In a go-for-it year, Kyle Dubas just went for it.

The Maple Leafs are yet again a top-five team in the league this season, but there were notable roster holes in need of addressing. The intimidating path through Tampa Bay and Boston – sometimes mentioned as a reason for caution – is irrelevant here.

They have to beat good teams to win the Stanley Cup. That’s life.

Hanging around every season and peeking around at the other teams wondering if the path is safe enough *this* season in order to justify buying aggressively at the deadline is a losing mentality. Do you believe in the team or not?

Auston Matthews is one of the best centers in the league. Mitch Marner is one of the best wingers in the league. William Nylander has clearly taken another step and is in the midst of a career-best season. John Tavares is still very good. The Leafs can’t waste these years.

One way to waste these seasons is by half-assing it at the trade deadline instead of moving the chips into the middle of the table.

Ladies and gentlemen, Kyle Dubas has gone all-in.

I wrote this a month ago, but it still stands today:

“This is year seven for Auston Matthews. The team has yet to advance out of round one even once. The prospect of entering the offseason with Matthews a year away from free agency after a zero-for-seven run is enough to significantly raise the urgency level.

With so many good players available and three very aggressive teams in the division, this is an arms race now. And if you’re the Leafs, everything should be on the table.

They cannot stand by and watch their rivals load up while they ride with essentially the same group and hope it all works out.”

There was lots of talk about adding a top-six winger as the big move to make, but addressing the center position always made more sense. Even if the Leafs added Timo Meier, the prospect of a third line featuring something along the lines of Engvall – Kampf – Jarnkrok was simply not good enough. They would have been a two-line team, and Tampa and Boston are too deep for it to work out against them every other night at playoff time.

Now, this Leafs forward group is as deep as any in the league. The lineup possibilities are almost comical. Sheldon Keefe has so many fun options to play with. The only limitation is his own imagination.

There is no more debating which player from the AHL should receive the next look on the third line. There is no more praying that Matthew Knies arrives as a day-one difference maker. There is no more wondering if the Leafs should split up the big four across three lines to compensate for the gaps in the depth areas of the forward group.

Keefe will have to play around to figure out who works best with who, but the point is that he can now run three very good centers down the middle of the ice. It’s just a matter of figuring out who flanks each one.

The other component of the trade is the additional forward who can play down the lineup. The fourth line has been an eyesore for pretty well the entire season, including when Alex Kerfoot moved down to play on it – which is noteworthy because it wasn’t as simple as bumping players down a single spot in the lineup and thinking it will all work out.

As we’ve said in this space countless times, Calle Järnkrok really struggled when he was on the third line. None of the called-up Marlies players over the past few months have grabbed a hold of a roster spot. The Leafs legitimately needed another competent NHLer. Noel Acciari isn’t a needle mover, but he is indeed a competent NHLer, one who will prevent any number of non-NHL players from featuring in the lineup each night.

Understandably, these acquisitions didn’t come cheap, costing the Leafs a first, a second, a third, and a fourth-round pick as well as a decent prospect in Mikhail Abramov. However, as we’ve seen with Timothy Liljegren (2017) and Rasmus Sandin (2018), it generally takes a very long time not only for players to break the league but to actually become effective contributors at playoff time.

The price is expensive. The Leafs are punting on this current draft — just a third, a fifth, and a sixth in 2023 followed by a first, a fourth, a fifth, and a sixth in the next draft – in exchange for two players who could theoretically play in Toronto for only a couple of months. These are hardly assets that are going to help them win with this current core, but the loss of draft-pick capital will be felt at some point down the line.

In the meantime, it’s a win to make this trade without sacrificing any of the organization’s top prospects who are actually capable of helping the team in the near future inside the contention window for the Leafs’ current core.

There is some hand-wringing about the player himself as Ryan O’Reilly is in the middle of a 12-goal, 19-point season through 40 games, but this reeks of Hampus Lindholm last season – a really good player struggling on a poor team who then became instantly very good again once he was moved to a good team.

Ryan O’Reilly has a long history of success in the league, including as recently as last season. He has an honest-to-God playoff pedigree with 56 points in 64 career playoff games, including a Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe.

The assets that have always made him effective are very evident when you watch him play – his ability to hold onto pucks in the offensive zone and make plays, and his strength on the puck. He has never been a fast player – much like John Tavares, which has proven to not be much of a problem (although, stylistically, it’s fair to suggest the Leafs aren’t the fastest of teams anymore).

Statistically, there are a number of categories in which O’Reilly grades well enough to suggest he’s still a very good player (defensive metrics, scoring-chance creation, the lack of goaltending support).

Noel Acciari has generally been effective as an energy player of sorts since 2017-18. He’s tied for the second-highest goal total of his career right now, has some jam to his game, and can play center or wing. He provides the Leafs with a legitimate right-handed faceoff man, which was a need to some degree.

We don’t need to overthink this trade. The Leafs are all-in. They should be all-in. They added a legitimate difference-maker and addressed their forward depth in one fell swoop.

We can now confidently stack their forward group up against any other forward group in the league. There are still legitimate questions on defense – and I think if Dubas has come this far, he might as well add a defenseman, too – and the goaltending is forever a question mark until proven otherwise, but this is a really big step in the right direction.