After a promising start to the 2020-21 season, the Toronto Maple Leafs find themselves in a bit of a funk having lost six of their last nine games. Although the “panic button” may have been hit once (or twice) by die-hard fans of the Leafs, this club still remains one of the most talented in hockey and by all indications should be a serious contender in the all-Canadian North Division.
It’s safe to say that Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas will be busy as he looks to “make a splash” and improve his roster prior to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
As it stands, the Canadian government recently reduced the quarantine period from 14 to seven days for any individual entering Canada. This is a major plus not only for Dubas but for the other 30 general managers looking to make moves.
With the trade deadline fast approaching, let’s take a closer look and examine two potential trade targets for the Maple Leafs as they look to bolster their lineup with hopes of taking home Lord Stanley’s mug.
Nick Foligno, Left-Wing, Columbus Blue Jackets
First up is 14-year NHL veteran and current captain of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Nick Foligno. As a player, Foligno is an excellent middle-six forward. He would be a phenomenal fit on just about any team with Stanley Cup aspirations. He’s big (6-foot-1, 210 pounds), hard on pucks, reliable, and a natural-born leader. Teammates rave about Foligno’s leadership because he will do absolutely anything to help his team win games. A consummate professional, Foligno has been a staple in the greater Columbus community since joining the Jackets during the 2012-13 campaign. He would surely be welcomed with open arms in the hockey hotbed of Toronto.
From a statistical standout, Foligno is closing in on 1,000 NHL games (942 to date). He also has 201 goals and 478 points. This is a player who is consistent, can score goals, and loves to play in big games. After all, he has 51 career postseason contests under his belt. He will reach unrestricted free agency at season’s end and currently carries a $5.5 million cap hit, so Dubas and general manager Jarmo Keklalainen would certainly have to “make the money work” in order to land his services. But if the Leafs can “pull the trigger” and acquire someone of Foligno’s stature, it would be a wonderful addition to his hockey club.
Mikael Granlund, Center, Nashville Predators
Next up is talented Finnish player, Mikael Granlund of the Nashville Predators. The speculation surrounding Granlund has certainly heated up over the past few weeks. Many “in the know” across the NHL point towards the Maple Leafs as the most likely landing spot for the 29-year-old centerman ahead of next month’s all-important deadline. A UFA at season’s end, Granlund carries a manageable cap hit ($3.75 million). His financial flexibility is a huge plus for a team like the Leafs, who are right up against the cap.
For a team in need of a “jolt” to their top-nine forward core, Granlund fits the bill for Toronto. As a player, the savvy Finn possesses an excellent “feel” for the game and a real strong hockey sense. Although he’s undersized (5-foot-10, 185 pounds), Granlund is a good passer who can wiggle in and out of tight spaces in all three zones on the ice. He’s smart, skilled, versatile, and would be a nice acquisition for a team gearing up for a playoff run. The old adage of “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” may hold true for Dubas and the Leafs. We’ll just have to wait to see how it all plays out.
Although no one can know for certain how the April 12 deadline will transpire, we do know that it will be fascinating to see how prospective general managers navigate through the day and days leading up to it.