The Toronto Maple Leafs have acquired a seventh-round draft pick in 2020 from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for veteran forward Eric Fehr, the club announced on Tuesday.
While the main points with this deal are that the Leafs have freed up another contract spot (now down to 48 of 50) ahead of the deadline while receiving a long-shot draft pick in exchange for Fehr, it is worth retracing the steps here, starting with the deal that brought Fehr to Toronto from Pittsburgh alongside Steve Oleksy and a fourth-round pick in 2017 in exchange for Frank Corrado.
Some looked at that deal at the time and wondered why the Leafs didn’t just trade Corrado for a seventh-round pick (as an example) instead of taking back Fehr’s contract in exchange for the fourth. The difference in pick value didn’t seem worth taking on the extra year of Fehr’s $2 million cap hit.
In the end, by holding onto Corrado (who was claimed off of waivers by the Leafs in 2015, and hasn’t established himself as a regular NHLer in three different cities now at age 24) until the deadline last year rather than waiving him at some point during the season, and then taking on Fehr’s contract in the trade, the Leafs managed to squeeze the asset for all it was worth.
They allowed Fehr to compete for a spot in camp the following season, gave him a few looks early in the NHL season out of respect for the well-regarded veteran (while also giving other teams a peek at him), and then sent him to the minors, knowing they did right by Fehr even though no team was likely to pick up his $2 million contract that early on in the season.
They then loaned Fehr out to another AHL team (San Diego) rather than having him eat up key minutes better left for young, developing talent on the Marlies. Later on in the year, with the majority of the 2017-18 salary of Fehr’s now-expiring contract paid for by the Leafs, they flipped him for a seventh-round pick by swinging a trade with a familiar trading partner of Lou Lamoriello’s – Doug Wilson in San Jose.
It certainly helps that Fehr played well in the AHL this season, accumulating 17 goals in 34 games. In the end, though, with some patience and a willingness to eat salary on a player that wasn’t in the club’s long-term plans, the Leafs turned a waiver claim in Corrado into a seventh-round pick (2020) and a fourth-round pick (2017).
Last deadline, the Leafs traded a second round pick (48th overall) for what turned out to be 21 regular season games and six playoff games of Brian Boyle. That was a controversial move at the time (and still is when it comes up) for a team that was not yet ready to contend. In the end, the Leafs squeaked into the playoffs by one point (narrowly avoiding being overtaken by the team they acquired Boyle from, the Lightning), gave Washington a good scare, and went out in six games in round one.
In addition to the significant number of picks the team has made in the last couple of drafts, when the franchise can squeeze a couple of draft picks out of assets like Fehr and Corrado — a waiver claim and a salary dump — it certainly in part helps offset something like the Boyle deal — which may well have been worth it in Leafs’ management’s view anyway, given it helped the Leafs’ young core gain valuable experience playing important games down the stretch and into the playoffs.
Of course, neither of the picks is likely to turn into anything, but they’re extra lottery tickets and trade chips for the Leafs to either use at the draft or package up in a deal. And it speaks to the Leafs’ continued commitment to leaving no stone unturned when it comes to exercising their financial might to accumulate assets and maximize asset value.