Currently in first place in the North Division with some cushion beneath them, Kyle Dubas and the Toronto Maple Leafs approached the trade deadline as clear buyers for the first time in decades. Today, they decided that Nick Foligno is their guy and went all-in to get him.

It was reported earlier in the day that multiple teams were willing to trade their first-round pick to acquire the pending-UFA Columbus Blue Jackets captain. The Leafs upped the ante, it appears, by trading away their first-round pick and two fourths to acquire Foligno as well as Stefan Noesen. One of the fourth-round draft picks went to the San Jose Sharks, who took on a portion of the salary retention:

Considering the bidding war at hand and the double salary retention involving a third team, the price is understandable. The big thing for the Leafs was not removing anyone from the current roster.

The price is quite steep for a player in decline, but the Leafs are in a clear go-for-it year, with exactly zero teams they should be scared of in their division and a daunting collection of teams that are likely to be around in the final four (Colorado, Vegas, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Islanders, to name a few — just take your pick). Kyle Dubas made it clear he wanted to see his team do its part to show him he should add, and the Leafs responded with a 9-0-1 tear in their last 10.

In comes Foligno, along with a depth player in Stefan Noesen.

At this point in his career, Foligno, 33, is past his prime but still productive with seven goals and 16 points in 42 games on a fairly lacklustre Columbus team. That’s a long way off from his career-high 73 points in 79 games in the 2014-15 season. It’s noteworthy that his shooting percentage has been down the last two seasons: 7.6 percent last season and 9.6 percent this season compared to a career 11.6 shooting percentage.

This season, Foligno was once again a staple on the top power-play unit, where he was second among forwards in time on ice, and on the penalty kill, where he will leave tied with Cam Atkinson for second on the team in shorthanded time on ice per game. He played most commonly with Boone Jenner and Alexandre Texier, as well as Seth Jones and Zach Werenski at 5v5, logging tough minutes in the process.

While his line didn’t perform too strongly on the whole (a corsi-for under 48% with Jenner and outscored by seven), he has been a consistently strong checker for the majority of his career. Again, it has to be noted that Columbus is a mess this season.

On the Leafs, Foligno won’t be asked to be a primary checker, power-play man, and penalty killer. But the versatility that he offers will be of most use to them. You could reasonably argue for him to play the left wing on the top line in a two-way role, on the second line as a secondary scorer, or as a checker on the third line.

Foligno can also play and contribute on the power play and penalty kill, which are both units that have been inconsistent for the Leafs, leading the coaching staff to tinker with various combinations.

There’s huge value in that for Sheldon Keefe; Dubas has added a ton of versatility to the lineup for him to experiment with through the rest of the season. That depth and versatility will become extremely important come playoff time as we’ve seen repeatedly over the years that the Leafs simply didn’t have the chess pieces to move around depending on the matchups.

Acquiring Foligno also continues a recent trend for the Leafs in bringing in veteran leaders. He is the latest in a growing group that includes Joe Thornton, Wayne Simmonds, Zach Bogosian and Jason Spezza — another good veteran player that isn’t what he once was but offers all kinds of value on and off the ice. Leafs fans saw first hand the competitiveness and physical edge with which Foligno plays the game in last season’s play-in series — in a contention year, this certainly ups the Leafs’ quotient of grit and checking ability that teams universally place a premium on at playoff time.

Through Sheldon Keefe’s first partial season as coach, he continually mentioned the “immaturity” in the group, and his GM has worked hard to address that since.

The acquisition falls in line with what Dubas said earlier this week:

The Leafs are all-in on a playoff run this season. They rightfully should be.

Nick Foligno Scouting Report

from prior to the start of the 2020-21 season, via McKeen’s Yearbook

Clear team leader, capable of playing all three forward positions .. fell to single digits in 5v5 goals (scored eight) for the first time in seven seasons .. established high 20-point scorer at even strength, his 5v4 contributions have dwindled heavily over the past three seasons – settling his all situation production in the 30-point range .. uses strength and clever body positioning to win puck battles along the boards .. relentless forechecker who forces turnovers on initial pressure and when refiring .. advanced defensive instincts .. .. heartily encroaches into dirty areas to retrieve loose pucks and stations himself net-front on the power play .. trusted penalty killer given his discipline .. offers a modest threat shorthanded .. only scored 10 goals in 2019-20 thanks to a career-low shooting percentage of 7.6% .. can expect his goal scoring to rise again as he has a career shooting percentage of 11.7% .. play the short-term averages here for point production.

Nick Foligno Advanced Statistics

2002-03Central Penn PanthersMetJHL31111728119|
Hershey HighUSHS-PA13182341-|
2003-04U.S. National U17 TeamUSDP18791628|
U.S. National U18 TeamNAHL438122044|Playoffs72138
USA U17WHC-17646102|
2004-05U.S. National U18 TeamUSDP42130|
Sudbury WolvesOHL651028381115|Playoffs125510164
2005-06Sudbury WolvesOHL6524467014619|Playoffs10134280
2006-07Sudbury Wolves “A”OHL6631578813513|Playoffs211217293614
2007-08Ottawa SenatorsNHL45639200|Playoffs410120
Binghamton SenatorsAHL2861319164|
2008-09Ottawa SenatorsNHL8117153259-10|
2009-10Ottawa SenatorsNHL6191726536|Playoffs60112-1
USA “A”WC630304|
2010-11Ottawa SenatorsNHL8214203443-19|
2011-12Ottawa SenatorsNHL821532471242|Playoffs71348-1
2012-13Columbus Blue JacketsNHL4561319286|
2013-14Columbus Blue JacketsNHL70182139965|Playoffs420240
2014-15Columbus Blue JacketsNHL793142735016|
2015-16Columbus Blue Jackets “C”NHL7212253753-14|
USA “A”WC1032510-2|
2016-17Columbus Blue Jackets “C”NHL7926255155-4|Playoffs40226-3
2017-18Columbus Blue Jackets “C”NHL72151833501|Playoffs62134-4
2018-19Columbus Blue Jackets “C”NHL731718354412|Playoffs1012342
2019-20Columbus Blue Jackets “C”NHL6710213162-3|Playoffs10246101
2020-21Columbus Blue Jackets “C”NHL42791628-3|
Toronto Maple LeafsNHL-----|