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Trade analysis

In a column I wrote in the summer of 2021, I characterized the Toronto Maple Leafs’ offseason changes as full of risk. It turns out I was right.

Some of the moves worked out. Ondrej Kase has proven to be a big part of the team’s forward group this season. David Kampf has both solidified his role as the team’s third-line shutdown centre and supplied more offence than he did in Chicago. And Michael Bunting is a candidate for the rookie of the year award.

But, there have been a couple of changes which did not bear fruit. Nick Ritchie was never able to find a consistent spot with the team and was traded to the Arizona Coyotes. Goaltender Petr Mrazek has struggled this season with injury and consistency issues.

However, while I was concerned with the changes the team made in the summer, I feel much more confident in the team’s direction following the trade deadline.

Before the deadline, the Leafs added defencemen Mark Giordano and Ilya Lyubushkin, as well as forward Colin Blackwell.

Giordano, to me, is the most exciting addition. Despite being 38 years old, Giordano continues to produce in the league, scoring six goals and 23 points this season. He also brings veteran leadership to the locker room. Giordano has already served as captain for two NHL franchises, the Calgary Flames and the Seattle Kraken. What also makes this an exciting addition to the franchise is, the Leafs did not have to give up a first-round pick to get him.

Leaf fans have already seen what Lyubushkin can do, as he’s played 13 games with the team since the trade. During that time, he’s shown he can clear the front of the net with big hits. Blackwell should add to the Leafs’ forward depth and be a quality part of the team’s bottom two lines.

Yes, the Leafs did not go out and trade for a potential starting or backup goaltender. But I don’t really feel they necessarily had to. With a stronger defence core, which soon could see the return of Jake Muzzin from injury, the Leafs’ goaltenders shouldn’t have to face as many high-quality scoring chances. Plus, if starting goaltender Jack Campbell can get even close to the way he played in the early months of the regular season, when he returns, then I think the Leafs will be in better shape. Yes, it’s a risk, but I feel this risk is one worth taking.

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