The pressure is on the Toronto Maple Leafs, as it has been in every season since 1966-67. That’s the last time that the franchise won the Stanley Cup, and it has been a long, painful run since that time.
While the Maple Leafs have one of the most talented teams in the NHL, long-suffering fans of the franchise are waiting for the team to win a playoff series for the first time since the 2003-04 season. They have been tormented in recent years by the Tampa Bay Lightning, Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins, and those defeats have ratcheted up the heat on Toronto general manager Kyle Dubas and head coach Sheldon Keefe.
The news that high-scoring forward Auston Matthews will be sidelined for at least 3 weeks with a sprained knee puts greater focus on moves the Maple Leafs should make before the NHL trade deadline March 3.
In this piece, we look at three players who could be acquired in trades. Any one or all three could give the Leafs a much better chance of surviving a first-round playoff series and then continuing to advance.
Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
The Chicago Blackhawks center is no longer a superstar as he nears his 35th birthday, but he is a clear leader who has been a driving force for 3 Stanley Cup championship teams. Toews still has the ability to lead and to show a new team what it takes to be successful in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
There are no guarantees that Toews wants to leave the Blackhawks as they go through a challenging rebuilding year, but the idea of going to a team that has overwhelming talent and helping them get over a hump that has tripped them up so many times has got to be appealing.
Toews is a maximum competitor who knows how to elevate his game when his team needs it most. When it comes to scoring a goal, making a key pass or delivering a crucial check, Toews should be up to the task. He can set an example that his new teammates will follow..
Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues
Goals are often hard to come by down the stretch in the regular season and certainly during the playoffs, and adding a player like Tarasenko would help the Leafs quite a bit.
Tarasenko has exceeded the 30-goal mark six times in his career, and looking at Toronto’s shortcomings in recent playoff failures, this type of talent would certainly help Toronto.
The winger has size and strength at 6-1 and 228 pounds, and he has the ability to drive the net and finish plays around the goal. He has scored 41 playoff goals in his career, and he was a key member of the 2019 Stanley Cup champion Blues, showing that he knows how to come through when the money is on the table.
Travis Konecny, Philadelphia Flyers
Konecny would be a strong addition for the Maple Leafs because he plays with no shortage of passion on an every-night basis.
He has two seasons left on his contract, and while he is the kind of player that Philadelphia head coach John Tortorella can count on regularly, he is still worth pursuing.
Konecny is known for his fire on the ice, and he is very consistent in his effort. He is having an exceptional season with 24 goals and 25 assists in 44 games, so it’s clear he can score in addition to playing with an edge.