Leafs reporter identifies one underrated trade chip at Brad Treliving's disposal

Mike Armenti
December 26, 2023  (11:37)

Photo credit: The Athletic

For the Toronto Maple Leafs, as the holiday break and trade freeze wrap up this week, it will be back to business for GM Brad Treliving, who has yet to swing a deal to bolster the blueline, which has been the Leafs' biggest area of need thus far this season.

The Leafs have been linked to the likes of Chris Tanev, Will Borgen, Sean Walker, Nick Seeler and plenty of others early on this season, but as far as the pieces that they're prepared to move, we already know that Matthew Knies is off the table. Treliving also indicated in recent weeks that Fraser Minten and Easton Cowan are off the table. So, aside from their 2024 and 2026 1st round picks, what else of value do the Leafs have offer in a trade?
Obviously, Nick Robertson's name is floating around out there, and The Athletic's Jonas Siegel also floated Dennis Hildeby's name out there, though he cautioned that the Leafs have a very rough history of trading goalies before they pop off (see Tuukka Rask). There is, however, one more piece that Siegel believes could be an excellent trade chip for the Buds.
24-year-old Pontus Holmberg has been buried down the depth chart in Toronto this year, largely because of the acquisition of Max Domi, who has stepped in as the Leafs' 3C, ahead of David Kampf, giving the Leafs a pretty solid setup down the middle with Auston Matthews and John Tavares, of course, manning the top two lines. However, Siegel believes that Holmberg is an NHL player and he also believes that teams understand that.
"Holmberg is the kind of player that opposing front offices should push to include in a trade with the Leafs. Not as the primary piece but a piece nonetheless. Why?

• Holmberg is only 24.
• Holmberg makes almost nothing — a cap hit of $800,000 for this season and next, after which he remains in team control as a restricted free agent.
• Holmberg is a centre who proved he could play some in the NHL when given the opportunity last season.

Kämpf's fall into the fourth-line centre position has eliminated Holmberg's opportunity with the Leafs, but elsewhere, on a worse team, he would play and play more minutes than will be available any time soon in Toronto. Kämpf, remember, is signed for three more seasons after this one. Do the Leafs think Holmberg can one day leapfrog him and become the kind of 3C who defends and produces some offence? That feels like a stretch, though Holmberg did produce at a 29-point pace for the Leafs last season playing fourth-line minutes.

I think Holmberg is an NHL player and can see it happening for him — a la Carl Grundstrom, a la Trevor Moore — if he goes elsewhere."

-Jonas Siegel on Holmberg being a solid trade chip for the Leafs

Holmberg has notched 10 points in 11 games for the Toronto Marlies this season before earning a call-up last week. Just last season, Sheldon Keefe sang Holmberg's praises during his rookie campaign, saying that he always sits down his young players and shows them game tape containing all of their mistakes as a way of giving them some guidance and helping them isolate the things they need to work on. Keefe had surprisingly told the media early on last season that he couldn't do that with Holmberg because he's a young player who does everything right. Quite the vote of confidence from his coach.
This year, Holmberg has struggled a bit, particularly in training camp and the pre season, which is a big part of the reason why he began the season in the American Hockey League. Now back up with the Leafs, it shouldn't be too much of a surprise if the team tries to sneak him into some games here to showcase him ahead of the trade deadline.
Leafs reporter identifies one underrated trade chip at Brad Treliving's disposal

Will the Leafs trade Pontus Holmberg before the deadline?

Yes43070.5 %
No18029.5 %
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