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Maple Leafs Ready for Trade as Coach Keefe Loses Confidence in Forward

Published December 26, 2023 at 1:29 PM
BY AUSTIN KELLY
     
Toronto has been in and out of trade rumors since early on in the season, but there's one name grabbing some interest.

Leafs Could Move Out Former Top Forward



The Toronto Maple Leafs have a number of questions heading into the new year, including figuring out how to add key pieces to their roster, especially to improve a depleted blue line. If so, there's one player who might be right for being moved.

Ryan Smitheram of 'Maple Leafs Insider' argues in a blog post that the Leafs should offload former top prospect Nick Robertson in a potential deal.


Robertson is seeing just 10:31 of ice per game on average and a mere 23 seconds of powerplay time. Yes, the Leafs' top unit often spends most of the powerplay on the ice, but for someone that was supposed to be the trigger man on the second unit, 23 seconds per game is nowhere near enough to make an impact.

Jonas Siegel of 'The Athletic' also published an article that makes the argument for an against a Robertson trade.

Head coach Sheldon Keefe still doesn't appear to trust him all that much, playing Robertson sparingly most nights.

Robertson has struggled to get his shot off and struggled, more tellingly, to get his shot off in close quarters. His effort is never in question, but the lack of size and game-breaking speed hold him back. He also has no role in the power play.

On the flip side, Siegel also argues if moving Robertson is wise given Toronto's need for cheap Forwards with multiple high-priced stars in their roster.

We mentioned the need for cheap young forwards and Robertson, making just under $800,000 this season, fits into that. He'll be up for another contract next summer and won't be drawing much. That's reason enough to keep him around, if, that is, the Leafs still believe in his upside.

What further adds to questions over the future of Robertson is Fraser Minten's emergence as a key prospect for the Leafs. The 2022 2nd Rounder has shown immense leadership potential and a high Hockey IQ. Already having won a spot on the Leafs to start the year, before being sent back down to the WHL, Minten looks much closer to the NHL than expected, perhaps as close as 1-2 years. A Captain for Canada at the World Juniors, Minten already has the maturity and two-way skill to make the jump.

Toronto also has capable players in the minors for the AHL Toronto Marlies with Nick Abruzzese and Alex Steeves, although both have bottom-six upside, neither comes close to the potential Robertson has. To Robertson's benefit, many of their key forward prospects, such as Easton Cowan & Nikita Grebyonkin, are much further away. Abruzzese would be most likely to take over for Robertson in the short term, unless they can package a winger in a deal to solve a need for an NHL defenseman.

There's no indication Robertson could be on the move, and with little incentive to currently do so. Robertson currently has 3 Goals and 9 Points in 20 Games for the Leafs this season, but has struggled to find the net as of late, a trait that used to be a strength for the 22-year-old. If Toronto is to make a move, there is an argument to move Robertson, more NHL ready than any prospect they could offer, but it comes down to how teams still value Robertson, and if they believe the once high upside he showed as a prospect with more ice time and a change of scenery can be unlocked.

Read More At Maple Leafs Insider - Leafs preparing to trade former 2nd round pick?
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Maple Leafs Ready for Trade as Coach Keefe Loses Confidence in Forward

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