An ideal trade target for the Leafs may have just become available on the trade market

Published June 10, 2023 at 11:14
BY MIKE ARMENTI

There's no question that the Leafs will be looking to make some changes this summer and, depending what happens with Ryan O'Reilly in free agency, the Leafs could be looking for another player who can provide them with some help up the middle and allow them to shift John Tavares over to the wing next season.

While many eyes are likely drawn to the list of players available this summer via free agency, the Leafs' solution might not come from this year's crop of free agents - but rather on the trade market. The Arizona Coyotes are a team who has to make some tough decisions this summer and the Leafs could make an ideal dance partner if the two decide to link up for a trade.

Pierre LeBrun, Eric Duhatschek and Michael Russo got together for The Athletic to put together a list of players who might find themselves traded at some point this summer and they listed a Coyotes player as a prime candidate to move, simply because of his back-loaded contract and increasing "actual salary". That player is Nick Schmaltz.

Schmaltz is one of the league's most underrated forwards, largely due to the market that he plays in. Schmaltz can play both wing and center and owns a reasonable $5.85M cap hit for 3 more seasons. The problem for the Coyotes is that his salary over those 3 years grows incrementally season-over-season from $7.5M to $8.5M. For a team who operates on an internal budget, that kind of money may be an expense that they're not willing to pay.


For the Leafs, the move makes a lot of sense as well. Schmaltz is 5 and a half years younger than Tavares, so he still has a lot more life left in his legs to take over the 2C job, allowing Tavares to slide over to the wing. Schmaltz also has 117 points over his last 126 games, which is very strong production. Also, I know that +/- is not the end all, be all of statistics, but it's worth mentioning that while Tavares was -7 on a powerhouse Leafs team last year, Schmaltz was +4 on an underwhelming Coyotes team last season.

Schmaltz name is not going to hold a lot of weight for casual hockey fans, but if he was playing in a larger market, almost everyone would know who he was. He's that effective. The one knock against him is his inability to remain healthy. Schmaltz has been limited to just 63 games in each of the last 2 seasons.

In terms of what it might cost the Leafs to get him, Schmaltz is a good player. Good players cost assets that teams generally don't want to part with. He also has term. So if the Leafs do take a swing on Schmaltz, be prepared for something that might seem like a bit of an overpay at face value. Once you see him play, however, the cost of acquisition may not end up looking so bad. Of course, there's also the chance that playing in a smaller market has decreased his value a bit, which may allow the Leafs to come in and pull off a bit of a heist.

POLL
June 10   |   461 answers
An ideal trade target for the Leafs may have just become available on the trade market

Should the Leafs pursue a deal for Nick Schmaltz this summer?

Yes, definitely!19742.7 %
No, he's too injury prone17938.8 %
Who??8518.4 %
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