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Vegas Snaps Leafs Win Streak;Who Should They Avoid At The Deadline? Pt 2

February 28, 2024, 7:51 PM ET [331 Comments]
Mike Augello
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The Toronto Maple Leafs, as is normally the case when teams return from lengthy road trips, did not put forth their best effort in the first game of a five-game homestand at against the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday. The Leafs had difficulty breaking through early against the Stanley Cup champions, falling behind 2-0 before getting on the scoreboard late in the second on a Tyler Bertuzzi goal, but William Karlsson’s response with 51 seconds left squelched any momentum derived from getting on the scoreboard, as Vegas cruised to a 6-2 win at Scotiabank Arena on Tuesday.

Ryan Reaves also scored for Toronto in the loss, which ended their seven-game winning streak.

“I thought we got too comfortable in the game. You can’t get comfortable against this team. They are just too good defensively.” Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said after the game. “I thought we got cute with it. It really slowed our game down and allowed them to settle in. It was a pretty even game from there until we made a mistake. They get the lead. Now, you have to open the game up a bit and chase it a bit.”

The concern in the contest was the performance of Ilya Samsonov, who allowed five goals on 31 shots. Samsonov was strong early but allowed weak goals later in the game in his first loss after six wins in a row.

“In a game as tight as this, you are going to need some saves. I thought he gave them to us, but we gave up too many quality chances.” Keefe said. “Going through it, in the actual number of chances, we gave up more in Vegas than tonight at five-on-five, but some of the quality that we gave up tonight is too much.”

The Leafs play the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday and it is possible that Joseph Woll will make his return to the lineup after missing close to three months with a high-ankle sprain. Although Toronto has to be thankful for veteran Martin Jones filling in admirably and Samsonov getting back to being at least competent between the pipes, the club needs to see if Woll can get back to the form he displayed prior to his injury in early December.

If he can, the Leafs could have a legitimate chance of postseason success.

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Continuing on our theme of singling out defensemen who are likely to be traded before March 8 and who Toronto should stay away from, Calgary defenseman Chris Tanev is someone who fits most of the needs the Leafs are looking for, but at a cost that GM Brad Treliving should not pay.

Tanev is 34 and is a right-handed, shot-blocking, stay-at-home defender who can play in the top four and play alongside Morgan Rielly, but the reason the Leafs should stay away is a) the cost in acquiring him, and b) the fact that they will be a leading candidate to sign him as an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Treliving signed the Toronto native in Calgary to a four-year, $18 million contract after playing a decade in Vancouver, and there have been rumors going back to 2016 when Tanev played with Rielly at the World Championships that the Leafs had interest in partnering the two together.

The issue is not the quality of the player or even his age, it is the cost of acquiring him. More than likely, Flames GM Craig Conroy can get a first-round pick for the veteran blueliner with reportedly more than 10 teams expressing interest. The Leafs do not have second-round picks the next three drafts and do not have a 2025 first-round pick, so giving up their first in 2024 would leave the club with little or no draft capital for two years.

To say that should not stop them, tell me how excited you are about how Easton Cowan is doing with the London Knights (the Leafs selected him at the end of the first round in 2023). The club needs young players on rookie contracts if they are going to continue to pay exorbitant salaries to the likes of William Nylander and Mitch Marner.

The other reason that Toronto should not go all-in on Tanev is that they are a longshot to get out of the Eastern Conference this season. While anything can happen in the playoffs, the Leafs are likely to play either Florida, Boston, or the New York Rangers in the first round. In all those series, they will be the underdog.

If Tanev was the final piece of the puzzle, it would make a lot of sense to go all-in and give up a first for him. But he is one of a few pieces needed to get the Leafs to the promised land, so they should let some other club give up a premium draft pick or prospect for him.

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