The Maple Leafs did nothing, and that’s all right

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Dave Nonis in the stands at the morning skate at the ACC. (Rene Johnston/ Toronto Star)

For the first time since 2006, the Maple Leafs stood pat on trade deadline day.
It was the right move.

On a day where pretty well every team around the Leafs got better, there wasn’t a whole lot out there that made sense for this team to do, in part because of cap constraints.

The Leafs already don’t have a second round pick for the upcoming draft, so moving multiple picks — which is what netted Goc, Hemsky and MacDonald — would have gutted their draft pick stocks. Going into the draft with, say, only a 1st and 4th just so that Marcel Goc can play on the Leafs third line instead of Peter Holland doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

There are a group of good productive players that went for only a single draft pick, and usually not even a significant one. Penner and Robidas were traded for 4th round picks, Stempniak went for a 3rd, and Weaver went for a 5th. The issue with bringing in any of these players is that someone would have had to have been moved out to make space. Is it worth bringing in Penner and trading Kulemin away? Or trading for Stempniak and moving out Raymond? You can argue the Leafs might have been able to trade a fourth for one of those players before turning and acquiring a third for one of their own guys (unlikely due to the market this Deadline, but we’ll roll with it), yet all it would result in is the Leafs needlessly moving around deck chairs on a team that’s sitting in a playoff spot as is. Why mess with it just to bring in a new guy? That’s called shiny toy syndrome.

Moving beyond the players moved for draft picks, there were some guys traded that would have just made no sense for the Leafs to acquire. A guy like Tuomo Ruutu, with his bad contract, serves no purpose in Toronto. Matt Moulson would be nice to have in Toronto, but the Leafs don’t have their second round pick this year or next year, and two of those is what it took to get him out of Buffalo. Do you trade a 1st for Moulson instead? No way. In the same boat, the Kings traded a 2nd and a conditional 3rd (along with Matt Frattin) for a player in Marian Gaborik who flat out hasn’t been very good. Gaborik could turn it around and there’s no question he’s a great player when he’s on his game, but given what we know right now and his price tag that’s another move that would have been a head scratcher for the Leafs. Getting David Legwand for a good prospect, reasonable pick and a roster player would have made even less sense, and let’s not even talk about Martin Erat.

If there’s one guy the Leafs probably missed out on it is Thomas Vanek just on account of the dirt cheap price paid for him by Montreal relative to how good he is. Ultimately, though, that’s the result of being right up against the cap and in part counting on Bolland returning to play this season. If the Leafs brought in Vanek, it would have required a series of moves to fit him under the cap and, at this stage, it doesn’t appear the management group thought that was worth it considering where this team is situated in their development. While the Leafs don’t get a pass for not having cap space, living in the moment of the deadline, it was apparent their hands were tied. Other than Vanek, it didn’t make sense to add a piece for one pick and trade one of their own for a pick to make space just for the sake of change.

There were good players that moved the last two days, but the Leafs are relatively full up. Is JVR-Bozak-Kessel, Lupul-Kadri-Kulemin, Raymond-Holland-Clarkson, a contending top nine? Probably not. But there wasn’t one player that was moved the last few days that would have changed that save for maybe Vanek (St. Louis doesn’t count because he was only going to the Rangers) in a wide-open East.

It’s also important to remember that, most importantly, the Leafs are in a playoff spot right now and in good shape. They need to play .500 hockey down the stretch here to clinch and young talent like Holland, Gardiner, Rielly and Kadri (we forget how young he is) are going to play prime roles and get opportunities to learn and grow down the stretch. The other positive, as far as I can see, is that Vancouver wasn’t picked apart yet as some had thought. Kesler and Edler are still there for the taking come draft day, and even a rumoured potential seller in Carolina didn’t move out any big names like a Skinner or a Staal. With trading chips such as Reimer, Franson and more in Nonis’ pocket, the Leafs are going to go into the summer with cap space and will be primed to make a move to add a big piece (hopefully a top-four defenseman).

For now, though, let’s see what this team can do. They didn’t need to make a move to help boost them into a playoff spot; they’re already there. They are set in net and they have their top defenseman locked up long term, with two promising kids in Gardiner and Rielly getting opportunity and ice time (and how about the great play of Paul Ranger lately?). Peter Holland is getting a chance here to make a statement for next season and the top line is rolling. Whenever the second line is Lupul-Kadri-Kulemin it does well and provides a nice balance, so hopefully that sticks. If Bolland can return and contribute, and Clarkson can ever contribute something, this team is in pretty good shape. There isn’t one team in the East they should fear like a Chicago, St. Louis or LA out West. Before we look that far ahead, however, this group still has to clinch the playoffs.

The Leafs are a young team that is getting better and in a good spot for a successful offseason considering their expendable assets and cap space. It makes a lot more sense for this team to make a big move at the draft or in the summer and legitimately fix a problem (again, particularly on defense) than it does to trade a pick for a band-aid and subsequently move one of their own to make it fit. It’s frustrating that every team around the Leafs at least appear to have gotten better, but there’s nothing the Leafs can do about that. They have 18 games left now to make the playoffs, with an upcoming five-game road trip that will probably swing their fate for the better or worse. It’s the most exciting time of the season, and Nonis has put his faith in this group to get the job done. It’s up to them now.

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Anthony Petrielli has been at MLHS since 2011. He is known for his weekly "Leafs Notebook" feature, and also writes specific analysis pieces. You can contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @APetrielli.
  • Xxxxxnew

    Lou Corleone: Someday, and that day may never come, I’ll call upon you to do a service for me. But until that day, accept this justice as a gift on my daughter’s wedding day.
    Bonasera Bettman: Grazie, Godfather.

  • Jay31

    Great article Anthony, here’s hoping it ends some of the handwringing that’s been going on over the deadline.

    I think we’re going to see that even the deals being lauded right now, like the Vanek deal, might not end up being as great as people are assuming. Vanek took a while to establish chemistry with Tavares and that will likely be the case with whoever he plays with in Montreal. He’s only going to have 18 games to establish it.

  • Syl the Thrill

    Not making any deals yesterday is one of the smartest moves I’ve seen this organization make in a very long time.  Great Job!  Finally, there seems to be a game plan in place.

  • wendelsfist

    Trading for Vanek would have required the leafs to send Clarkson or Lupul just to make salaries work

  • Jmessih

    Barring injuries we will see this for the rest of the year, and I’m okay with that.
    JVR – Bozak – Kessel
    Lupul – Kadri – Kulemin
    Raymond – Bolland – Clarkson
    Ashton – McClement – Bodie
    (Holland)
    Gunner – Dion
    Gards – Franson
    Gleason – Reilly
    (Ranger)
    Bernier
    Reimer

  • Mind Bomb

    Hi Anthony, we still missed the Boat with Robidas I think.  a 4rth or a 3rd would not have gutted us.

  • Burtonboy

    According to some of the TV pundits practically every GM who called Nonis were looking for Rielly ,Kadri and Gardiner for dubious return . Nonis made the right move standing pat. If you look back over the last yr we made a considerable number of moves anyway.

  • Shift_Disturber1

    I’m most curious about the summer. There will be a rejigging. They’ll have had a good look at the group by then.
    There is opportunity then to rework the group and cap flexibility at that time.

  • Mind Bomb

    Gilbey93  We could have made it work, he only has a cap hit of 3.3

  • Xxxxxnew

    A note on Vanek from Minnesota ESPN from just before trade day:
    Wild would be smart to pass on trading for Thomas Vanek
    by Judd Zulgad, 1500ESPN.com
    updated 3 days ago | 3227 views
    There are two things that appear to be near certainties when it comes to Thomas Vanek’s situation.
    One, he will be dealt by the porous New York Islanders before the NHL trade deadline on Wednesday. Two, he will elect to sign with the Minnesota Wild as an unrestricted free agent this offseason, returning to the state where he played college hockey.

  • Jmessih

    Gilbey93 Robidas, has a 3.3 mil cap hit and is coming off a broken leg as a 37 year old. I wanted him too, but the risks were just a little to high for Nonis. I’d agree with him here.

  • NiagaraFallsThunder

    Burtonboy  Exactly…  Gleason and Holland were two great pickups.  We’re in the hunt, and with Bolland back within the next couple weeks hopefully we’ll continue our winning ways.

  • Mind Bomb

    Jmessih Gilbey93   For a 4rth ? thats a reasonable gamble on him returning to Form. Its less that Stempniak got lol

  • Xxxxxnew

    And he has or had a limited NTC which could have meant the Leafs might not have been on his list of teams.

  • Shift_Disturber1

    Mind Bomb JmessihGilbey93  Isn’t he still out for another 4 weeks or so?

  • Burtonboy

    Nonis also said he had offers for his UFA’s but the he would have had to take picks in return. He felt it was unfair to the team to take guys out of the dressing room who have played a significant part in the teams success so far.

  • Mind Bomb

    Xxxxxnew  Thats true, I am not sure where that stands

  • Xxxxxnew

    The video of him snapping his leg on the boards is awful. You don’t see it until the close up near the end. I’m surprised he came back at all.

  • vinoa

    Xxxxxnew  And the league won’t discuss the matter any further. What a joke. Bettman’s really trying to alienate true hockey fans with his favouritism bs.

  • Jmessih

    I’m pretty sure none of you will like this song (you all like your hardcore metal stuff), but this guy is from just outside Toronto and he is THE GUY in the underground world at the moment and has been for a while now (about a year and a half). His voice is pretty damn good, sings better than most girls and not in a way that is voice is feminine but that he can just hit any note that he wants. He has some absolutely amazing songs if you like this style of music or are interested in lyrically good songs, if you are interested check him out. His name is the The Weeknd. 
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNGMWZ1XJvI

  • Mind Bomb

    Xxxxxnew  Didnt stop ANH though. he would have to be medically cleared before the trade though

  • rustynail

    Xxxxxnew  he isn’t back yet

  • Mind Bomb

    hoolihan  Yes we Are :)

  • Xxxxxnew

    I was saying yesterday it would be interesting to know who does or doesn’t have the Leafs on their limited trade deals. Might be getting pissed at some of these deals when we weren’t actually in the running. Kessler’s ‘no Canadian teams’ clause started me thinking.

  • Great Dane

    No reason to waste assets on the rental players.

    The only interesting player that would hit UFA this summer is Stastny, which I a good addition especially if he would sign as a UFA.

    On the defense, Nonis need to make a trade nobody would be UFA is summer that would improve our defense.

    Then on another note Tavares – how long is he willing to stay at the lighthouse where there is absolutely no light in the lighthouse keeper.

  • Jmessih

    Gilbey93 Reimer, Franson and a prospect (Finn, Percy, Brown, someone like that) will be traded to a “shity” team for a good defenceman. We just need to do the math and figure out who lol. I think Nonis HAS to make that trade to upgrade the team. Could potentially trade Jake instead of Franson but Nonis and Lewikie talk about Jake being part of the future so potentially not. But I totally agree with part of the middle pairing being gone in the summer, and I think we should max it out and place all our “expendable” assets in one trade and get a good return.

  • BingoDabber

    Good analysis of the trade deadline MLHS. Calm, smart, and level headed, as I’ve come to expect.

  • Burtonboy

    Great Dane  The fact that the Avs didn’t move Stastney yesterday tells me they are going to be trying hard to re-sign him this summer. ( that’s the rumor on the street anyway) I’m comfortable with Bozak and Kadri anyway

  • mlclearwater

    If the leafs had’ve lost last night, this article would be soooo different IMO

  • Xxxxxnew

    I think you can still trade an injured player if it’s agreed to. Kessel came to the leafs and sat out with his post operation shoulder.

  • MaxwellHowe

    Can’t argue with that Anthony.  I was more interested in moving one of our own UFAs, but once I saw Penner go for a 4th, that option was pretty much out of the question

  • rustynail

    where were you yesterday when all the angry elves were here? :) Nice write up as always

  • Great Dane

    mlclearwater Well – loss or no loss I haven’t changed my view that Carlyle is the one that is holding this team back.

  • Xxxxxnew

    Happens every year …

  • rustynail

    Mind Bomb Xxxxxnew  no he wouldn’t if the Ducks accept him as injured and know the injury

  • phaneufoundlander

    mlclearwater  for sure…I thought the Leafs played well last night except for 2 min lol

  • Xxxxxnew

    Yep, just like Kessel.

  • mlclearwater

    Where most coaches adapt, he seems unwilling too. I don’t know if I totally blame him for our strange play this year but he needs some blame for sure. and also some credit

  • phaneufoundlander

    Finally a
    leafs GM that gets it
    https://twitter.com/dfeschuk/status/441316522665857025: Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis said they are not ready for a rental
    player: ”When you can give up 1st-rd picks or top young players and not
    feel it, you’re ready.”

  • mlclearwater

    MaxwellHowe  we’re likeminded on that

  • Burtonboy

    Mind Bomb hoolihan  The way things are shaping up in the east it could be wide open . Boston are hurting without Siedenburg and McQuaid and Pitt are hurting on the back end also. If you can get in in the east god knows what can happen

  • rustynail

    mlclearwater  you don;t read Anthony enough, the responses however would be much different

  • sharp_angle_shot

    Jmessih  Right on. Other nu-soul/r&b and hip hop artists similar that I dig: James Blake, Shabazz Palaces, Blood Orange, Frank Ocean, Dam-Funk, Sango, Evil Needle, Jaylib, Spectac & Amiri, etc.

  • mlclearwater

    phaneufoundlander mlclearwater  I was sooo fucking angry last night. Drinking crown royal doesnt help that. But just unbelievable this team. When they scored in OT i just stared at the screen, confused

  • rustynail

    Burtonboy Mind Bomb hoolihan  when not if

  • rustynail

    Xxxxxnew  thought yesterday was worse than most

  • Burtonboy

    hoolihan  Lot more fun then crying in your beer all day long :)

  • mlclearwater

    rustynail mlclearwater  ? I read every damn article this site has to offer. ANd always appreciate the articles. ANthony does a good job. More of a general comment that if we lost, more ppl on this site would be all over our inaction yesterday.

  • phaneufoundlander

    mlclearwater phaneufoundlander  I was ready to throw up….thought it was all a bad dream….but have to admit..the first SH goal was a bloody fluke, nonetheless, all caused by a bone head brain dead play by Franson.

  • rustynail

    mlclearwater rustynail  that was my point but the article would not be any different