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Trade limit

Hockey fans, when you read this latest edition of my column, the NHL trade deadline will be about a month away. I've already heard fan speculation about what the Toronto Maple Leafs should do and rumours about players the team may be interested in.

As a fan myself, I hope the Leafs make a couple of solid additions to the team to ready themselves for the playoffs. Yet, I think there should be one asset the team needs to hold on to, that is prospect Matthew Knies.

For those who don't know, Knies was selected by the Leafs in the second round of the 2021 NHL draft. At 6'3" and known to play a physical brand of hockey, Knies is one of the Leafs' most exciting prospects in their system. He could play with the team as early as this season, once his NCAA season at the University of Minnesota is over.

Knies would fill a hole in the roster the Leafs have had trouble filling for a long time. That would be a second-line left winger. The team has cycled through players such as Ilya Mikheyev, Alex Kerfoot, Denis Malgin and Nick Ritchie at that position. While they have found some success with Calle Jarnkrok on the left wing this season, Jarnkrok is 31 years of age, so he's not a long-term solution to this problem. At just 20 years of age, Knies could be that long-term solution.

He'd also be an affordable solution. In the NHL, prospects have a ceiling on the amount of money they can be offered in their first NHL contract. The current limit for an entry-level contract is $925,000 for the first three years of the prospect's career. This is opposed to the multi-millions NHL players make in their following contracts. Next year, the Leafs will need to negotiate Auston Matthews' next contract, with him likely requesting a raise. William Nylander's contract will also require attention next year. Mitch Marner's contract will come due for negotiation the following year. With the team always being close to the salary cap, the Leafs will need young, affordable options in order to stay competitive.

Lastly, because of Toronto's competitiveness in the last few years, the team has dealt a number of draft picks to other teams, to try to improve its roster. This has caused the team's prospect pool to start to dwindle a bit.

While there are still some exciting prospects in the system, there is no guarantee the Leafs will have first or even second round picks in future drafts, as they will likely continue to be seen as valuable trade commodities by the organization.

Despite this being a year where the team needs to make progress in the playoffs, I think General Manager Kyle Dubas should turn down any trade offer he receives which includes prospect Matthew Knies in it.

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