The Toronto Maple Leafs were nonparticipants in the 2014 NHL trade deadline. While the team had made some moves leading up to the deadline, such as adding defender Tim Gleason and sending Mark Fraser to the Edmonton Oilers, it was quiet on deadline day in Canada's largest city.
With basically no cap space available to him, general manager Dave Nonis would have had to make a hockey deal in shedding salary before adding to his roster. His post-deadline press conference with some explanations can be found here.
Looming in the background is the fact that Dave Bolland is expected to return to the club from injury, although the timeline has been extended. Essentially, he will become the second-line centre many of us believe the Leafs need to make some noise in this spring's playoffs, and it will feel like the Leafs are getting a new player with how long he has been injured.
The Leafs' two greatest areas of need were on the point and up the middle. Bolland's return should offer a lot of hope to Leafs fans, though, as he will bring a dynamic element to the team. Nazem Kadri can be used in more of an offensive role, while Bolland will be able to play some tougher minutes when needed.
While some observers may have deemed Kadri expendable, it would not have made much sense to trade the promising pivot, particularly with the high degree of uncertainty surrounding the team moving forward at this position.
The Leafs also needed to retain draft picks as they continue to build through the draft. While there are some promising players in the system, they must add more blue-chip prospects at centre and in goal, in particular.
Also, there can be no question that teams would have shown interest in youngsters Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner, but the Leafs did well to continue to show faith in their young blueliners. Rielly shows tremendous promise, and Gardiner has the skills to develop into a top-four defender as his game matures.
One good move would have been to add another depth defender. Injuries are inevitable on the point, and sitting the young rearguards, from time to time, also would have been a good option with the amount of hockey the club still has to play.
With the Leafs looking like they will be a playoff team, giving up a later-round draft pick or a forward prospect might have made some sense to acquire a veteran defenceman. Again, given the salary-cap issues, Nonis may not have been able to make this work, or the asking price may have been unreasonable for any targeted defender.
The Montreal Canadiens made a splash at the deadline, particularly in picking up Thomas Vanek from the New York Islanders, which should be concerning to the Leafs. The Leafs will be battling Montreal and the Tampa Bay Lightning for one of two division playoff spots.
But the Leafs roster is now set. They must continue to get fully healthy, and all skaters need to focus on playing better team defence.
With the exemplary goaltending the Leafs have had from both Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer, if they can give their fine tandem the support it deserves, a playoff berth and some playoff success could just follow.
While standing pat may not have been the best choice for the Leafs, it was likely a wise one given what it might have cost the Leafs to make a significant deal at this juncture.
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