The top-5 players that the Leafs could use as trade chips at the deadline

Published January 28, 2022 at 10:04
BY COLE HAYES
The NHL trade deadline is roughly a month and a half away. The Leafs are currently 3rd place in the Atlantic division with a 26-10-3 record. The Leafs have 5 games in hand on the division leading Florida Panthers and 5 in hand on the second place Tampa Bay Lightning. The Leafs will be making up these games during what is a busy February schedule. This is an all-in season for the Leafs and because of that, they are likely to buy at the trade deadline.

We often talk about who the Leafs should acquire at the trade deadline but one thing that we don't always mention is who the Leafs may need to give up in order to make a big splash. I'll be going over my opinion on who the top-5 trade chips for the Leafs are heading into the trade deadline.

1. ONE OF RASMUS SANDIN OR TIMOTHY LILJEGREN

Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren are coming into their own as NHL players this season. Sandin or Liljegren would likely not be on the move unless the Leafs were getting another star defenceman. For example, the asking price for Jakub Chychrun is a young talented player, a top prospect, a 1st round pick and an additional pick, possibly as high as a second rounder. That is a hefty price to pay for a player, but for a cost effective player that is high caliber like Chychrun, it has to be something the Leafs would at least consider.


Sandin and Liljegren have proven this year that they have passed the prospect stage of their career and are now in the category of quality young players. They are players that the Leafs hope can develop into bona-fide top-4 NHL defensemen. If the Leafs want to make a franchise-altering move on the back end, one of Sandin or Liljegren may be used as a trade chip, as much as the fans may not want to hear it.

2. PETR MRAZEK

This summer, the Leafs will need to re-sign Jack Campbell and given how well he's played this season, he could end up costing the Leafs a pretty penny. Petr Mrazek makes $3.8 million for another 2 seasons after this one. Mrazek has struggled this season, but played his best game as a Leaf on Saturday against the Islanders.

One thing that many have predicted that the Leafs may try and do is acquire a goalie that is similar to Mrazek in skillset and cap hit, but is on an expiring deal. It would not move the needle much for the Leafs this season, but the Leafs can then use that money to try and re-sign Jack Campbell - which would make the team better in the long run.

3. RODION AMIROV

Many fans have been frustrated with the development of Rodion Amirov this season. The Russian forward was picked 15th overall by the Leafs in 2020 and in 10 KHL games this season, Amirov has just 3 points and has not seen much in the way of ice time. Amirov has been playing limited minutes in the KHL and there have been games where he was dressed but didn't see a regular shift. This is not uncommon with young players in the KHL, especially those with hopes of playing in North America.

The debates on if Amirov was the right pick began right away and have since accelerated after Braden Schnieder, who was picked 19th overall by the Rangers has made his NHL debut. The Leafs drafted Amirov for his skilled two-way game. The thought is that he'll be a good middle 6 winger in the NHL. That being said, if the Leafs use him as a trade asset at the deadline, he could be a good two-way middle 6 winger for another organization.

4. NICK RITCHIE

Nick Ritchie has very little value right now. Ever since the Leafs' forward group got healthy, Ritchie has found himself as a healthy scratch more often then not. The 6'3 forward cleared waivers earlier this season and currently makes $2.5 million for this season and next. The Orangeville, Ontario native has put up 2 goals and 7 assists in 33 games this season.

Moving Nick Ritchie is not going to bring back much of anything for the Leafs, but moving Ritchie could be invaluable for the cap space that the move can create.

5. ILYA MIKHEYEV

Ilya Mikheyev has had a fantastic season since returning from a wrist injury on December 14th. The Russian winger has scored 6 goals and 7 points in 10 games so far this season. It may not make sense for the Leafs to trade a player scoring at this rate, but with that being said, Mikheyev did request a trade in the summer and he may still want out.

With his quality play this season, Mikheyev has proven to have value and he is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. His trade value has likely never been higher and moving Mikheyev could help clear some cap space and give the Leafs the chance to acquire a game-changing asset for the playoffs at the trade deadline.

Of course, not every name on this list will move. Maybe none of them will, but if the Leafs do intend to make a big splash, I'd expect that one or more names on this list could be a part of the deal. You could also include the Leafs' 1st round picks both this year and next on this list, as the team's Stanley Cup window is wide open.
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