The Toronto Maple Leafs had a very quiet trade deadline. Only making a single deal when GM Kyle Dubas traded center Par Lindholm for Nic Petan. Fans took this as an opportunity to criticize GM Kyle Dubas. Mostly for not acquiring any “size,” “grit” or “toughness”. Staying quiet on deadline day is not necessarily the sign of failure, however.
A Quiet Deadline For the Leafs
First, let’s look at the trade Dubas did make. Petan seems to be an upgrade on Lindholm. While Petan has been poor offensively, he has been a very effective defensive forward (Petan on the left, Lindholm on the right).
Graphics by Micah Blake McCurdy.
This will upgrade the fourth line. Looking to rely more on skill as opposed to a few years ago when the Leafs had size and strength between Brian Boyle and Matt Martin. The Leafs offence did not need any major tweaking, as much as fans wanted someone like Wayne Simmonds on the roster. The lineups just need to be optimized.
The Trades the Leafs Didn’t Make
The Edmonton Oilers seemed to be pushing hard for right winger Connor Brown. However, nothing ever materialized. Brown was a player that’s been named quite a few times as a player that needs to be traded. This is in order to free cap space for next season.
As reported by @NHLbyMatty sounds like Oilers took a run at getting Connor Brown from Leafs but couldn’t make a deal work. My guess, Benning would have been the player they were pitching in return.
— Ryan Rishaug (@TSNRyanRishaug) February 25, 2019
If the Leafs were to unload Connor Brown, it would likely to be in exchange for something that would have the Leafs not taking any cap back. Matt Benning and Brown both have very similar cap hits. As well, they both last until the end of the 2019-2020 season. With Brown at $2.1 million and Benning at $1.9 million. This is not the type of trade that would free up cap space in preparation for the cap crunch this summer.
Chris Johnston also reported that the Leafs were looking to make a big splash for a right-handed defenseman that didn’t come to fruition. Colin Miller, Brett Pesce and Adam Larsson were all names that were tossed out in speculation. However, the Leafs seem to be going into the playoffs with the only addition this season being Jake Muzzin.
The Overall Results of the Deadline
The Toronto Maple Leafs deadline wasn’t very eventful. However, the lack of adding a “tough” forward isn’t where they lost. The only way the Leafs did poorly at the deadline is if Ron Hainsey keeps playing the top pairing. If coach Mike Babcock takes Hainsey off the top pairing and replaces him with any of Travis Dermott, Jake Gardiner, or Jake Muzzin (like he was acquired to be) the deadline will have been irrelevant.
The current Leafs roster is fully capable of competing for a cup as is, however, the lineups must be optimized in order to do so. Last year during the playoffs, the Boston Bruins didn’t beat the Leafs because they were the tougher team. The Bruins beat the Leafs by exploiting the defensive pairing usage and preying on the weak links on the right side with Hainsey, Nikita Zaitsev, and Roman Polak. If the Leafs start to properly use the players they already have, the weaknesses can be covered up and maybe even get some effective play out of them.
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