Tyson Barrie of the Toronto Maple Leafs
Photo: @MapleLeafs

Four days away from the NHL trade deadline, the Toronto Maple Leafs are facing their steepest adversity of the season. In today’s Leafs Links, the insiders debate the team’s mindset and possible pursuits in the final days before the trade freeze.

Leafs Links

Friedman discusses the likelihood of a Tyson Barrie trade (Sportsnet)
On Tim & Sid, Elliotte Friedman discussed the adversity the team is facing and how it affects the team’s plans in the remaining days leading up to the deadline.

On the adversity the team is facing and what they might do:

How could you not listen to what Keefe said yesterday and not think about Babcock? It’s 100% the same. The players wanted a change and they got the change. They made the one deal today for Malgin and I think they’re definitely looking for bottom-six forwards to add some depth. We know they are looking for a right-shot D. The biggest difference between these two teams last night — besides the ridiculous passes Crosby was making — was that one team wanted it a lot more than the other one did. Malkin skates off during the warm up and Pittsburgh dominated. They won every battle. At some point in time, the will has to match the skill. It wasn’t there last night. It wasn’t even close.

On the likelihood of a Tyson Barrie trade:

I’d hate to give you a number. What I think is, if you go back a couple of weeks, the intel I had was that Toronto was going to take the time up until the deadline to figure out what they were going to do with their rentals and if they needed to bring in another D. I think they always looked at it as — if they could find a right-shot D or a D who can play the right side who they can control for a while, they were willing to do that. This is before Ceci got hurt and this is before Johnsson got hurt. I think they had multiple balls in the air to say, “If we bring multiple people in, to make it work cap-wise, we are going to have to move somebody out, so what is the value on these guys?”

We saw what happened yesterday and what the value is on rental deals. I think they know if they put Barrie out there, there would be interest in him. It hasn’t fit this year between Barrie and the Maple Leafs, but that doesn’t mean Barrie is a bad player. I think there are people out there who think Barrie could help them in the playoffs. But the bottom line is: I don’t think Toronto is going to give up on their season. If trading him makes them worse, and they can’t do anything to make themselves better, I don’t see it happening.

They’ve lost a bunch of picks. They traded a couple picks for Campbell and Clifford. We know about the pick they traded with Marleau. If they did something else that made themselves strong and they wanted to reacquire picks, I think they know they could do it.

Bob McKenzie on the Leafs’ hunt for a right-shot defenseman (NBC Sports)
Bob McKenzie joined Our Line Starts on NBC Sports to discuss the Leafs’ plans before the deadline hits on Feb. 24 at 3 p.m. EST.

I don’t think that the Leafs are in the mindset that they must do something by Monday to correct what is wrong with the team. What they need to do by Monday might not be available to them. For weeks now, they’ve been looking for a right-shot defenseman with term who can play in their top four who they could put on a pair with Morgan Rielly for the next 1-2-3-4 years. It is not an easy needle to thread because for those relatively young defensemen, they know they’re going to have to give up a Kasperi Kapanen to do it, but they’ve also been decimated with injuries. That is not an excuse; it’s just to point out that a lot of their forward depth that the Toronto Maple Leafs had has dissipated because of injury, so now I think they’d be fine trading Kapanen — who hasn’t played well at all this year and his numbers are way off — for the right defenseman. They just haven’t found the right defenseman.

LeBrun discusses Malgin acquisition, possible interest in Ristolainen (TSN1050)
LeBrun joined TSN Overdrive on Wednesday evening to discuss the Leafs‘ search for long-term defense help.

On the Malgin acquisition:

Denis Malgin has asked for a trade repeatedly over the last several weeks. He has bounced around that lineup. I know the Leafs have had their eye on this guy for a bit. They see upside with a change of scenery in this guy. He is a bottom-six guy but he’s got some skill. He is not a big guy. Ironically, what Dale Tallon likes in Marchment is the grit and physicality he brings to his lineup. At the end of the day, the Leafs view this as a player they signed as a UFA and turned him into a younger, skilled guy, or they hope a guy who can show his skill. We’ll see. It could be a nothing trade at the end of the day, but it would be funny if one of those two players, if these two teams are separated by a point, does something for either team.

On the team’s desire to address the defense position:

I know they feel in their hearts — or this is what I believe — that if they can get the big fish, the top-four right-handed D, it’s not just to salvage this year — although that would be the biggest long-term benefit — it’s that it’s something they needed to this summer anyway. Can they kill two birds with one stone? They are making calls, believe me.

On the names they’re exploring:

Matt Dumba, Josh Manson, and Rasmus Ristolainen are the obvious guys. I will tell you that I do believe there has been some level of communication between the Sabres and Leafs, and I think that thing has been left at right now that the two teams can’t make that go before next Monday. If they even go back to it, it would be a summer thing for cap reasons and all kinds of things. Maybe I’m wrong and they get back at it.

I do believe there has been conversations with Minnesota about Matt Dumba. Bill Guerin has told teams around the league he needs a young center and this and that. Right now, I am not seeing the pieces coming from Toronto.

Manson, to me, is an overbuy. Even though I think Bob Murray is really disappointed in his team this year and is listening on guys that may surprise you, I think he is one of the cornerstone guys where they say, “This guy is one of our heart-and-soul guys. Blow us away.” The only way you get him out of Anaheim is an overpay.