The Toronto Maple Leafs are in full rebuild mode.
The rebuild is going well, but there’s still lots of work to be done before Toronto can end the longest Stanley Cup championship drought in hockey.
The NHL trade deadline is Monday, Feb. 29, and the Leafs figure to be among the most active sellers as they look to collect assets for the future.
Here’s a trade deadline preview for the last-place Leafs:
Trade Deadline Approach
The Leafs must use the deadline to acquire future assets, whether it’s prospects, draft picks or NHL roster players young enough to hit their prime when Toronto is ready to compete in a few seasons.
Toronto’s front office, led by president Brendan Shanahan, general manager Lou Lamierello and assistant GM Kyle Dubas, has done a great job executing this strategy.
The Dion Phaneuf trade with the Ottawa Senators earlier this month netted future assets and cleared salary cap space for upcoming seasons, and the Roman Polak trade with the San Jose Sharks on Monday netted two second-round picks — a tremendous haul for a not-so-good unrestricted free-agent defenseman.
The Leafs now have two picks in five of the seven rounds in June’s draft. They also have acquired two extra second-round selections in the 2017 draft.
The Leafs are stockpiling picks Bill Belichick-style, and it’s a sound strategy. Given the high number of buyers at the deadline — they far outweigh the number of sellers — the Leafs should be able to acquire many more picks in the coming days.
Players Who Could Be Traded
P.A. Parenteau is the best forward the Leafs could make available. He’d provide a contending team with bottom-six scoring, and he’s been a good driver of puck possession with a 52.26 Corsi percentage at 5-on-5.
Daniel Winnik isn’t having a great season, but he’s a pretty good penalty killer and has some playoff experience. His $2.25 million salary cap hit this season and next season might scare off some clubs, though. That’s a steep price for a declining bottom-six forward.
Tyler Bozak, depending on his health, could serve in a third-line center role for a Cup contender. He has two more seasons left on his contract with a $4.2 million salary cap hit, which is a bit high for someone who’s dealing with injury issues.
Veteran defenseman Matt Hunwick could be a third-pairing upgrade for some teams. He does have another year left on his contract but only at a $1.2 million salary cap hit.
James Reimer is a pending UFA with a salary cap hit of $2.3 million. He’d be an excellent backup goalie for a contending team and could even start for a while if the No. 1 goalie struggles or suffers an injury. His .919 save percentage isn’t too bad when you consider how poorly Toronto plays defensively on most nights.
Thumbnail photo via Tom Szczerbowski/USA TODAY Sports. Salary info via General Fanager.
Thumbnail photo via Feb 20, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs center Nick Spaling (16) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal in the second period against the Philadelphia Flyers at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports