Did Toronto’s Deadline Trades Help The Team?
The Toronto Maple Leafs clinched a playoff berth on Monday, by way of the Florida Panthers 5-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators, but are you ready to take them over their likely first round playoff opponent, the Tampa Bay Lightning?
Leafs fans and people interested in NHL betting have grown accustomed to playoff disappointment. This is the seventh season in a row Toronto has made the playoffs, the team’s longest streak since making the post-season eight years in a row from 1974-’81.
Leafs Have Grit This Year
Toronto hasn’t won a Stanley Cup playoff round since 2004. Going into Wednesday’s game against the struggling Florida Panthers, losers of four straight and fast dropping out of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Leafs sit fourth in the Eastern Conference with 97 points. NorthStar Bets has the moneyline at Leafs -159, and the Panthers +130.
This year feels a little different in Leafland though. For the first time, this feels more like a playoff team – tried and true roster grit combined with a core four that’s been maturing.
Who would you rather have now? The 60-goal version of Auston Matthews last season, or the Matthews that this season has openly embraced team defence, still producing what will likely be a 40-goal, 90-point regular season. We’ll go with the latter.
Grading The Trades
Back during NHL trade deadline week, the Leafs were among the more active NHL teams, making four trades. How have each of those players fared so far, and what impact will they potentially have in the Stanley Cup playoffs?
C Ryan O’Reilly, acquired from St. Louis Blues, Feb. 17
It was reported on Tuesday that O’Reilly is unlikely to return to the lineup this week after breaking his finger March 4 in a game against Vancouver, and with nine games left it’s important that he gets some game action in before the series opener, likely against Tampa Bay.
The 32-year-old O’Reilly was off to a good start with his new team, chocking up three goals and five points over his first eight games before getting hurt. We liked the small signs – star forward Mitch Marner skating over for counsel from O’Reilly before an important faceoff.
That’s what happens to players when you add a Stanley Cup winner and Conn Smythe winner to your lineup (which O’Reilly accomplished in 2019 with the Blues). This was our favourite move, because it will have the most potential come playoff time – if he can stay healthy.
Grade so far: B
C Noel Acciari, acquired from St. Louis Blues, Feb. 17
Love his grit, his skating, how he has helped solidify the bottom six of the lineup. He reportedly wasn’t practising on Tuesday and will not play Wednesday (remember the hit to the head by the Carolina Hurricanes’ Jesse Puljujarvi), but so far Acciari has been as advertised — building on his hits total, now at 225, tenth in the league, and contributing with three goals and lots of energy. He led the team in four blocked shots in a 3-2 win Sunday against Nashville.
Grade so far: B+
C Sam Lafferty, acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks, Feb. 27
Another defensively solid addition to the team’s bottom six – one goal, two assists, and a minus-3 so far. Acciari and Lafferty are big improvements over the likes of Pierre Engvall, traded away to the New York Islanders during trade deadline week.
Grade so far: B-
D Jake McCabe, acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks, Feb. 27
We loved the trade because the Leafs were getting a solid defenceman with contract certainty. The has McCabe for two more seasons under contract, with Chicago retaining 50% of his cap hit. He stood up for teammate John Tavares in a fight in one of the first games, taking on the larger Tyler Myers from Vancouver, making an impression on his new teammates, and has been solid defensively overall – a plus-3 over his first 13 games.
In the 3-2 win over Nashville, he was on the ice for a team-high 24 shot attempts-for at 5-on-5.
Grade so far: B+
D Luke Schenn, acquired from the Vancouver Canucks, Feb. 28
Too soon to tell on Schenn, since he has missed a bulk of time, being at home with his wife as she delivered the couple’s third child. Still, Schenn leads the league in hits, at 283. That’s what they’re going to need to wear down those Lightning skill forwards in that opening series.
Grade so far: B-
D Erik Gustafsson, acquired from the Washington Capitals, Feb. 28
This one scared us, because they gave up a potential blue chipper, D Rasmus Sandin, in the deal. Sandin so far with Washington? Twelve points in 11 games (a minus-6).
Gustafsson is away from the Leafs because of a “personal situation,” and there’s no timeline of when he will be back. He had one assist in eight games and was a minus-one with Toronto, a combined 39 points (seven goals and 32 assists) and a plus-21 in 69 games with the Leafs and Capitals. He saw a lot of time on the Leafs’ top power play unit when Morgan Rielly was out of the lineup.
Grade so far: C+
NorthStar Bets currently has the Leafs +500 to win the Eastern Conference, alongside the Carolina Hurricanes at +500, both trailing the Boston Bruins, who sit today at +175.
NorthStar has the Leafs at +1000 to win the Stanley Cup, behind the Bruins (+350), Colorado Avalanche (+600) and the Hurricanes (also at +1000).
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