The Toronto Maple Leafs have been active in the first few days of free agency. However they are nowhere near done with the business they need to attend to.
Among the things on the Maple Leafs’ to-do list include finding resolutions on their remaining RFAs in Rasmus Sandin and Pierre Engvall. With just over $2 million in available cap space, something has to give.
As has been previously reported, the Sandin situation has been trickier than expected due to what the player is looking for. The Maple Leafs thought they could get something done sooner in the same way they got something done with Timothy Liljegren. But the situation remains unresolved.
While it remains a possibility that Sandin gets traded if he and the Maple Leafs can’t figure it out, they’d ideally would like to keep him. They’d like to keep Engvall too. But in order to do that, they have to open up cap space.
This is why the Maple Leafs must still try to trade Justin Holl if possible.
Why This Trade Makes Sense
One look at what the Maple Leafs’ ideal defense core looks like tells you everything you need to know. A $2 million defenseman outside of the top-four is not ideal.
While there is a chance Holl now stays depending on how the Sandin situation plays out, the Maple Leafs would be better suited having that $2 million available for other business. Their top-four is set with Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin T.J. Brodie and Mark Giordano in the fold. Liljegren is expected to get an increased role and a continued chance to play with Giordano.
In a perfect world, the Maple Leafs would rather play Sandin at a lower cap hit than Holl at his current cap hit. The good news for them is that there are still options available in order to make this move happen.
Our Leafs’ contributor Shane Seney wrote back in November why Holl was always in the rumor mill when it came to trades. He slipped down the depth chart in favor of Liljegren and Sandin.
Holl still has plenty to offer to the right team in the right situation. Teams will find room to add a right-handed defensemen especially when there is a need for a veteran presence.
Holl also would add size and experience to a lineup. Despite all the flack he’s received from fans, he’s coming off a season where he had career highs in goals, assists and points. If he lands in the right situation, he will help solidify a team’s depth. The recent additions of Victor Mete and Jordie Benn also point to a trade being likely here.
The issue for the Maple Leafs here is that he is no longer a necessity for their blue line. They would be thrilled to shed that contract as they need all the cap space they could get. In this current environment, someone could sneak an offer sheet in on Sandin forcing the Maple Leafs’ hand. Having financial flexibility becomes one of their greatest assets. In order to get that flexibility, a trade is the best option.
Other Trade Options
Holl is the obvious choice for trade given his diminished role. However the Maple Leafs could explore other possible options too. This is especially important given that Holl has some control. He can submit a list of 10 teams he cannot be traded to.
If the Maple Leafs want to take a bigger swing, they could see about a trade involving Muzzin or Brodie although that’s not likely given their role. At forward, would they consider moving either William Nylander or Alexander Kerfoot in the right situation?
Those would only make sense in the perfect world situation in which it would the return would make the Maple Leafs better. That’s hard to find. That’s why Holl continues to stand out as the player they must try to trade.
For an acquiring team, the Maple Leafs would listen. It likely wouldn’t cost much. And plenty of teams can take on one season at a $2 million AAV. You can never have enough defensive depth. That’s why contenders should consider this trade. That’s also why the Maple Leafs should strike now.
Maple Leafs Must Make Cap Their Friend
The Maple Leafs live in the world where they are a cap team. They must make shrewd moves in order to stay compliant while icing the best possible team.
The Maple Leafs just acquired Matt Murray and were able to get him with the Senators retaining 25%. It’s a risky gamble but you can see the logic behind it. But they still have work to do in order to make the cap their friend again.
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Trading Holl is necessary to be in a position to have some flexibility in order to finish conducting their remaining business. With that said, they might need to keep him if they can’t find an agreement with Sandin.
The Maple Leafs will have options to make this trade happen. It feels like just a matter of time before a Holl trade makes headlines.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.