‘I’d like to give our team a chance to roll,’ Leafs GM Kyle Dubas says of the lead-up to the trade deadline
Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas is buoyant when it comes to assessing his team’s needs before the NHL’s March 21 trade deadline.
He has a mostly healthy team for the first time this season and he can let it “roll” as the deadline approaches. Defenceman Jake Muzzin took part in his first full practice Sunday since suffering a concussion and should return this week.
Dubas should have a little over $1 million in cap space at the deadline, a number that could fluctuate depending on how the team manages any potential injuries at the time. With depth in the organization, he is willing to go against his normal preference and move one of the team’s three picks from the 2022 draft.
What will the approach be over the next six weeks?
I’d like to give our team a chance to roll as constructed and, if not, we will take as much information as we have and use that to dictate what we may want to do with the team. Of course, the group is playing above .700 in terms of its winning percentage but, having said that, we’re in a dogfight every day in our division with Tampa and Florida, and then Boston is right there. I have a lot of belief in the group but, in terms of what we will do and whether we’re active or not, I certainly want to take as much time as we can.
What areas might you be looking at?
We have some cap space now ($489,711), which is nice … I’d love to sit here and say this is the one thing we will specifically need but, because cap space is limited, when you go out and acquire somebody, you’re usually done at that point … The one thing we have that I’m most excited about is that, on defence, we have two young players (Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren) that are playing in nightly roles. And playing those roles at their age, they’re going to have ups and downs, so how do they come through it? In terms of potential, those young guys probably have more than anyone in our system. But what can they do and accomplish here with a little more runway, and what can we learn from them that can be constructive for us in terms of how we want to approach the deadline?
What are your plans for Josh Ho-Sang and other prospects?
I think Josh has been a great story … We’ll watch Josh as we will the other forwards we have (at the Olympic Games). He’ll come back to the Marlies and go from there. We have other players who are going to push Josh … He’s had a longer pedigree and been in the public eye for a long time, so he gets a lot of the conversation, and he’ll be in that mix as we head toward the deadline. We have to have those players on NHL contracts by (the trade deadline) to have them eligible to play in the playoffs, so that will sort of be the way that we dictate what happens there. Josh is the most individually talented player in the group, but the others have different elements that can help the team as well.
Nick Ritchie and Kyle Clifford will go to the Marlies this week. Are you happy with your left wingers?
It’s made it difficult for Nick Ritchie with Pierre (Engvall) playing the way he has, the utility he brings — even-strength, any line we put him on he seems to help the line get better, and what he’s been able to do on the penalty kill … We have Nick Robertson back playing, he’s starting on the right (wing) with the Marlies just to give him some more versatility. Alex Steeves is down there, he’s played both left and right, and Joey Anderson has been up (with Leafs) and played, so it may not be the veteran depth people may want, but we’re happy with it … I don’t think the story is done for any of those players we have in our system or we’ve signed who haven’t worked out yet for us.”