Toronto Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs are the most interesting Canadian team to keep an eye on heading towards next week’s deadline, given their spot in the standings and the related possibility of them doing something aggressive.
Needs: A top-six forward and a bottom-pair defenceman. Insert “goalie” here depending on your level of injury concern with Freddy Andersen and/or Jack Campbell.
It’s worth noting that there’s no scenario where the Leafs can bring in a quality starting goaltender without giving up valuable assets. Bringing in another goalie who just “might be OK” (the name “Linus Ullmark” is on my mind for some reason) feels like a wasted chance to genuinely improve roster weaknesses. Anyone below the tier of Andersen/Campbell is just a vaguely repackaged Michael Hutchinson, so there’d be no point. Rolling the dice on one of Andersen/Campbell being healthy and playing well is a gamble, but one I feel they have to make.
Best (reasonable) case scenario: For me, it’s Nick Foligno (the actual “best-case scenario” probably includes David Savard if you’re doing a deal with Columbus, but then you’re looking at giving up big-name prospects and picks at that point). Foligno’s got that playoff-style game. He can kill penalties, contribute offensively and be the type of player that would help the Leafs when their stars have quiet nights. He’s a physical player and would be reminiscent of the adds Tampa Bay made last season.
What likely happens: I’d be least surprised by the add of Mikael Granlund and a physical D-man who can kill penalties and defend well enough in limited minutes. I don’t expect them to trade any of Rodion Amirov, Nick Robertson or Rasmus Sandin.
This is a wildly contradictory sentence, but here it goes: “Good news, Brendan Gallagher is hurt.” To be clear, it’s really bad news for Gallagher and the Habs, of course, who are jockeying for a playoff spot in the North Division. But they ARE very likely to get into the post-season one way or another, and Gallagher being out may allow them to add a player worth up to $3.75 million without subtracting from their roster. Then they can hopefully get Gallagher back when the playoffs start.
Needs: You can make the case that the Habs are the deepest team in the division, which means they don’t just need bodies that can play, they need high-end talent to combat their lack of top-end skill (when compared to the other North playoff teams). Another player from the mould of Eric Staal (a big centre) wouldn’t hurt, but they’d probably be best served adding a high-end D-man, a la Mattias Ekholm.