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Why The Toronto Maple Leafs Need To Go All-In

The Toronto Maple Leafs have been perennial Stanley Cup contenders since Auston Matthews's second year in the league which has made the Leafs have to make win-now moves seemingly every season but this is the year that it is time for the Leafs to push all of their chips into the middle.

Despite the noise around the Leafs that this is a down year for them in terms of the regular season standings they're still firmly in a playoff spot with 66 points, good for third in the Atlantic division. It also happens to be a down year for the league overall in terms of having no doubt lock Stanley Cup contenders because of the effects the flat cap environment has had on the league these past few years. Look no further than the Vancouver Canucks, who are first in the league based on points, but by most observers, the Canucks are closer to the tenth-best team as opposed to the best team in the league based on true talent. The Canucks are just one example, take a look at the reigning cup champs in Vegas, they haven't been healthy all year and are relying on Adin Hill as their goalie. The Avalanche don't have a second-line center, which leads them to possibly burn out their top players because they play thirty minutes a night. The flat cap environment has made it so that there is no top tier of cup contenders, there is only a second tier, and the Leafs are firmly in that tier.

The Leafs also cannot waste the historic goal-scoring season that Auston Matthews is having by not doing anything at the trade deadline. Matthews has already scored 48 goals in only 52 games, while on pace to do something no one this century has done and score 71 goals in a single season. The Leafs made Auston Matthews the highest-paid player in the league because he can score 55-plus goals, but he is on pace to score 70 this year which would be a once-in-a-career season for any player this century. The Leafs can't squander the season Auston Matthews is having.

Even though the Leafs have made go-for-it trades in the past which has lowered the amount of assets they have available to them this year to trade, they still have a first-round pick this year on top of their top two prospects Fraser Minten and Easton Cowan available to be dealt. Those three assets are more than enough to go out and add a top-four defenseman like Chris Tanev or the recently made available Noah Hanifin. Minten and Cowan are highly regarded by NHL teams. The Leafs don't have to move all of them in one trade for only a defenseman they can also go out and get a top-six forward to help supplement their offense because Minten and Cowan are so valued. With the salary cap not an issue thanks to John Klingberg being on LTIR the Leafs have more than enough asset capital to go make any trade that will vault them to the top of the list of cup contenders.

Even though going all in has its risks especially if the Leafs flame out of the playoffs again, this is the year to risk it all because the league has never seen so much parody. This season as many as ten to twelve teams can win the cup thanks to the flat cap environment. The Leafs also can't waste one of the best seasons any player has had this century because there will likely be some regression next year from Matthews. Not to mention that trading prospects who won't make a meaningful impact on winning for at least two more seasons isn't that risky at all. All of it adds to that this is the year the Leafs go all in.



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