Trade deadline day wasn’t as busy as some may have hoped. But, that’s ok.
While some big names could have fetched a lofty price, the Leafs made it clear that there weren’t going the route of ‘addition by subtraction’. The moves had to make sense.
“It’s not a fire sale, there isn’t a date. We didn’t go out and try to move a bunch of people today. All we did is say we’re open for business to see if there were fits to make us better,” said Leafs GM Dave Nonis. “To me there is a big distinction trying to move somebody and willing to move somebody. We’re in the spot where we’re looking at options but we’re not trying to push people out.”
Toronto made a pair of moves before the 3 p.m. deadline.
Defenceman Korbinian Holzer was moved late in the afternoon on Monday, sent to Anaheim in exchange for defenceman Eric Brewer and a fifth round draft choice in 2016.
Recently acquired Olli Jokinen was shipped to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for forward Joakim Lindstrom as well as a conditional sixth round draft choice.
Jokinen played just six games for the Maple Leafs, registering just one assist. His tenure was never intended to be a long one, with Nonis promising the veteran forward an opportunity to land with a contending team.
“I think he’s excited to go there and have a chance to play and to win a cup,” said Nonis. “It’s a very good team he went to.”
Jokinen’s arrival was also the first step in what was a parting of assets with the future in mind.
December 16th, the Maple Leafs had just completed a 6-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks. It was the last of a season high six-game winning streak that improved their record to 19-9-3.
Despite some deficiencies in their game, the team had playoff aspirations in sight. They had a League best 3.45 goals for average per game. Phil Kessel and James van Reimsdyk each had five-game point streaks in which they registered seven points. Nazem Kadri had 11 points in 10 games. The Leafs were 10-0-0 when Daniel Winnik registered a point. The Leafs were 14-0-0 when scoring the first goal of a game.
Things were looking pretty good, but priorities began to change in a hurry.
On January 6th, the team relieved head coach Randy Carlyle of their duties, citing inconsistencies with the team’s performance. Peter Horacheck was installed as interim head coach
The games went on and while seeing an improvement in possession and more commitment to defence was visible, the offence vanished.
On February 15th, nearly two months removed from a Leafs team that was 10 games above .500, the selling began. Defenceman Cody Franson and forward Mike Santorelli were shipped off to Nashville in exchange for Jokinen, a first-round pick and forward prospect Brendan Leipsic
Ten days later, the Leafs moved forward Daniel Winnik to the Pittsburgh Penguins, acquiring a fourth-round draft choice in 2015 and second round pick in 2016.
The day after that, the Leafs sent shockwaves around the league. Forward David Clarkson was shipped off to Columbus in exchange for injured forward Nathan Horton. While not necessitated by the trade deadline, the move helps Toronto get some much needed cap manoeuvrability.
Other moves leading up to the deadline include a minor-league deal which saw defenceman T.J. Brennan acquired from Chicago in exchange for forward Spencer Abbott. Defenceman Tim Erixon was claimed off waivers yesterday by Toronto.
Now that the trade deadline has passed, it should provide a much needed relief for a team that has had a rough time, particularly on the road where they haven’t grabbed a win in their last 16 tries.
There is no free pass for what has transpired as of late, and it’s up to the players to show what they can do with 19 games to play.
“The record is going to be what it is, but we want them to play as hard as they can, regardless of the situation we put them in,” Nonis concluded. “We may ask some of our veterans to do some things they’re not used to doing or play with people that they haven’t played with regularly. It might be a different stretch run for some of them, but we want them to act professionally and to finish the season as professionals.”
These final 19 games will certainly test the Leafs’ mettle.