Looking back at the 2015 NHL Draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs chose uber-talented winger Mitch Marner fourth overall and passed up defencemen Noah Hanifin (fifth), Ivan Provorov (seventh) and Zach Werenski (eighth). Today, Marner has been demoted to the fourth line in his second NHL season as he figures out the defensive side of the game (nothing strange for a kid), but just last week Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello wanted to stress that the 20-year-old still holds an important role in the future of the organization. “Mitch is an extremely important part of our team, there is no question about that,” Lamoriello said. “I don’t feel in any way whatsoever that Mitch will not get back to where he was in a short period of time. He’ll determine that, the coaches will determine that, I’m extremely comfortable with that, but he’s a very very important part of this organization and an important part of any potential success that we have the ability to have.” Still, considering how the Maple Leafs are currently built with plenty of young scoring depth and a need for blueliners, would the team consider a do-over if they could? With the Carolina Hurricanes in town Thursday night, the Leafs are hosting the team that chose Hanifin in that draft. Carolina, in fact, is a team with the exact opposite needs as Toronto — the hype around them has been built on their excellent collection of defencemen. Meanwhile, scoring is a real sore spot, with the ‘Canes scoring the second-fewest 5-on-5 goals so far with 10 in seven games. “When you look at what they have on that blue line and how much money they’ve invested in it already, they’ve got pieces they have to move,” Nick Kypreos said on Hockey Central at Noon. “They can’t play everybody. The one that comes to mind now is Haydn Fleury. He’s another guy who hasn’t developed as quickly as others have, but I think he’s going to be a good player in this league. “That’s the type of guy now where Ronnie Francis has to go, ‘OK, I can’t play everybody, I can’t pay everybody, I’m going to have to move some of these very good pieces I have on the blue line to get our secondary scoring.’ To me that makes sense now to build a package around Fleury for Carolina to go get Matt Duchene.” The ‘Canes have been one of the many teams linked to Duchene, but a factor that could work against that coming together is his contract. Duchene is paid $6 million against the cap for this season and next before becoming a UFA, and you have to wonder if a budget team like Carolina would pay up for that uncertainty. Consider also that Duchene’s contract would expire in the same year as Jeff Skinner’s.
Why Maple Leafs and Hurricanes look like perfect trade partners
Sportsnet | Oct 26