The Toronto Maple Leafs find themselves in unfamiliar territory – they’re on the outside of the playoff picture in 10th place in the Eastern Conference. They sit just 3 points back of the 8th-place Winnipeg Jets with two games in hand, but the chase pack is starting to catch up to the hapless Leafs. Despite a record of 2-7-1 in their last 10 games, GM Brian Burke was absolutely correct in his decision to stay the course.
3 points out the playoffs with 20 games to go is really “no man’s land” when it comes to making deadline deals. They’re not in a commanding playoff position with reason to sacrifice future prospects for a run at the Cup, but at the same time they’re certainly not so far out of the playoff picture that they should be selling off current assets for future draft picks. It really should come as no surprise that the Leafs didn’t make a splash on NHL trade deadline day.
The biggest move of the day for the Leafs was the trade of young defenseman Keith Aulie for Tampa Bay Lightning prospect forward Carter Ashton. If there was one thing the Leafs had to lose, it was a defenseman or two. With Jake Gardiner soaring up the depth chart this season, Keith Aulie was clearly the black sheep in the system. Toronto has a solid core of D-men centered around Dion Phaneuf, Jake Gardiner, and John-Michael Liles. Cody Franson has stepped up his game and fit in well with Carl Gunnarsson and Luke Schenn developing slowly but surely. No other GMs were interested in Mike Komisarek? Now that’s a shocker. Don’t forget that the Leafs have Korbinian Holzer and Jesse Blacker itching for a chance to prove themselves in the NHL. Toronto has a plethora of young and talented defensemen in their system.
The only other trade of the day involving the Leafs was the transfer of Dale Mitchell for forward Mark Fraser in the Anaheim Ducks minor league system. The big-bodied Fraser has had some past NHL experience with the New Jersey Devils. If he is called up to the Maple Leafs in the near future, he’d be looking at action on the checking fourth line.
Disappointed that Rick Nash isn’t going to be suiting up for the blue-and-white on Tuesday? Don’t be. Despite Rick Nash being my favourite player currently playing in the NHL, I’m glad that Brian Buke refused to overpay for the talented young forward. The Columbus Jackets were clearly asking for too much for his services and it would not have been worth the Leafs sacrificing young prospects like Jake Gardiner, Matt Frattin, and other future first round picks to acquire Nash.
Toronto will look to right the ship when they return to action tomorrow night against the Florida Panthers.
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