Outside of some Shattenkirk chatter last month, it doesn’t seem like there’s a huge amount of excitement around the Leafs when it comes to the approaching trade deadline. And while it’s a bit of a change-up from previous years, this isn’t exactly surprising. The team has somewhat over-achieved and found themselves on the playoff bubble, but also abides to a strict long-term plan. They probably won’t be seen as buyers or sellers at the end of the month, and I doubt much of the fanbase disagrees with that strategy.
That said, while it’s difficult to envision any core pieces or large salaries moving, there could be a tweak or two. If teams want to unload late-round picks for the likes of Hunwick or Polak, I’m sure that’s a deal that could make sense. And as for adding, there are some good depth options out there that likely won’t require selling the farm, some of whom the Leafs have already been tied to.
There have been some rumours flying around that the Leafs are among a few teams interested in acquiring Brian Boyle from the under-achieving Lightning. Boyle is 32-years-old and currently carries a $2-million cap hit on a contract that expires this summer.
Another UFA to watch is Tampa Bay’s Brian Boyle. You can see why playoff teams would be interested. Edmonton’s Peter Chiarelli went to see him in Minnesota last Friday. Columbus and Toronto are believed to be among other potential suitors. (The Maple Leafs tried to sign him as a free agent in 2014, although it was a different regime.)
If the Leafs are serious about Boyle, it’s no trouble to see why. While he’s a bottom six player, he would be a massive upgrade on Ben Smith, their current option at 4C. At 6’07 Boyle is enormous, and has always been a strong play-driver. He’s also good to chip in a few goals, averaging around 13 per 82 games over the course of his nine year career.
But while Boyle would clearly make the Leafs’ lineup better, is that improvement worth as much as a first round pick? That’s the price that’s being tossed around out there these days, and for Toronto that has to be too steep. If the Leafs were three years into this thing and in a place where, say, the Penguins or Capitals are, you might be able to justify a move like that. Right now it just can’t be in the cards.
Still, with Boyle on the fourth line with some duo from Soshnikov/Leivo/Martin, that’s a formidable unit that can take on some decent minutes as the Leafs go down the stretch and hopefully into the playoffs. For a lighter price than the one currently being advertised, Boyle is definitely an intriguing option. Does a second-rounder make sense? The Leafs hold two in this draft, so it’s something I’d give some thought to. And then there’s the prospect of re-signing Boyle beyond this season. He is getting to the point where his age is going to be a concern soon, but for a team with essentially endless cap space next season, overpaying him on a one-year deal could be a tidy piece of business.
Basically what this comes down to is whether this supposed going rate for Boyle is rooted in reality. We’ve seen teams pony up 1sts for depth players at the deadline before, and this draft is being billed as one of the weakest in years, but it does seem like managers are stingier about those picks than before. If Boyle can be had for a later pick or some combination of B-prospects, that might be something that makes sense for Lamoriello. Anything more than that will likely take Toronto away from their comfort zone and out of the running.