June 25, 2024

Trade Update: Maple Leafs in talk and at verge of going into Triple-Contracts ahead of the Deadline with Forwards. As they consider trade of Nicholas

The Toronto Maple Leafs have made strides in addressing some depth issues by shifting John Tavares to the third line, but relying on Max Domi as the second-line center isn’t a viable option for a team eyeing a deep playoff run.

While I’ve been a long-time admirer of Domi’s talent, it’s evident that he may not be the ideal fit for the crucial role of second-line center in a playoff-bound team. Unless the Toronto Maple Leafs address this issue, their postseason fate may sadly mirror the disappointing trend of early exits they’ve experienced over the past decade. Last year, Toronto managed to break a longstanding playoff drought by winning a series, but the euphoria was short-lived.

Despite advancing to the final eight teams, their playoff performance didn’t substantially differ from previous seasons. Winning just one game in the second round, their 5-6 postseason record felt eerily reminiscent of past disappointments, rather than marking a significant breakthrough.

While the Leafs boast a formidable top-nine lineup, concerns persist over Domi’s suitability for a prominent role. The trio of Ryan O’Reilly, Auston Matthews, and John Tavares as centers last season was a potent combination.

With Tavares now anchoring the third line, there’s a clear opportunity to bolster the second-line center position, albeit within the constraints of salary cap limitations.

Maple Leafs Notebook: Max Domi's speed and skill surprises as roster trims  down

Exploring potential trades involving players like Calle Jarnkrok, TJ Brodie, and potentially even Max Domi, whose contracts offer flexibility, could pave the way for acquiring an upgrade at center. The Leafs must exercise creativity in managing their cap space to seize this opportunity.

Looking ahead to the NHL Trade Deadline, here are three forwards the Toronto Maple Leafs should consider targeting to strengthen their roster

Toronto Maple Leafs Should Trade Nicholas Robertson

The Toronto Maple Leafs recently sent Nicholas Robertson down to the AHL to make room for the return of Calle Jarnkrok from LTIR.

The demotion was not performance based, but rather because Robertson is the only member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, other than first liner Matthew Knies, who is eligible to be send to the AHL without first having to clear waivers.

The Leafs used the fact that Robertson doesn’t need to clear waivers to their advantage, but is it a fair to Robertson when he’s won his minutes and put up decent numbers in a limited role during his rookie season?

Robertson is having his healthiest and most productive season as a pro. He has eight goals and 11 assists for 19 points in 41 games. That’s not too bad for a player averaging 11:22 minutes of ice time. However, many people, including myself, want to see more from Robertson. (All stats from hockey-reference.com)

Toronto Maple Leafs Should Trade Nicholas Robertson

According to Elliotte Friedman from Sportsnet, Robertson received confirmation from the Leafs that this recent demotion will not last long. The Leafs assured him that they intend to call him back up to the NHL soon. Regardless of the Leafs assurances, the situation has to be frustrating for Robertson. I will admit that I don’t think Robertson gets enough playing time to really showcase his ability, and he has arguably earned it by not only scoring at a 5v5 rate comprable to William Nylander, but playing well enough that the Leafs are winning his minutes whether you measure them by puck possesion, shots, scoring chances, dangerous scoring chances, goals or expected goals.

Robertson will become a restricted free agent at the end of this season. It is hard to imagine him wanting to re-sign with the Leafs unless they intend on playing him regularly. As the NHL creeps closer to the trade deadline, I wouldn’t rule out a trade involving Robertson leaving the Leafs.

The Leafs general manager, Brad Treliving, has made it clear that the Leafs would prefer not to trade prospects Easton Cowan or Fraser Minten. That leaves Robertson, Ryan Tverberg, Topi Niemela, and the 2024 first-round pick as the Leafs best trading chips.

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I believe that Robertson has been surpassed by Matthew Knies and Bobby McMann this season. Now, if I had to choose between re-signing McMann (UFA) or Robertson (RFA), I would re-sign McMann. I have no idea what Treliving’s plans for the Leafs are, but if he doesn’t see a future for Robertson with the Leafs, trading him is the best option.

Trelving should try to package Robertson with the 2024 first-round pick to try and acquire a top pairing right-shooting defenseman. Morgan Rielly needs an elite defense partner and getting one will be costly. I like the addition of Lyubushkin, but he’s not a top-pairing guy.

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