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Maple Leafs Are Already Gearing Up for a 2021-22 Trade Deadline Deal

Last season, the Toronto Maple Leafs entered the playoffs squeezed by the salary-cap. Are they trying something different this year?

One of the interesting things that seems to have happened this offseason is that Toronto Maple Leafs’ general manager has made a number of deals and it seems he still has salary-cap space remaining. If the team’s signings were to end right now, the Maple Leafs would have the ability to make a trade deadline acquisition during the 2021-22 season just prior to the start of the playoffs.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Fans Might Love Blue-Collar Nick Ritchie Like Zach Hyman

Last Season’s Trade-Deadline Deal Didn’t Work and Was Costly

It’s not as if the Maple Leafs didn’t make a deal at the 2020-21 trade deadline. They big acquisition was to bring in character forward Nick Foligno from the Columbus Blue Jackets. In theory, great: in practice, less than great.

That trade-deadline deal suffered simply because the team didn’t have the salary-cap space it needed to pay the remainder of Foligno’s contract. Magician as he is, Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas and his salary-cap elves took to negotiating and pulled the rabbit from the hat. But, there was no hiding the cost to make that deal.

Maple Leafs’ fans will recall that the team picked up Foligno from the Blue Jackets and forward Stefan Noesen from the San Jose Sharks. However, the deal was costly and complicated. Here’s why.

Draft Picks Were Traded for Salary-Cap Salary Space

The Blue Jackets got Toronto’s first-round pick in 2021 and Toronto’s fourth-round pick in 2022. At the same time, the Sharks got Toronto’s fourth-round pick in 2021. Those three picks were costly, but the deal couldn’t have been made without them. They were necessary to complete the deal because the draft picks allowed the Maple Leafs to buy salary-cap space. As part of the trade, Columbus retained 50 percent of Foligno’s contract, and San Jose retained 50 percent of the rest of Foligno’s leftover contract.

In the end, it was a huge payout penalty for very little in return. Perhaps that memory haunts the organization’s brain trust and pushes them to NOT put themselves in that position again.

The Upside of this Offseason’s Deals

It’s positive that the Maple Leafs emerged from the offseason trades – so far – without dumping important picks and prospects. Filip Hallander was the only prospect to move, and he went back to the Pittsburgh Penguins. If you’re counting, it means that the team still has next season’s first and second-round draft picks. It also means that top prospects like defensemen Timothy Liljegren and Topi Niemela and forwards Nick Robertson, Rodion Amirov, and Roni Hirvonen still have a chance to wear the Maple Leafs’ Blue and White.

It also likely means that no more draft picks will have to move at the trade deadline if the Maple Leafs see fit to find a complimentary rental who might push the team over the edge. If things remain as they are – meaning no more players will be signed, the organization has the resources to make a major move at the deadline. Then, it’s a question about who’s available to rent.

Although one can know how a trade will work, no one can look back at the Foligno trade and say it worked out well. Foligno was injured and contributed little to the team’s first-round series against the Montreal Canadiens. It seems positive to me that Dubas and his team seem to be working to ensure that a trade-deadline addition need not also include added salary-cap shenanigans.

Related: A New Side of Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas: Anger!

What Big Names Might Be Available as Rentals?

In a long and informative article on August 2 in Maple Leafs Hotstove, Kevin Papetti reviewed this very situation and concluded that “Future implications aside, if you’re looking for reasons to be optimistic about the 2021-22 Toronto Maple Leafs, you start by looking at what this team could look like if they add someone like Claude Giroux, Joe Pavelski, Johnny Gaudreau, Tomas Hertl, or Filip Forsberg at the deadline. In an ideal world, they do something similar to the Jake Muzzin trade and land an impact player with multiple years of control.”

Johnny Gaudreau Calgary Flames Upper Deck
Johnny Gaudreau Calgary Flames Upper Deck

His point is that, currently, he doesn’t believe the Maple Leafs’ current roster is as good as their 2020-21 playoff roster, but he believes that fact could change by Game One of this upcoming season’s Stanley Cup playoffs. If that’s so, Maple Leafs’ fans have some room for optimism.



  1. Christopher Spee

    August 6, 2021 at 9:44 am

    My main issue with this version of the Leafs is….what is going to happen with Morgan Rielly? will Dubas let him walk next off season, or can he get some assets for him now? Calgary is hungry for a puck moving Dman. or others… The Leafs have only 13,7m in cap space next year and have to extend Sandin, Campbell and RIelly. the former two should be the part of the team going forward. Riely not so much… And if the Leafs get picks for Rielly they could be used at trade deadline to make the push…

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