Should the Toronto Maple Leafs Use Their First-Rounder In a Package for a Strong Goalie?

should the toronto maple leafs use their first-rounder in a package for a strong goalie?

Juuse Saros and Mitch Marner Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Maple Leafs have a number of issues to deal with this off-season, and one of the biggest issues will be what Leafs GM Brad Treliving does with his draft capital.

As we saw this week with the trading of veteran goalie Jacob Markstrom, a first-round draft pick is going to be the minimum asking price for an above-average goaltender. The Leafs aren’t likely to win any bidding wars on the trade front if Treliving doesn’t include theirs.

The question then becomes whether Treliving will dangle the 23rd-overall pick this summer or kick the can down the road to 2026, the next time Toronto has its first-round pick.

Certainly, the choice to use their 2024 first-rounder and see if they can make another home-run selection as they did last year with Easton Cowan is extremely tempting for Treliving.

But the catch with trading their 2026 first-rounder is that GMs often don’t look all that far ahead and that they worry more about the present. If Treliving can pick up a veteran goalie – say, Nashville Predators star netminder Juuse Saros – by not taking much off the active roster besides what's needed to make cap room, giving up a first-rounder doesn’t bring with it a lot of immediate pain.

Of course, we’re not suggesting the Predators would be happy with only a first-round pick in exchange for Saros. It will take much more than that to persuade Preds GM Barry Trotz to part ways with an elite netminder.

A trade package would have to benefit the Predators immediately and for the long haul, which likely means a young but effective NHL player would have to head the other way as was rumored before the trade deadline. But the Leafs know they'll have to give something of value to get something of value. And that means offering a first-round pick, whether it's in a package for Saros or in an attempt to acquire another strong starter.

The Leafs have a long history of dealing their top draft picks for immediate help, such as Jake McCabe, Ryan O'Reilly and cap relief. While a trade of another first-rounder would remove some of their draft capital, the franchise is in win-now mode. They can worry about recouping a first-round pick a year or two from now, but in the heat of the moment, they don’t need to fixate on hanging on to every pick of value that they have.

It’s time to put up or shut up for the Maple Leafs when it comes to landing a difference-maker between the pipes. If Toronto is going to get a goalie who can move the needle in a way recent Leafs goalies have been unable to enough of in recent history, trading a first-round pick will be draft capital well spent.

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