Maple Leafs Dilemma: to buy or to sell?

As the All-Star break for the 2023-2024 NHL season arrives, the Toronto Maple Leafs organization must decide if they want to buy or save the assets they would use on additional pieces—such as players, prospects, and draft picks—for another year. Typically, a team buys if they are confident enough in their current group of players to go out and trade for additional pieces for a deep playoff run. Conversely, if a team does poorly during the season and the chances of them making the playoffs are slim to none, those teams typically choose to sell. Good players are traded for “futures” including young prospects or draft picks, in hopes that they’ll be on the roster in future years when the team is in a better position to make noise in the playoffs.

Last year, the Leafs had an impressive regular season, gaining the confidence of management, who delved into the trade market and acquired key playoff contributors such as Ryan O’Reilly, Noel Acciari, Jake McCabe, Sam Lafferty, and Luke Schenn. While almost no Leafs player looked good last year against the Florida Panthers, all of these players were key contributors in the Leafs’ first-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, defeating them in six games.  

As it currently stands, the Leafs are not having as great of a season as they did last year. Head coach Sheldon Keefe has commented that he doesn’t know which players he can trust, and the team overall has had its fair share of ups and downs over the course of this season. While the Leafs are still liable to make the playoffs this year, given their mixed performance, they are not expected to go all-in this season and will likely only add smaller pieces to their current roster. 

Not being confident enough to go all-in does not mean the Leafs won’t add any players to their roster at all. Many suggest that they will look to add a rugged, right-handed defenceman, similar to Chris Tanev. Tanev’s name has been brought up in many trade discussions throughout the league, so he may end up being too expensive for the Leafs. Regardless, expect the Leafs to add to their blueline with a trade or two. 

If the Leafs’ season takes a turn for the worse and they find themselves in a position where they are likely going to miss the playoffs, then the team will likely look to sell off some of their expiring contracts. This would be a good idea for the Leafs in this scenario because they would still be able to salvage some assets and not completely flop this season. If this scenario plays out, look for the Leafs to move off from players such as Tyler Bertuzzi, Max Domi, and T.J. Brodie

Only time will tell what the Leafs decide to do. With limited assets and not too many trade targets in the open market, it will be interesting to see how the Leafs look to bolster their team while staying conservative and not throwing away too many assets on a team unlikely to go deep into the playoffs.

Sports & Health Editor (Volume 50); Locked on Leafs Columnist (Volume 48 & 49) — Omar is in his final year at UTM, working towards completing a major in CCIT and double minors in Political Science and Anthropology. Omar loves to keep up with various sports teams, his favourite being the Toronto Maple Leafs. When he isn’t stressing over exams or the Leafs, you can find him watching movies, looking at shoes he can only hope to afford, and trying his best to avoid parking tickets on campus.


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