TORONTO – Mike Babcock isn’t anticipating a busy trade deadline for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Even with his team unexpectedly battling for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference – and even with this week’s revelation that the Leafs have opened up more than $15 million in cap space for the rest of the season – Babcock doesn’t think general manager Lou Lamoriello will be too busy before 3 p.m. ET on March 1.
“This is the way I look at it is we have a long-term project here, and we understand that,” Babcock said before Saturday’s game against Ottawa. “If you can ever improve your team for the future [you do it]. I think it’s way different than when you think you’re going to win the Cup and have an opportunity and you need more bodies.
“That’s not our situation whatsoever.”
Should the Leafs elect to use their massive amount of cap space in long-term injured relief, they’d likely do so to acquire futures along with a contract dump from another team. It wouldn’t necessarily be about acquiring a player that could jump right in the lineup for the stretch drive.
Internally, management here is focused on building a behemoth and doesn’t view the prospect of sacrificing long-term parts for short-term help too desirable.
Looking big picture, Babcock believes there’ll be less movement league-wide ahead of this deadline than in the past.
“There’s two things that are involved this year,” he said. “Everyone looks like they’re the same, and still in it, and the second thing is there’s an expansion draft. So there’s two parts to it that make it way different this year.
“Now I know we’ve got to sell ratings and a TV show and all that – what’s the date? March 1? – no, I wouldn’t be holding my breath.”
He did, however, leave himself a small out should there wind up being some fireworks in Toronto between then and now.
Asked if his comments would have a calming effect on a young dressing room, Babcock replied: “Well that was the intent, right?”
“I should have come out there and said ‘we’re going to be just flying,” he added, with a chuckle.