The expected trade of Travis Dermott has come to fruition Sunday afternoon, as he has been traded to the Vancouver Canucks in return for a 2022 third-round draft selection that originally belonged to the Winnipeg Jets.
We wrote back in the summer when the Leafs signed Travis Dermott to his two-year, $1.5 million AAV contract that he was in a position salary-wise — given the Leafs‘ cap situation — where he may be a shade too expensive for a #7 should he lose the lineup battles to the emerging Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren, and that’s exactly what played out this season.
In 2020-21, Dermott played significantly fewer minutes per game (17 minutes in 2019-20 vs. 13 minutes per game in 2020-21), produced fewer points (six points in 51 games after 11 in 56 last season), contributed on neither side of special teams, and tallied nearly half as many shots on goal as the season prior. He also appeared in just three of seven playoff games, playing well overall in limited 5v5 minutes but committing one egregious mistake leading to a critical goal against in overtime of Game 6.
If Dermott remains in Toronto but ends up hanging around more as a part-time 6/7 with Rasmus Sandin taking more of the minutes on the left side ahead of him, this contract will look a little rich for the Leafs‘ books at $1.5 million AAV.
Dermott did play some of his best hockey of the season (when in the lineup) in the past month, but Sandin is able to give the Leafs extra offensive value and a second-unit power-play quarterback, in addition to a higher ceiling at this point given their respective ages and upsides.
The addition of Mark Giordano on the left side and the nearing return of Jake Muzzin was going to drown out Dermott even further in the depth chart (Rielly, Giordano, Brodie, Muzzin, and Sandin are all left shots), and the Leafs obviously needed the $1.5 million in cap space to accommodate their deadline additions, which appear to include not only Giordano but also forward Colin Blackwell, if early reports are accurate.
Dermott is perfectly adequate in many areas of the game (skating, puck-moving, defending the rush), but now 25 years old, he never really developed a “thing” to hang his hat on in terms of a skill that separates him from a replacement-level defenseman at the NHL level, nor did he ever become a regular on either special team (or produce much offense in general). He became superfluous and a bit of a luxury depth option (at $1.5 million) on this roster with the emergence of Sandin and Liljegren as worthy regular contributors, in addition to the multiple defense adds (Giordano, Ilya Lyubushkin) the team has made in the past month.
The 2022 third-round pick will help lessen the blow on the still-to-be determined price paid on Giordano and Blackwell. With just three picks in 2021 and three in 2022 at the time of writing, the Leafs certainly could use the extra draft-pick capital.