Leafs' lack of activity on trade deadline day unexciting, but understandable

Feb 24 2020, 3:38 pm

The Toronto Maple Leafs didn’t do anything too special on trade deadline day. After a few minor acquisitions earlier in the month, general manager Kyle Dubas stayed mostly pat: no current roster players, no draft picks, and no young prospects were shipped out before Monday’s 3 pm ET deadline.

The Leafs made three minor deals, but none that should significantly impact their team this season.

Recently-waived goaltender Michael Hutchinson was traded to Colorado for Calle Rosen, a 26-year old defenceman who the Leafs originally signed in 2017. Toronto also acquired AHL forward Matt Lorito for defenceman Jordan Schmaltz.

They also added a fifth-round pick, as the third team involved in the Robin Lehner trade.

But it was the lack of big moves that had many concerned, as the Leafs are narrowly holding onto a playoff spot in a tight Atlantic Division. Toronto had an option to either buy or sell, and they really didn’t do much of either.

While analyzing big blockbuster moves is more fun, let’s break down each major non-move, and why it’s an acceptable course of action for the Leafs at this current point in time.

Tyson Barrie

In his first season with the Leafs, defenceman Tyson Barrie has put up five goals and 30 assists in 63 games, while playing a little under 22 minutes a night.

At a cap hit of just $2.75 million (Colorado retained half of it when they traded him to Toronto this summer) and on an expiring contract, the right-shooting Barrie would be a great fit for almost any team looking to add an offensively gifted defenceman for the stretch run.

It hasn’t always been smooth sailing with Barrie in Toronto. His season numbers are quite a way off from his career-high 59 points last year, and the Leafs are being outscored (albeit slightly) 65-61 with Barrie on the ice at even strength this season. A few too many giveaways, errant point shots and times getting skated past in his own zone have provided fuel for Barrie’s critics.

But while he hasn’t quite looked the part at all times, removing Barrie from the Leafs’ mix would still create a fairly large gap on an already-depleted D-corps.

If the Leafs had moved on from Barrie and there wasn’t another move to come, Morgan Rielly and Cody Ceci’s injuries would leave just Jake Muzzin as the only healthy defenceman on the roster to have played a full NHL season.

It seems unlikely any general manager would be alright with running a group with that little experience, regardless of they’re competing for a Stanley Cup or tanking for a top draft pick.

Alex Kerfoot

While Barrie was in trade rumours mostly due to his pending UFA stats, Alex Kerfoot saw his name there for different reasons: he hasn’t been scoring much, and could use a second fresh start this season.

Kerfoot’s strong defensive game has been as advertised, as he’s put up the second-best shot attempts against rate amongst regular Leafs forwards. Kerfoot’s on a contract for three more years after this one, with a cap hit of $3.5 million.

But he’s on pace for 12 goals and 37 points for this year, which would both be lower totals than each of his first two seasons in the league. At times when the Leafs have needed secondary scoring this year, he hasn’t really stepped up, with just five goals in his last 44 games.

If the Leafs were to be moving on, it would be selling low on what’s still a valuable player. There’s not too much of a market for middle-six forwards having a rough offensive year. It’s unlikely the Leafs would have recouped an asset that would have contributed to their playoff push, and selling a player they’ve locked up for three more years seems counterintuitive in the long run.

Kasperi Kapanen

Kasperi Kapanen was the third main trade chip being floated, as a decent winger on a team with a number of them. Andreas Johnsson’s injury diagnosis of six months depleted that strength, and likely killed any real chance of the Leafs moving the 23-year-old Finn.

Kapanen’s shown flashes of brilliance throughout his time with the Leafs, including potting 20 goals in his first full NHL season last year, with his speed is likely the fastest on the team.

But he’s also prone to struggling for long stretches, as he has seen separate goalless droughts of seven, 11, and 13 games already this year.

Despite some struggles, he’s not really hurting the Leafs, as his penalty kill skills are strong and the team has still managed to put up the second most goals in the league to date.

There’s not really much to unpack here: the Leafs probably weren’t shopping Kapanen at this point in time, and no offers came in that were attractive enough to move on from him.