After a major roster retrofit, Leafs make one more move before NHL trade deadline

Kyle Dubas got most his shopping done early this year.

The Toronto Maple Leafs general manager then made one more deal before Friday's tepid NHL trade deadline passed.

Dubas swung five trades between Feb. 17 and Tuesday in a roster reconstruction that added six new players to the fold.

He then nibbled around the edge of the organization's depth chart ahead of the largely non-event 3 p.m. ET cutoff, snagging Radim Zohorna from the Calgary Flames for fellow AHL forward Dryden Hunt.

"A number of different transactions over the course of the last several weeks that we feel sets our team up competitively," Dubas told reporters in Vancouver. "Gives us the depth that we need at all positions to compete come playoff time.

"That was the goal of the entire exercise."

The Leafs started by acquiring veteran centre Ryan O'Reilly and Noel Acciari from the St. Louis Blues in the middle of last month before really ramping up this week.

Dubas got back to work Monday when he grabbed defenceman Jake McCabe and forward Sam Lafferty from the Chicago Blackhawks.

Then things got wild 24 hours later.

Toronto shipped Rasmus Sandin to the Washington Capitals for fellow blue-liner Erik Gustafsson before sending winger Pierre Engvall to the New York Islanders and re-acquiring Luke Schenn — the defenceman was drafted by the Leafs in 2008 — from the Vancouver Canucks in three separate deals.

"We're happy with where we're at," Dubas said. "Excited for the last quarter of the season."

In all, Toronto got six new players and shed a lot of draft capital, but a franchise that's lost six consecutive series and hasn't advanced in the post-season since 2004 looks to get over its ugly playoff hump has clearly gone all-in.

One area the Leafs didn't touch the team's goaltending, meaning a Toronto roster led by Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and William Nylander will aim to ride the combination of Ilya Samsonov and Matt Murray into what looks like an inevitable first-round playoff rematch with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Dubas said he didn't set out to make massive changes to his lineup.

That's just how things played out.

"It was just more trying to identify what we needed (and) address that," Dubas said. "In a perfect year, I think we would go in and feel you didn't have to do anything."

"I do have a lot of faith in what I've seen from the players — when they're outside of the lens of the public and we're together — that they could handle bringing some new guys in."

All the Leafs GM can do now is sit back and see if the moves pay off come spring.

-With files from Gemma Karstens-Smith in Vancouver.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2023.


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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press