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Keep the pick

Well, Toronto Maple Leaf’s fans, as we get further through the 2022 NHL season, trade rumours are starting to pick up.

But, despite this team seeming to be in ‘Stanley Cup or bust’ mode I think, at the trade deadline in March, General Manager Kyle Dubas should keep the team’s first-round draft pick for this year.

Last season, Dubas traded a first-round pick to acquire Nick Foligno. He also previously traded the club’s 2020 first-round pick to Carolina, as an incentive to help offload the Patrick Marleau contract.

The result has been a thinning of the team’s prospect collection; with Nick Robertson and Rodion Amirov being the only high-level players in Toronto’s system. The last time the Leafs chose a player using their own first-round pick, not a first-round pick they traded for, was when they selected Rasmus Sandin. Sandin is no longer a prospect now, as he seems to have made the club full-time.

With the uncertainty of when the league’s salary cap may rise, due to the Canadian arena attendance restrictions, coupled with the fact the Leafs have hefty contracts for John Tavares, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner on the books, it would be smarter to continue to collect prospects to integrate into the team.

For the first few years, rookies are on cost-effective entry-level contracts, so continuing to add cheap forwards and defencemen to the squad is important. As a result, players who are first and second-round picks usually have a better likelihood of making the NHL.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading recently on the prospects available in this year’s draft. I think, even if the Leafs go deeper in the playoffs this season, which I hope they do, they will still be able to add a talented player for their future. In the later part of the first round, they would likely be able to add a player like: skilled, Russian winger Alexander Perevalov; big, shutdown centre Nathan Gaucher; or one of a plethora of young defensemen, among others.

I hope the Leafs can make a trade or two to improve the club before the March trade deadline. But, I feel the 2022 first-round pick should be off-limits for trades.

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