Toronto Maple Leafs add Depth with Tomas Plekanec

SUNRISE, FL - FEBRUARY 27: Tomas Plekanec #19 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates prior to the game against the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on February 27, 2018 in Sunrise, Florida. The Panthers defeated the Maple Leafs 3-2 in overtime. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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The NHL trade deadline has come and gone for the 2018 season, but some fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs are left unsatisfied. Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello only acquired one new player, Tomas Plekanec from the Montreal Canadiens for forward Kerby Rychel, defenceman Rinat Valiev, and a second-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.

Kyle Baun was also sent to join the Maple Leafs, but will continue his development in the AHL playing for the Toronto Marlies. Baun is 25 years old and has played five games in two seasons (2014-2016) with the Chicago Blackhawks. Kyle Baun is very optimistic about his move to Toronto and was quoted saying, “it’s an exciting homecoming”.

Although disappointment is understandable it should not be warranted. Toronto has effectively added three new players: Tomas Plekanec, Travis Dermott, and Kasperi Kapanen.

Tomas Plekanec Provides Centre Depth to the Toronto Maple Leafs

Tomas Plekanec was traded on Sunday, February 25th. He became the third new piece for the Leafs. The Montreal Canadiens are retaining 50% of Plekanec’s salary, which leaves Lou Lamoriello almost three million dollars in cap space. Sportsnet has described this transaction between division rivals as “a very affordable deal”. Tomas Plekanec is a veteran centre. He has played 983 games in the national hockey league and registered 232 goals and 373 assists. If Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock properly aligns Plekanec with some talent, he should excel in Toronto. Don’t misunderstand my analysis, 35-year-old Plekanec is not a top six player anymore. However, he stll brings sharp defensive play, a solid face-off record, and can be utilized for the penalty kill.

Kasperi Kapanen

Kasperi Kapanen is only 21 years old. He contributed six points in 23 games, despite never playing more then 12:30 in any game in February. He was called up on January 29th and directly took over for veteran winger Matt Martin. Kapanen should receive more playing time for the Leafs. With that comes more offensive opportunities. He’s moved up the lineup with Auston Matthews injury. However, even if he moves back down the lineup, the presence of a centre like Plekanec means that Kapanen will be on a better line, than when he flanked Dominic Moore.

Travis Dermott

Travis Dermott was also recalled from the Marlies. He came up on January 5th and has been a serious contributor on the Leafs blue line. He has seen an increase in minutes played, allowing the 21-year-old defenseman to register eight points in 23 games. Dermott has averaged about 18 minutes a night for Toronto. His stat line can attest to the opportunity he has had with the young Leafs bench.

Toronto Maple Leafs hopeful for playoff run

Toronto has seen a noteworthy development over the last month or two, and its fool-hardy to think that Kasperi Kapanen and Travis Dermott haven’t had a sizeable roll in the Maple Leaf’s success. Other key factors have been the increase in performance from a new dynamic duo of Nazem Kadri and Mitch Marner which has created another elite scoring line in Toronto. The home games have also been plentiful, permitting many different players to have substantial roles during the Maple Leaf’s current season.

Leafs general manager Lou Lamriello spoke about Plekanec after the trade. He said, “he fits right in with what we’re trying to do and where we’re going.”

Tomas Plekanec is an efficient hockey player who excels at doing the smaller jobs to support other players. The Maple Leafs did not bring Plekanec in to take over the team. He serves as a complimentary piece to help the bottom line.

Last season, Brian Boyle was brought into Toronto to fill the fourth centre role but Plekanec is a more natural fit for the job. He plays with a pace which is more conducive to the Toronto offence. Claude Julien coached Plekanec in Montreal and spoke to the effect that Plekanec can have in the NHL. Julien said, “(Plekanec) takes those little details to heart and executes them well, which at the end makes a big difference in the game.”

NHL trade deadline

There are Toronto fans that believe the Maple Leafs should have acquired players like Rick Nash who was recently acquired by the Boston Bruins or Ryan McDonagh who ended up in Tampa Bay. It would be nice for Toronto to add veteran blueline talent, it simply wasn’t in the cards.

It’s important to see past the big NHL names and focus on how teams play. A player needs to be comfortable fitting in with his new club. For Dermott and Kapanen, it was easy. The Leaf’s are a team that plays with speed, and they’re both elite skaters who apprenticed for a considerable period under Sheldon Keefe with the AHL Marlies.

The Maple Leafs may not have added Nash or McDonagh, but they kept the prospects and future draft picks. Keep that in mind when Drew Doughty and Erik Karlsson may still become available for trades in June, or as free agents in 2019.

When Canadiens Artturi Lehkonen was asked if he had spoken with Plekanec, he said “I just said when we’re going to meet, hopefully, he brings his A game.” The Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens meet for two more games this season, both in Toronto. First on March 17th then on April 7th. The second game also happens to be the last game of the regular season. The Canadiens will be heading home afterwards. Meanwhile, they watch their former teammate Plekanec head to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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