The Toronto Maple Leafs traded forward Sam Lafferty to the Vancouver Canucks for a fifth-round pick in 2024 back on Oct. 8, 2023. It was a trade to clear cap space and while it made sense on paper, the Leafs might be looking back and wondering if it was the right decision.
Lafferty has been a solid bottom-six forward for the Canucks. This season he already has 8 goals and 7 assists for 15 points, plus 15 in 31 games. Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs have had a few different looks for their last line. Early in free agency, the Maple Leafs signed Ryan Reaves to a three-year deal with an AAV of $1.35 million. In 21 games this season, he has 1 goal and is minus 11. Bobby McMann is another player in and out of the lineup on that last line. So far, he has 1 goal, 3 assists, and four points in six games. Lafferty was the best option and he could have been the missing piece.
Would Lafferty’s Play Fit on the Maple Leafs?
Lafferty’s style of play would have fit very well on the Leafs’ last line. We would have played alongside Noah Gregor and David Kampf. The three of them are fast skaters who grind out every shift and this could have been the forechecking line for the Maple Leafs. That line also could have been relied upon to play in most defensive situations. Instead, the Leafs’ last line struggled earlier on, part of that because of a lack of chemistry. However, it was also due to Reaves and his bad puck luck.
So too, in today’s NHL it is important to have team toughness. That does not mean a team should necessarily have one solidified “tough guy” like Reaves. One could argue his role is still needed in the game though and when someone takes a run at a star, he goes out and does his job. Unfortunately, the Maple Leafs aren’t that type of team. They would have benefited from Lafferty more than they do from Reaves.
Lafferty’s AAV is $1.15 million for the remainder of the season. Although it is only a $20,000 difference, the production is the difference. Regardless, the Maple Leafs did make the move and there’s no turning back. However, now that it is in the past, we can look back and determine if it was a mistake or not. Based on his contract, point production and style of play, it is pretty clear that it was a mistake on the Maple Leafs’ part.