The Toronto Maple Leafs hope to get back on track on the road, as they take on the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center in Newark on Thursday. The Leafs have lost three of their last four games and have struggled in converting offensive chances at even strength and on the power play, which has head coach Mike Babcock shaking up his line combinations and units on special teams.
Winger Zach Hyman makes his return to the lineup after missing more than three weeks with an ankle injury and will play on the left side with John Tavares and Mitch Marner. Auston Matthews is being reunited with speedy wingers Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson, Connor Brown returns to the fourth line with Par Lindholm, and William Nylander gets moved to a unit with Patrick Marleau and Nazem Kadri.
Nylander continues to struggle and is increasingly becoming the focal point of criticism with just three points (1 goal, 2 assists) in 14 games since signing his six-year contract extension on December 1.
“That is the greatest thing about being (in Toronto). It makes it the greatest hockey market in the world.” Babcock said. “When you decide you want to play here, you take the good with the bad. Sometimes the bad is (the media) pointing out what you’re doing.”
Michael Hutchinson will make his fourth straight start for Toronto with both Frederik Andersen and Garret Sparks still unavailable due to injury. Andersen is still slated to make his return against Boston on Saturday, but will not dress as Hutchinson’s backup in Newark, which required Kasimir Kaskisuo’s recall on an emergency basis Thursday morning.
As we count the days towards the NHL Trade Deadline, we will continue to hear that the Leafs are interested in this player or that player, but what we may not hear is what a top-pairing blueliner like Alex Pietrangelo, a top-four defenseman such as Chris Tanev or a top-six forward like Wayne Simmonds will cost in terms of prospects and/or draft picks.
Deals for comparable players made recently can give us an idea of what it may cost for GM Kyle Dubas to make additions before February 25, but what management also has to do is categorize their own assets and determine how many of them they are willing to swap in a trade.
For example, the Tampa Bay Lightning sent a 20-goal scorer in Vladislav Namestnikov, forward Brett Howden, defensive prospect Libor Hajek, their 2018 first rounder and 2019 second round pick to the New York Rangers for blueliner Ryan McDonagh and forward JT Miller.
If you accept the premise that Namestnikov and the second rounder were the value of Miller, than the cost of McDonagh (who had a year left on his contract) was a former first round pick (Howden) who scored 75 points with Moose Jaw last season, a 20-year-old blueline prospect (Hajek) and a low first rounder, which was turned by the Rangers into Swedish defensive prospect Nils Lundkvist.
The cost the Leafs would have to pay for Pietrangelo would be similar to McDonagh (since the Blues blueliner is the same age and has a year remaining on his contract), which means one player from each level and possibly more if the bidding for the former All-Star gets heated.
If the Leafs believe that price is too steep, than someone like Tanev could cost them a Level A (perhaps a conditional 1st based on how far Toronto goes in the postseason and a Level B or C prospect.
The Leafs prospects value chart
2019 first round pick - which will likely fall anywhere from the mid-20’s to 31.
2020 first round pick - which if dealt would have to be lottery protected to avoid any Ottawa Senators-like disaster scenario
Timothy Liljegren - 2017 first round pick (17th overall), 19-year-old blueliner with over 60 games of professional experience in the AHL.
Kasperi Kapanen - 2014 first rounder (22nd overall), 22-year-old winger has proved himself at the NHL level with 14 goals this season, and that may be the reason why the Leafs will not be interested in trading him.
Rasmus Sandin - 2018 first round pick (29th overall), 18-year-old defenseman who jumped from the OHL to the Marlies and scored 10 points in 18 games prior to playing for Sweden at the 2019 World Junior.
Andreas Johnsson - The Calder Cup Playoff MVP started slow but now has 19 points with the Leafs and has the speed that most NHL clubs are looking for.
Jeremy Bracco - 2015 second round pick (61st overall), the highly skilled 21-year-old winger is pushing towards being a Level A prospect, as he currently leads the AHL in assists with 29 and also has a Memorial Cup and World Junior Championship on his list of accomplishments.
Carl Grundstrom - 2016 second round pick (57th overall) - 21-year-old was key contributor on the Marlies top line with Johnsson and Miro Aaltonen on their run to a Calder Cup Championship and has 24 points in his first full AHL season.
2019 or 2020 second round pick
Trevor Moore - free agent signing selected as AHL All-Star, leads the Marlies with 18 goals.
Dmytro Timashov - skillful 22-year-old winger in his third AHL season, on pace for career-high in points.
Pierre Engvall - 22-year-old winger with NHL size and good speed, but is a project in need of more experience.
Mason Marchment - big 23-year-old winger who plays with an edge and whose skills have improved immensely over the last two years.
Yegor Korshkov - big skilled 22-year-old winger who has been in the KHL since being selected at the top of the second round in 2016. Unknown commodity who has never played in North America.
Calle Rosen - 24 years old, Swedish blueliner signed as free agent out of the SHL, leads Marlies in defensive scoring with 26 points.
Andreas Borgman - hard hitting blueliner who play half of last season in the NHL.
Joseph Woll - 2016 third round pick who won gold for Team USA at the 2017 World Junior and enjoying a good junior season at Boston College.
Ian Scott - 2017 fourth round pick. The 19-year-old made Team Canada at the 2019 World Junior based on his phenomenal performance this season (24-4-1, 1.73 GAA, .939 save percentage) with the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders.
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