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Analyzing the Leafs Trade Deadline

"He's got some grease to him,"- Brad Treliving on Conner Dewar

The Toronto Maple Leafs currently sit tied with the Carolina Hurricanes for eighth place in the NHL and third in the Atlantic division behind the Panthers and the Bruins. With a solid record of 37-19-8, they are considered cup contenders, and will likely face the Bruins in the first round, to the dismay of many Leafs fans.

Of course, the trade deadline brings with it the opportunity to bolster your team for the offseason, and Brad Treliving certainly didn’t shy away from doing just that.

Heading into the deadline Treliving had limited assets to work with. Two first-round picks for the next three years, no seconds, two-thirds, one-fourth, and an abundance of late-round picks.

With those few bullets, Treliving hit home, bolstering his blue line with two tough, solid defenders with a combined cap hit of $1.56M, and a valuable bottom-six centre.

The first move came a week prior to the deadline. The Leafs re-acquired a defenseman that has played well for them in the past in Ilya Lyubushkin from the Anaheim Ducks for a 2025 third-round pick, and sent a 2024 sixth-round pick to the Carolina Hurricanes for their part in the deal, retaining 50% of Lyubushkin’s salary which brought his cap-hit down to just $687,500.

The 6’2, 200 lb Russian has five points in 59 games for the Ducks this season, with a -13 rating. On paper, it doesn't look great, but it’s worth considering that the Ducks as a team have one of the worst goal differentials in the NHL with -57, and Lyubushkin was asked to play over 17 minutes per night with little to no support on a team that is essentially built to lose.

On the Leafs back in 2022, he was a +4 with 32 blocks and 92 hits over 31 games after the deadline. He fits well on Morgan Rielly’s right side, bringing another physical presence to the Leafs blueline.

Physicality did seem to be a theme in this year's deadline, with the Leafs' other big acquisition being Joel Edmundson.

Edmundson is a big man. Standing at 6’5, 221 lbs, he’ll be leaned upon heavily to move bodies in front of the Leafs net. Edmundson was a big part of the St. Louis Blues team that won the Stanley Cup in 2019, playing over 16 minutes per game and blocking 36 shots on their way to the Cup. In other words, he’s a big tough defender with plenty of playoff experience and a Stanley Cup ring to show for it, not unlike Luke Schenn from last year’s trade deadline.

The only deal that the Leafs actually made on deadline day was acquiring Connor Dewar from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for prospect Dmitry Ovchinnikov and a fourth-round pick.

“Connor’s a guy that was a cost fit in terms of the cap hit,” said Leafs GM Brad Treliving on Dewar. “A real competitive player, excellent penalty killer, has some flexibility in terms of positional utility, can play centre, can play the wing. He’s got some grease to him.”

The 24-year-old from Manitoba has just less than two NHL seasons under his belt with the Minnesota Wild. In 173 games played with the Wild, Dewar has recorded 18 goals and 20 assists. He averaged just over 10 minutes per night, spending most of it on the penalty kill, and shockingly, dealt 266 hits over that span. That averages out to 1.5 per game for the 5’10, 183 lb centre.

Defensively responsible, hard-hitting, hard-working, and not afraid to drop the gloves, with five NHL fights already in his young career, Connor Dewar might just prove to be an invaluable piece to the Leafs playoff run.

Here’s an excellent play where Dewar lays a big hit on Reese Johnson at centre ice, and proceeds to drop the gloves with the far bigger enforcer.

So the team has gotten bigger, tougher, and more defensively responsible heading into the final stretch of the regular season. While they couldn't afford to add the likes of Noah Hanifin or Jake Guentzel, with the assets they had, the Leafs improved noticeably, and look ready to take on the Bruins in the first round.


Dave Felsbourg


Sunday, March 10, 2024

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