SEATTLE – The aggressiveness of contract-year Kyle Dubas has taken yet another step.
For all the moving and shaking, cupboard stripping and draft-pick spending the Toronto Maple Leafs general manager has done over the past 11 days, in advance of the trade deadline, the one thing he went to great lengths not to touch was his active roster.
Well, that changed Tuesday in Seattle, when Rasmus Sandin — not a mystery box — was pulled mid-practiced and dealt to the suddenly retooling Washington Capitals.
In exchange, Dubas’s Leafs receive 30-year-old defenceman Erik Gustafsson and a 2023 first-round pick. (The pick was originally owned by the Boston Bruins and was flipped to Washington in the Dmitry Orlov-Garnet Hathaway trade.)
No salary was retained.
Gustafsson, like Sandin, is a left shot. He is a 30-year-old impending unrestricted free agent with a modest $800,00 cap hit.
Sandin, 22, carries a $1.4 million cap hit through 2023-24, at which point he will become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.
Dubas and Sandin’s camp tussled over his current contract over the summer, to the point where the young defenceman missed out on the beginning of training camp.
Sandin was projected to be the Maple Leafs’ seventh defenceman come playoff time, just as he was last spring.
Sandin has battled through multiple minor injuries this season, putting up four goals and a career-best 20 goals.
Gustafsson had been enjoying an offensive resurgence in Washington. With seven goals — including a hat trick against Toronto on Dec. 17 — and 38 points, he instantly becomes the highest-scoring defenceman on Toronto’s roster.
With time to spare before Friday’s deadline, Dubas could still make another significant move — and is now equipped with a first-round pick to do so.
“Every year we’re in it, with where we’re at right now, we have to give the team the best chance to win,” The GM said Monday.
“How do we situate ourselves to best compete? Because just being a fun matchup and being fun to watch isn’t good enough for us. It’s trying to win.”