The Toronto Maple Leafs have interesting decisions to make ahead of the trade deadline. They've been well-documented.
As the deadline approaches, they have to consider the players that fall under the rental category on their roster - that is to say the players heading towards free agency and likely won't be re-signed in the off-season.
These include James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, Leo Komarov, and Dominic Moore. Not much has been made of the fact that Moore is on an expiring deal. He has quietly put up 9 points in 31 games and may be a serviceable option to a team seeking depth.
But what do you make of the other 3? We've spoke about them at length throughout the season, and it seems like the only player who has any chance of re-signing with the Leafs is van Riemsdyk, and even then, the chances aren't astronomically high.
TSN's Darren Dreger dove into the topic, stating that he believes Lou Lamoriello will "rent" JvR to himself, and that should they want to sign him again, it will be at a cost of $36 million over 6 years.
Even with the cap rising, this contract could pose problems long-term for the team, which may make them weary of making this deal.
That being said - the Leafs are in a tricky position this year. A hot start provided them a cushion that will almost guaranteed put them into the playoffs this year, the way the roster is constructed, and the youth of the group will make it a very difficult proposition to make a deep run this year.
One NHL general manager who chose to remain anonymous believes that the Leafs would be better served trading away JvR, Bozak and Komarov for a significant haul of assets that would almost certainly give them what they need to acquire a top-pairing defenseman.
"As one NHL manager pointed out, if the Leafs were to move all three at the deadline the return might be significant enough to roll those assets over on the draft floor in June into a top-pair defenceman or other pieces that might advance Toronto's chances of evolving into a legit contender next season," Dreger wrote.
This may indeed be the best course of action for Toronto. Losing those players would have an impact on the Leafs' playoff run, but if you operate under the assumption that they are not going to make it all the way this year, why not think about the near future where they'll be a much more legitimate contender.
An interesting thought came up in Dreger's piece - the reported price for Evander Kane is a 1st round pick, top prospect, and another conditional pick. Makes you wonder - what would the price be for van Riemsdyk?
Yes - they would have to replace his production by committee, and it would pose a problem this year. But they would receive a significant return in exchange for his services, and the same could be said for Tyler Bozak, who teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins would pay handsomely for as a 3rd line centre. As for Komarov, the return wouldn't be as high, but it would still give them more to work with.
And when you consider acquiring a top-pairing defenseman, not only have you opened up considerable cap space, but you've acquired several extra assets that can be flipped in a trade in June or beyond.
So we turn the question to you. Should the Leafs go all-in this year, keep their rentals, and make moves to make a Cup run? Or should they just take the experience from a decent playoff run this year and make the right moves to make this team a much bigger threat moving forward?
The video below was from before Christmas, but it is still very relevant and useful information on the JvR situation.