Maple Leafs Score Big at the 2021 Trade Deadlineby Dom Lunardo April 19, 2021 1 comment
After a grueling final 56 hours, which saw more than 40 players switch cities, the 2021 NHL trade deadline came and went. Some teams were deemed “winners”. Others were deemed “losers”. And some were “on the fence” sporting their best poker faces all day long.
One team that was particularly aggressive on the trade front was the Toronto Maple Leafs. Who did they acquire? What impact will they have on the team? And what’s their prognosis heading into the postseason in just under a month’s time? Let’s read on and find out.
Acquisition #1: Riley Nash, Center, $2.75 Million Cap-hit
Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas tested the market last week and reeled in 31-year-old centerman Nash from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for a conditional seventh-round draft pick in 2022. Although he was immediately placed on LTIR (long-term injury reserve), this is a savvy and under-the-radar addition for the blue and white.
As a player, Nash is experienced, a strong skater, and plays a sound defensive game. When he’s activated from the injury reserve (likely during the Stanley Cup playoffs), Nash will give head coach Sheldon Keefe the flexibility to play him on a third or fourth-line defensive role.
Although this move doesn’t exactly jump from the page, Nash provides the Leafs with an added element on the defensive side of the puck that they didn’t possess before. He’s not flashy by any means but is strong on faceoffs, good down low, and extremely aware in all three zones. He brings some much-needed grit and experience to a MapleLeafs team hopeful of a long playoff run.
Acquisition #2: Nick Foligno, Left-Wing, $5.5 Million Cap-hit
Next up is Dubas’ big splash this time around, Foligno. Man, oh man, is this ever an excellent acquisition for the Maple Leafs. As captain of the Blue Jackets, Foligno did it all and then some during his nine-year tenure in Columbus.
On the ice, Foligno is a fierce competitor and one of the most respected names in hockey.
He’s big (6’1, 210 pounds), excellent on the forecheck, and loves to “battle”. Over the course of his career, he has scored 203 goals and 482 points in 950 career games. He’s also skated in 51 career postseason games notching nine goals and 22 points.
As his 7-day quarantine comes to an end, Foligno will likely lineup up on Toronto’s second unit. His linemates? William Nylander and current Maple Leafs’ captain, John Tavares. I can’t say enough good things about Foligno and believe this is exactly the type of player the Leafs needed.
There’s certainly no shortage of leadership in Toronto’s locker room when you factor in the likes of Joe Thornton, Jason Spezza, Jake Muzzin, Tavares, Wayne Simmonds, and now Foligno. Stay tuned, Leaf fans!
Acquisition #3: David Rittich, Goaltender, $2.75 Million Cap-hit
After the merry-go-round, this season in Toronto’s crease that saw the likes of Jack Campbell, Frederik Andersen, and Michael Hutchinson each see meaningful action, the acquisition of David Rittich in exchange for a third-round draft pick was an interesting one for the Leafs.
Rittich signifies added insurance with the uncertainty presented with Campbell and Andersen who have each spent time on the injured list.
Between the pipes, Rittich has proven that he is a steady netminder capable of “carrying the load” when called upon.
He’s posted a 4-7-2 record in 13 starts this season to go along with a 2.82 goals-against-average and .905 save percentage with one shutout.
In his brief time in Toronto, he’s already made two appearances, including one in relief. It’ll be interesting to see how Sheldon Keefe utilizes Rittich down the stretch.
Acquisition #4: Ben Hutton, Defenseman, $950K Cap-hit
The Maple Leafs added a goaltender (Rittich), and two forwards (Foligno and Nash) ahead of the trade deadline. Now, they added some depth on defense in the form of Hutton who came over in a deal from the Anaheim Ducks.
Born and raised in Brockville, Ontario, Hutton joins an impressive D-core that includes Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin, T.J. Brodie, Zach Bogosian, Travis Dermott, Justin Holl, and promising youngsters, Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin. Like Foligno, Hutton has been “quarantining” in Toronto but is hopeful to make his debut with the Leafs this week.
Hutton appeared in 34 games this season with the Anaheim Ducks adding one goal and five points in 18:30 worth of ice-time. In addition, his puck-moving ability and smooth-skating will be a welcome addition to the Leafs. I’ll be eager to see how he fits in with Toronto’s lineup over the next little bit.
The jury is still out as to how far the Maple Leafs can go come playoff time. However, what we can conclude is that Kyle Dubas definitely believes in his group. He also wanted to give them some added reinforcements prior to the big dance. We’ll just have to wait and see how it all unfolds.