The Toronto Maple Leafs have acquired 31-year-old depth forward Eric Fehr, depth defenceman Steven Oleksy and a fourth round pick in 2017 from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for Marlies defenceman Frank Corrado.
Once a regular 30-point contributor in Washington’s bottom six, Fehr has played just 10:55 a night on average in Pittsburgh this season and has chipped in six goals and 11 points in 52 games. His -9.7 CF% relative to teammates is worst among Penguins regulars, although he’s started 52.8% of his 5v5 shifts in the defensive zone (second-highest on the team). He can play center or wing, and has averaged 1:47/night on the penalty kill this season. Fehr was on waivers as recently as Tuesday, but it wouldn’t have made sense to take on the final year of his contract without picking up an asset in the process.
Fehr is signed through 2017-18 at a $2 million cap hit (a buyout on Fehr would therefore cost the Leafs $667,000 for the next two seasons). The Manitoba native will be eligible for the expansion draft under the 40-70 requirement, which will help the Leafs avoid exposing a more valuable player. The Leafs have essentially traded $2 million in cap space (down to $1.05 million if Fehr is with the Marlies) in order to acquire an expansion draft-eligible player as well as a fourth-round draft selection in 2017 which has around a 14% chance of turning into a 100+ game NHL player.
Fehr appears more likely to be injury depth than to play every night for the Leafs, but it remains to be seen what the team’s plans are for the player for the rest of this season and next. Roster limits are relaxed after the deadline, meaning there is little harm in keeping him around as extra depth provided he isn’t taking playing minutes away from the likes of Josh Leivo and Nikita Soshnikov. As far as next season is concerned, the Leafs have shown many times over that they’re willing to bury players in the AHL if there are superior options in terms of young talent with upside.
The Leafs are without a third-round draft choice this year due to the compensation owed on the Lou Lamoriello/Mike Babcock hires and also dealt one of their two second-round picks in the Brian Boyle trade. Therefore, the fourth round pick acquired in the deal gives the Leafs seven picks again in 2017, but it comes at the cost of $2 million on the cap next season, or $1.05 million if Fehr is in the minors playing for the Marlies. The Leafs currently have $18 million in projected cap space for 2017-18 with 16 players under contract, but will have significant bonus overages to deal with.
Oleksy, a 31-year-old right-shot defenceman, has spent the majority of his career in the AHL in the Washington and Pittsburgh organizations. He’ll be headed to the Marlies, who just lost a right-side defenceman in Frank Corrado. Since clearing waivers and joining the Marlies in early February, Corrado posted 12 points in 18 AHL games.
The Leafs are now right up against the 50-contract limit with this 2-for-1 deal, which seemingly would indicate they’re not in the mix for any college/CHL undrafted free agents this Spring.
The sum total of the Leafs’ deadline dealings amounts to Brian Boyle, Eric Fehr, Steven Oleksy and a fourth round pick in exchange for a second round pick, Byron Froese, and Frank Corrado.