelines in the NHL. They do need to find an upgrade for their 3rd pair, and in this way Savard would make it happen, but it would mean changing the Morgan Rielly/T.J. Brodie pairing and they’ve played well together.
The long and short of it is this; I like the player and he would make the team better overall, so if the price is right I say you do it.
The Flyers have regressed this season and now sit 4pts out of a playoff spot, while 4th placed Boston has 2 games in hand. It’s looking like selling some assets will be the route they take.
Laughton might be a guy they keep if they can re-sign him. He’s only 26 years old and is a former 1st round pick of the Flyers. He has turned into a decent middle 6 player for them, but he’s also a pending UFA. He wouldn’t be as expensive to acquire as a Hall or Schwartz, but could be a good option that can move around the lineup.
Dallas is still on the cusp of selling if you base things on nothing but the standings. They’re 7pts out of the final playoff spot in their division, but they have 3 games in hand. If they can manage to string a few wins together then last years playoff runner-up might want to add, not subtract.
If they do opt to deal away assets, then the 6’7″ Oleksiak would be a terrific addition for the Leafs.
He had his coming out party last season in the playoffs, as his physical and defensive style can shine in the playoffs when the refs put the whistles away.
My only concern might be pairing him with Zach Bogosian on the 3rd pair. The tandem might be ferocious physically, but advancing the puck could present problems. I like the player though, so, as was the case with David Savard, I think if you can add somebody that makes the entire group better you should do it.
Lastly, Oleksiak has been traded twice in his career. The first time he was traded out of Dallas, the second time he was traded back to Dallas. Both trades had the same return, a 4th round pick. After last years playoffs he may cost more than that, but I have my doubts it would be much more.
I’ll end this with a “dang-it!!”
Boone Jenner – Jenner was rumoured to be on the block and would have been a terrific addition to the team. He will miss six weeks with a broken finger. Foligno, Jenner and Savard were among my favourite rumoured trade candidates but Jenner topped that list. Picturing him with Engvall and Mikheyev as a shutdown unit…. well, well, well, that would have been a handful for other teams to say the least.