After trading away Dion Phaneuf to the Ottawa Senators, general manager Lou Lamoriello kept on keeping on. On Sunday, he traded Shawn Matthias to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for a fourth round draft pick for 2016 and centre Colin Smith. And on Monday, he traded defenceman Roman Polak and centre Nick Spaling to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for second round draft picks in 2017 and 2018 as well as Raffi Torres.
Lamoriello has been piling up the picks for the Maple Leafs and they’ll have as many as a dozen selections in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. They’ve currently got nine on tap for 2017 and eight for 2018.
The Maple Leafs have essentially set market value for rentals as the trade deadline approaches and that could have an effect on the moves other Canadian teams are likely to make. The salary cap remains inert, which effectively raises the value on draft picks and prospects. And that makes Lamoriello look really, really good for what he’s pulled off in the last while.
The Sharks gave up picks for Polak and Spaling, but it’s hard to imagine those two players accounting for more than depth in San Jose. The club is third in the Pacific Division after missing the post-season last year and the acquisition of depth is a good thing, but Toronto made out like gangbusters here.
And it’s not over yet.
Lamoriello is expected to move the likes of P.A. Parenteau and Brad Boyes, with Michael Grabner also on the block. These players should provide more options and likely more draft picks.
The fire sale could extend beyond the aforementioned trio, with anyone not named Morgan Rielly, James van Riemsdyk and Leo Komarov up for the taking. That could mean a trade is even in the works for Tyler Bozak, despite the significant contract and the potential health issues.
While the acquisition of draft picks is a step in the right direction, the Maple Leafs will have to overcome years of questionable drafting and development to turn the selections into actual players. So far, history hasn’t been kind. The last player Toronto picked up in the second round to play more than one NHL game was Jimmy Hayes. And that was in 2008.
Since then, they’ve missed out on second round picks like Tomas Tatar, Justin Faulk, Tyler Toffoli, Brandon Saad, Boone Jenner, and Nikita Kucherov.
And there may be similar opportunities lying in the second round pools to come, which suggests that Lamoriello would be wise to hold on to his selections. At this point, that does seem to be part of the long-term plan. The Maple Leafs may not be winners on the ice, but they’re starting to get a little smarter in the front office and that’s a good sign.
Believe it or not, there are reasons for optimism if you’re a Toronto fan. What a weird feeling that must be.