So the deadline is over and with it is the sense of urgency around any Leaf related rumour. While teams can still make trades (though not use the player in the playoffs) and we still have NCAA free agency season to look forward to, in reality the rumours of significance are on hold until the summer.
So let’s start there with Elliotte Friedman’s thought(s) on Joe Thornton coming to Toronto…
If Thornton is not sold on the Sharks, and he’s willing to seek out new life (boldly go where no one has gone before), my prediction is Toronto will be a factor. I can’t confirm this, but I believe the Maple Leafs considered adding him now.
Elliotte goes on to discuss how optically it didn’t make sense for Dubas at the deadline, but next season could make more sense…
Thornton’s made it clear he will make his salary fit. He’s a left-hand shot who could feed Auston Matthews/John Tavares from his strong side. (They have spent plenty of time with Zach Hyman and William Nylander on their weak sides, although both have had strong seasons.)
So the Leafs are most certainly still in cap hell this summer and there is a very good chance that some of the players you are currently enjoying as Leafs now, won’t be back next year. Also, some of the players you’ve wanted gone for a while will disappear, so it’s a mixed bag.
Thornton might not come in at the absolute bargain Spezza did, and it’s doubtful that Spezza will even be that much of a bargain next summer, but potentially the Leafs could add Thornton as an affordable option.
I’m not sure I see Thornton necessarily being a top six playmaker for the Leafs, but he’ll be a solid 3rd line option, playing center as needed, and likely wing by default. Basically Spezza, but with a bit more defensive zone responsibility and magnificent hobo beard.
The Leafs rolling a RRSP line of Ontario players wanting to win a cup at home would be a delight, and hope we hear more about this in June.
The Maple Leafs made it clear they weren’t trading Tyson Barrie unless they received two things: a good-enough replacement to keep them in playoff position until currently injured reinforcements arrived, and a sweetener for the future. They would have taken Troy Stecher, but the Canucks didn’t have the picks and made it very clear certain prospects were not available. Ergo, no match. Toronto was also looking for more of a Kevin Shattenkirk circa 2017 return than, say, a third-rounder. That’s right out of the Brian Burke school of managing: don’t make a trade for less than you want, because everyone knows you’ll eventually cave.
So if you were wondering what could have been for Tyson Barrie, well, it was going to be Troy Stecher, and a mid tier prospect from the Canucks, which I’m going to assume took Hoglander, Podkolzin, Lind, Juolevi, and Woo out of the equation, and after that, why bother.
If Dubas was only getting offered a 3rd for Barrie, we’re certainly seeing why today it was a good decision to not dump him for the sake of dumping him. It still remains a concern that the NHL GMs aren’t wanting to work seriously with Dubas, though in the Canucks case, they had no other picks to offer.
Finally, on Toronto: A few teams were wondering what was up when Dubas sent out a note 45 minutes before the deadline looking for a forward. They thought it was weird Dmytro Timashov would be lost on waivers and then the Maple Leafs would be trying to add. (Timashov had asked for a trade weeks ago, and may have asked to be placed on waivers as Sven Baertschi did this year.) Another GM, though, thought Dubas was slyly trying to snare an inexpensive forward at the last second from a team that suddenly had one too many.
I’m not comfortable with the notion that Dmytro Timashov was a viable NHL option. Sure for the Red Wings, the ship has sailed on viable NHL options for them a while ago, but not for the Leafs. Finding a discount bin forward to replace Andreas Johnsson would have been nice, but having to pay full price wouldn’t have been, and when you combine the interest the Leafs had in Thornton, with the this last minute push, and Thornton’s desire to move on from San Jose, it seems unfortunate that something couldn’t have been worked out there.