Maple Leafs Trade Tiers: How does Johnsson injury alter team’s plans?

Leafs Hour asks NHL Insiders Mike Stephens and Anthony Petrielli about the Toronto Maple Leafs' top line experiment of Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews and William Nylander, and whether or not it is beneficial to the team to stack the first unit.

With the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline drawing near, Sportsnet is breaking down what each Canadian club has to work with as they head toward Feb. 24. We’ve sorted each roster into Trade Tiers to hash out who’s safe, who’s available, and who’s likely on the move.

Only 10 days separate where we sit now and the deadline marking the final chance for GMs around the NHL to bolster their clubs for the home stretch of the season and beyond.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have already pulled the trigger on one key trade, acquiring a much-needed boost to their goaltending tandem and some sandpaper for the forward corps. But with the club still in a somewhat precarious position when it comes to locking down their post-season spot, what other changes might be coming?

Key injuries up front and on the blue line complicate the situation for Kyle Dubas and Co., granting the team some extra cap space to work with but altering the value of the chips they have at their disposal.

That being said, let’s take a look at how the roster seems to shake out as the deadline approaches.

Not Going Anywhere

Auston Matthews
He’s the team’s leading scorer, he’s having the best season of his career, and he’s tied for the league’s goal-scoring lead. Much like the rest of the core, he’s a key part of the solution in Toronto.

Mitch Marner
He’s got the second most points of any Leaf and plays the most minutes of any forward on the team, given his special-teams use. That latter aspect, especially, makes him a vital piece of the team’s long-term core.

John Tavares
A slight down year for the captain still has him at nearly a point-per-game pace. He’s gone on a tear since the calendar flipped to February, and continued strong play down the stretch will be crucial to Toronto’s playoff hopes.

William Nylander
Perhaps the member of the core who’s most scrutinized, he’s putting together a career year that has him second on the team in goals, third in points, and first among all Leafs forwards in Corsi For percentage. It’s tough to argue they’re a better team if he’s removed from the equation to bolster other aspects of the roster.

Morgan Rielly
He was already a sure bet to stay given what he brings from the blue line and his overall importance to the organization, but an injury that’s kept him out since early January cements him as a no-doubter.

Frederik Andersen
For all of Toronto’s past issues with their No. 2, there’s been no question who the No. 1 is in the Leafs’ net. His numbers have left more to be desired as of late, but there’s lots of time for him to find his elite form before the post-season arrives.

Zach Hyman
He’s made himself nearly as indispensable to Toronto’s forward corps as the names above him on this list, providing an entirely different, and much-needed, element to the top six.

Rasmus Sandin
Eighteen games in the big leagues have already proven his worth as a key building block of the Leafs’ future. That’s too valuable to part with for an immediate fix.

Jack Campbell
Only just acquired, he fits a long-standing need in the cage, and should be in the picture past this season as well.

Kyle Clifford
See above. Clifford’s only just arrived, and will be in the mix to bolster the team’s overall grit level down the stretch.

Jason Spezza
The fit has worked well since Sheldon Keefe came aboard, he brings plenty of skill and veteran savvy for his very affordable price tag ($700,000), and he appears to want to remain in Toronto.

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(Likely) Not Going Anywhere

Travis Dermott
He’s just as important a part of the future of Toronto’s blue line, and is very likely staying put. But is he truly untouchable? Should the Leafs for whatever reason decide to swing more towards a blockbuster deal, it’s at least conceivable that Dermott could be involved.

Jake Muzzin
He’s a much-needed presence on the Leafs’ back end, particularly right now given their injury situation. But he’s also a pending UFA, which complicates things slightly. The team certainly doesn’t get better if Muzzin is moved though, and there’s still a chance he winds up being a long-term option for the Leafs.

Ilya Mikheyev
He was in the midst of a great rookie campaign (23 points through 39 games) before an injury pushed him out of the lineup. Between what he showed for the Leafs and the fact that he hasn’t played since late December, it’s tough to see him winding up in a deal, but it’s also difficult to say he’s truly untouchable.

Pierre Engvall
The same goes for Pierre Engvall. A strong showing so far has earned him a two-year, $2.5-million extension. The club has no reason to part with him. But given Toronto’s absurd forward depth, if a bigger deal is on the table, it’s not inconceivable that he could wind up involved.

Justin Holl
He’s affordable, signed long term, and one of the club’s few right-handed defenders on the back end. They benefit more from keeping him in the fold, but if a deal is made to land a bigger blue-line name, he’s a potential piece to go the other way.

Martin Marincin
The veteran won’t move the needle for most teams, and is a fairly solid option for the Leafs right now as they navigate their injury issues.

Andreas Johnsson
Up until Thursday, Johnsson was perhaps Dubas’s best trade chip, or at the very least one of them. A knee injury suffered against Dallas shakes things up considerably, and according to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, he’ll be sidelined for at least eight weeks.

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Probably Safe, But It’s Possible

Tyson Barrie
Despite his tumultuous campaign, the Leafs need him given their previously mentioned injury issues. That he doesn’t cost much against the cap and brings at least the potential for top-end skill is a plus, too. But like Muzzin, he’s a pending UFA, which means he’s a part of the potential conversation.

Timothy Liljegren
He’s a promising talent on the back end and while still young, hasn’t risen through the ranks as quickly as current big-league partner Sandin. He probably remains a part of the solution, but again, if a bigger blockbuster is on the table, he’s a piece other teams would covet.

Frederik Gauthier
A solid, big-bodied depth pivot who fills his role well in Toronto and will likely continue to do so. But if teams want size and feel Gauthier has more to give in a slightly bigger role, the Goat could conceivably wind up as part of a bigger package.

Could Be On The Move

Dmytro Timashov
Dubas’s position of strength to deal from is clearly his forward corps, with blue-line depth still a key need heading into the home stretch. With Johnsson’s injury seemingly taking him off the table, Timashov might enter the picture as an alternate option if teams feel he could do well in a greater role elsewhere.

Cody Ceci
The fit has certainly been questionable at times, and he’s a pending UFA after this season, like Muzzin and Barrie. His cap hit could seemingly be better used elsewhere. However, an injury and trip to the LTIR complicates any potential move involving the blue-liner.

Find the rest of our NHL Trade Tiers lists here: CGY | EDM | OTT | WPG | VAN | MTL

More Likely To Move

Kasperi Kapanen
Johnsson’s injury seems to throw a wrench into things as it not only takes him out of the mix as a trade chip, but also increases the team’s reliance on Kapanen. That said, if Dubas and Co. feel they need to bring in something of value for the stretch run, Kapanen remains their most valuable piece to potentially move without significantly upsetting what they currently have going.

Alexander Kerfoot
Kerfoot is in much the same boat as Kapanen in terms of his value as a trade option but also as a replacement for the injured Johnsson. However, if the team decides it now needs to hang onto Kapanen as a key secondary scorer, Kerfoot seems the next option up to potentially move.

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