Edmonton Oilers should look to give the Toronto Maple Leafs defensive help

The Toronto Maple Leafs need help on defense, enter the Edmonton Oilers.

A lot of teams are in a cap crunch, but the worst of them is the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Due to the fact that they are spending $34.5 million in cap space on 3 players – Matthews, Marner, and Tavares – that cap space had to come out of somewhere. It appears that for the Maple Leafs the place that has suffered the most from cap space is defence.

They need to relieve some of that cap space from forward and re-allocate it to the defence. Their defence is atrocious, and due to the expiration of Tyson Barrie‘s contract, it’s about to get even worse.  Toronto is in big need of D, and although the Oilers can’t provide them with a big name that is probably their 1st priority, they do have 2 guys that could go to them.

A lot of the media there are saying they should trade for Seth Jones from Columbus, but good luck with that.  It’s incredibly rare that 1st pairing D are available in trade, and I see absolutely no reason why Columbus would part with Jones right now.

Here’s a potential trade the Oilers can make with the Leafs right now that could help out both teams.

To Toronto 

L/RD Kris Russell

RD Matt Benning

LW Juhjar Khaira

2020 1st round pick

To Edmonton

L/RW William Nylander

Vegas’s 2020 5th round pick

Why this trade works for Toronto

Kris Russell is a versatile guy who can play either the left or right side – and Toronto will have a HUGE hole at right defense with the impending departures of Cody Ceci and Tyson Barrie.

He’ll play a much bigger role in Toronto’s defence than he would ours.  In the past 2 seasons, 2 of our prospects on D – Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones – have pushed Russell further and further down the roster.  He’s completely overpaid for where he plays for the Oilers, but on the Leafs he’d be right where he needs to be.  He does have an NTC, but he just has to submit a list of 15 teams he’d be traded to Oilers management.

It’s highly doubtful Toronto isn’t on that list, as like the Oilers they’re playoff contenders with a young team learning how to win.  On the Leafs, Russell would play higher up in the lineup and get more minutes – something he won’t get here.  What NHL player could say no to that?  He’ll solidify their 2nd pairing with Jake Muzzin, providing a stay at home presence, shot-blocking, and secondary offence to boot.

If he doesn’t work out in Toronto, no problem because next season is the last on his contract, and if they don’t like him they just let him walk. Benning is a bit of a throw-in, but he gives the Leafs options.  They can qualify him, they can trade him, they can take a flyer on him and try him in the top 4.  He’ll only cost about $2.1 million, which depending on where he plays is a bargain.  For the Oilers, he’s a luxury they can’t afford, but for the Leafs he gives them something extra.

As for Khaira, rumour has it that they’ve liked Khaira for a long time, and I read somewhere today he was actually almost traded to the Leafs last season but then he got injured which nixed the trade.  I don’t know why the Leafs would like him, he’s nothing more than a generic 4th liner whose offence has declined for the past 2 seasons, but hey, it’s the Leafs.  He’s not irreplaceable as a player, so if they want him why not give him to them?  It’s not like he’s all that valuable here.

The 1st round pick is to help bridge the gap in terms of the talent level for the warm bodies.  This draft is rumoured to be deep, and the Leafs had to give up their own 1st round pick this year when they traded away Marleau to Carolina.  Getting a 1st round pick back would definitely be appealing to them.

The cap space is about even (I think the difference is about 400K the Leafs would be taking on if they re-signed Benning), and if the Leafs play their cards right on Benning, they might even be able to save cap space, which is what they desperately need.

Why this trade works for Edmonton

In my opinion, Nylander is a guy who would fit in very well on the 1st line.  He put up 31 goals and 59 points centering a line in Toronto with 2 low-quality players.  Imagine how well he’d fit in at LW on the 1st line – from what I can see, he can play all 3 forward positions, which is great versatility and gives the Oilers multiple options.  Not to mention he’ll be hitting his PPY by the time the playoffs roll around next year.  What a great time to acquire him.

Imagine a 1st line of Nylander-Mcdavid-Kassian.  I mean, this guy is a 30 goal scorer with low-quality players on Toronto, just imagine if he rode shotgun with Mcdavid.  There’s potential for being a top 10 scorer in the league.  Can you hear the Homer Simpson drool?  I sure can.

As mentioned, Kris Russell is the odd man out here as Ethan Bear took his spot in October camp this year, and in my opinion, Caleb Jones is ready for full-time duty on the 3rd pairing, which pretty much bumps him off the roster.

We need him and his $4 million cap hit out of here, and Toronto is a viable destination for him that in my opinion, he would be much less likely to refuse, than going to, say, Ottawa or Detroit.  He’ll be more important to Toronto than he would be here – and the Oilers get to jettison him as part of a package to bring the missing piece of their top 6 here.

Benning is a luxury we just can’t afford right now, as $2.1 million – which is the minimum he can be paid going forward – is too much for a 3rd pairing guy.  He’s not taking Ethan Bear’s spot anytime soon, so even if he was better prepared as a player to be upwardly-mobile there’s nowhere for him to go in our lineup.  In Toronto? There’s room for him higher up if he can make it there.

Khaira’s stock has been fading for the past 2 seasons here, and frankly, our bottom 6 can likely do without him at this point.  I’d gladly sacrifice him to bring in a great sniper.  Give him to Toronto, they seem to want him for some reason.

It always is unfortunate to give up a 1st round pick in this day and age, but as the saying goes you’ve gotta give up something to get something.  This helps to bridge the gap between the warm bodies in the trade, as Toronto is giving up the best player and they need an incentive to do that.

I’d rather have an already established guy who scored 31 goals last season than another prospect, as good as that prospect may be in the future.

The 5th round pick is a throw-in.  The Leafs gave up their own 5th rounder to Florida to get Michael Hutchinson and got Vegas’s 5th round pick as part of a 3-way trade between Chicago where Chicago flipped Lehner to Toronto who then flipped him to Vegas.  So that’s the 5th rounder they’d have to use.

Where does your fandom rank?

See 2019 Rankings

Bottom line

This is a trade that could work out for both teams.  The Leafs get 1 top 4 D for sure, and possibly someone else for their bottom pairing depending on what they do with Benning.  Or they can let him walk and save some cap space.  Either way, they get to meet team needs.

They also get a bottom 6 forward they’ve been jonesing for, and an additional 1st round pick, with cap space reallocated from forward to defence. The Oilers get a winger they lack in their lineup right now, as well as a pick for the lower rounds for Holland to find another hidden gem in.

Toronto will either gain 400K in cap space – negligible – or save $1.6 million in cap space they could sorely use.  They also get a 1st round pick back, and a bottom 6 forward they want. Comment away below.