Bad trade anniversary: Nick Foligno deal to Leafs 3 years ago today

Mike Armenti
April 11, 2024  (3:23 PM)

Nick Foligno speaking with the media in Toronto
Photo credit: TSN

The Toronto Maple Leafs have not had much trade luck in recent years, especially around the trade deadline. Today happens to be the anniversary of one of the worst deadline deals in recent Maple Leafs history; the Nick Foligno trade.

Back in 2021, the Leafs were flying high heading into the deadline, looking like a strong candidate to win the makeshift North Division, during the pandemic. Winning the division would put the Maple Leafs in a prime position to be able to do some damage in the postseason, which meant that Kyle Dubas and company were happy to swing a deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets for Foligno, purely for his playoff experience and physical play. In hindsight, the move was a real dud and a costly blunder for Dubas and President Brendan Shanahan.
Then Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen laughed his way to the bank after completing a 3-way deal with the Leafs and the San Jose Sharks, sending Foligno to the Sharks en route to the Leafs for double salary retention purposes, walking away with 1st and 4th round picks for his trouble. The Sharks also received a 4th round pick and the Leafs walked away with Foligno and depth forward Stefan Noesen.
Unfortunately, as outlined in the Amazon Prime "All or Nothing" series, which covered the Leafs' 2020-21 season and playoffs, Foligno was injured almost immediately after landing in Toronto, missing all but 7 regular season games and playing in just 4 of the Leafs' 7 playoff games against the Montreal Canadiens. He would walk away as a UFA that summer and sign a multi-year deal with the Boston Bruins.
For Dubas, it's a miracle that the move wasn't the one that got him fired. Dubas also famously traded away fan favourite Nazem Kadri to Colorado just 2 years prior in another wildly unpopular move among the fanbase, with Tyson Barrie and Alex Kerfoot being the keys to the return for the Leafs.

Why was the Foligno deal such a poor trade for the Maple Leafs?

At the time of the deal, Foligno was 33 and hadn't played more than 73 games in a season since 2016-17, though there were a couple of COVID-19-shortened seasons in there, to be fair. Even after leaving Toronto, though, Foligno could not seem to remain healthy, playing just 64 and 60 games, respectively, in his two seasons in Boston. He has also suited up in just 70 games for the Chicago Blackhawks this season. The phrase "damaged goods" comes to mind, likely more out of frustration than anything, but here we are.
Had John Tavares been healthy for that playoff run, rather than suffering a devastating head injury after being run into by Canadiens winger Corey Perry, who knows what might have happened, even without Foligno in the lineup. Still, it's tough to look back at this one and not see anything but an abject failure.
After coming over from Columbus, Foligno produced just 4 assists for the Maple Leafs in the regular season and 1 lone assist across his 4 playoff games. At the time, there were a lot of pundits who viewed Foligno as an ideal target for the Leafs. Boy, if we could only have known then what we know now.
Sure, this may seem a bit unfair to Foligno, but in looking back now, it was always a gamble at best from Kyle Dubas. Foligno's inability to remain healthy was certainly well-documented and with the very physical brand of hockey that he plays, it's no wonder why his body is beginning to fall apart on the wrong side of 30. It's just more unfortunate than anything else that the Leafs burned one of Auston Matthews' prime years on an injury-prone 33-year-old, even if the move was viewed as solid move by the Leafs at the time.
11 AVRIL   |   387 ANSWERS
Bad trade anniversary: Nick Foligno deal to Leafs 3 years ago today

Which trade was worse for Kyle Dubas during his time with the Maple Leafs: the Nick Foligno deal or the Nazem Kadri deal?

The Kadri deal was worse, all day20653.2 %
The Foligno deal was worse. Just no excuse for it18146.8 %
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