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Home / Sportscope / The Maple Leafs can’t afford to sink more resources into this season

The Maple Leafs can’t afford to sink more resources into this season

The reaction was all-too predictable on the heels of the run on defensemen exchanging hands through the NHL trade market on Tuesday afternoon.

“Hold up, how were the Leafs not in on that?”

Sure, there’s value in Brenden Dillon and maybe to a lesser extent Marco Scandella, too, but if there was a swap that seemed to be most irritating for Toronto Maple Leafs fans that have had it up to here (*signals with hand*) with the failures of the current defensive corps, Dylan DeMelo heading to the Winnipeg Jets for a third-round pick really seemed to grate the masses.

“You mean we couldn’t have paid that price?”

TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 13: Sheldon Keefe head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs looks on against the Dallas Stars during the second period at Scotiabank Arena on February 13, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 13: Sheldon Keefe head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs looks on against the Dallas Stars during the second period at Scotiabank Arena on February 13, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON – FEBRUARY 13: Sheldon Keefe head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs looks on against the Dallas Stars during the second period at Scotiabank Arena on February 13, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)

Given that it was a division rival in the Ottawa Senators dealing away the rearguard, in all likelihood it would have cost more than a third-round pick to acquire DeMelo, because that’s just how things work in the sport.

What’s more likely, though, is that the Leafs weren’t interested in paying the price that Winnipeg did for the defenseman, who in an ideal scenario would plug in as a No. 5 in a quality depth chart.

That could very well come down to their own evaluation of DeMelo — or the simple fact that trading future assets has become far more complicated for the Leafs than most other teams.

What’s not being talked about enough in Toronto right now is the sudden erosion of resources at the disposal of Kyle Dubas and the Maple Leafs management team. It cost an exorbitant amount to ice the team that is suddenly in dire straits, and may miss the postseason entirely. And what an organizational failure that would be.

Sportsnet’s Luke Fox recently distilled the associated cost of this season into one 240-character tweet.

Some pieces Kyle Dubas has already spent so the Maple Leafs can contend in 2020: a fire-the-coach card, 2019 and 2020’s first-rounders, three third-rounders, a fourth-rounder, Nazem Kadri, Connor Brown, Nikita Zaitsev, Carl Grundstrom, Trevor Moore, Calle Rosen, Sean Durzi.

— luke fox (@lukefoxjukebox) February 18, 2020

With a few exceptions, the Leafs did not lose much from the active prospect pipeline through the liquidation process detailed above, but it’s starting to put incredible stress on the system regardless. This is in part due to the fact that the Leafs have had to take from their minor-league roster to plug holes, but also because they haven’t been able to supplement the system to the same desired effect compared to previous years.

This season, the Toronto Marlies have been far from the juggernaut of the past, now relying predominantly on older assets on the downturn in their development curve instead of the future contributors that led the team on long and meaningful postseason runs.

One of the main objectives for this era of Maple Leafs management was to build up the prospect system in a way that it consistently insulates the main club. And while there will be a natural ebb and flow when maintaining a feeder system, and injuries have certainly forced them to make decisions prematurely, the Leafs have in some ways abandoned this process.

Examining the cupboards, what’s left is a couple spare parts — such as the likes Nic Petan and Jeremy Bracco — that could maybe be pawned off to another team, as well as a small, small list of untouchables, like 2019 second-round selection Nick Robertson. If we’re being honest, because Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren have been forced along in their own individual processes, it’s left the Peterborough Petes star as really the only futures prospect of obvious value in the entire system.

This is all to say that a re-stocking is imperative, and beyond the sale of high-value assets logging important minutes for the Leafs, the only way to accomplish that is through the draft.

Therein lies another issue.

The Maple Leafs spent a first-round pick just to avoid paying the final season of Patrick Marleau’s contract, as well as two additional high picks to finally fetch some decent support for Frederik Andersen, leaving them with half their selections from the first three rounds over the next two drafts. Reminder, this is after not making a selection in the first round last summer.

A need to supply the system without the means to do it, the Leafs simply cannot afford to continue spending draft capital. Not on a team staring down a 50-50 proposition just to make it into the postseason.

It’s not a guarantee that the Leafs will adhere to this suggestion. There has to be a ton of pressure on management to rescue what many believed was a season that could yield a lengthy postseason run, and through the rash of injuries and the money stashed on long-term injury reserve, suddenly the financial hurdle is no obstacle when making a deal.

But with moving a lesser prospect to the Florida Panthers for help at the margins with the addition of Denis Malgin on Tuesday morning, maybe it signals that Dubas’s hands are somewhat tied.

And that the guys he moved heaven and earth to both pay and protect will have to take it from here.

More Maple Leafs coverage on Yahoo Sports

Credit belongs to : https://sports.yahoo.com

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