Save the Leafs; trade Matthews in a blockbuster

Written by ECA Review

It’s time for another blockbuster trade in the National Hockey League.

Way back in November, 1975, the hockey world was absolutely stunned by the news that Boston’s Phil Esposito, coming off a 61-goal, 127-point season, was the major figure in a five-player swap with the New York Rangers. Hall-of-Famers Brad Park, an eight-time Norris Trophy runner-up, and Jean Ratelle, eventually rated the seventh-best Ranger of all-time, went to the Bruins in exchange for Esposito and defenceman Carol Vadnais.

There hasn’t been a shocker like that since. But it’s time.

Hey, Auston Matthews, welcome to Phoenix.

New general manager Brad Treliving of the Leafs is faced with a serious dilemma this summer. He can apparently afford only three of his ‘Core Four’ — Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and William Nylander — and Tavares has a no-trade deal and a huge contract, so he’s stuck in Toronto. Matthews is ‘untouchable’ because he’s the team’s No. 1 star, fan favourite and media darling, so that ostensibly leaves Nylander and/or Marner to go on the auction block.

But does it have to unfold like that? While it would be a complete stunner, and Leafs’ fans would likely try to dangle Treliving from the top of the CN Tower if he pulled off such a move, trading Matthews might be the salvation for the Toronto franchise.

Think of the consequences: The Leafs could probably pry Clayton Keller and a starting defenceman from the Coyotes, which would be a net loss talent-wise, but only a bit.

The Leafs could probably get at least two first-round draft picks from Arizona. Matthews would be thrilled to go home and play as a local hero in the state where he grew up. The Leafs wouldn’t have to shell out $15 million for one skater, a player who this past year was his usual great self during the regular season (40 goals, 45 assists) and a dud in the playoffs (no goals and only two assists in the second-round series loss to Florida).

That extra available salary could be used to bolster talent at other positions and the Leafs could become a more balanced team and a Stanley Cup contender instead of relying heavily on the ‘Core Four’, which is easier for opponents to key on defensively.

Matthews has one year remaining on his contract, and by the time you read this, the Leafs will likely have signed him to an extension, which reportedly would make him the league’s highest-paid player.

That kind of financial outlay in this salary-cap age we live in makes it almost impossible for a general manager to find enough quality auxiliary players with the reduced money available to him. Matthews is good, even great, but he’s not McDavid-great.

So it’s a simple solution: Save the Leafs. Ship Matthews to Arizona.

Slap shots
Phil Mushnick of the New York Post: “(Mets announcer) Gary Cohen exclaimed that Max Scherzer had delivered ‘a stellar pitching performance.’ He often uses ‘stellar.’ Wonder if, off the air, he has ever said, ‘Honey, this meatloaf is stellar!’”
• From my cynical friend Bobby the Brat: “Alek Manoah of the Blue Jays is going to the all-star game; he’s the pitcher for the Home Run Derby.”
• Eamon Lynch in, on the PGA Tour-PIF partnership deal:  “It wasn’t widely noted that deep in the framework document — paragraph 9 of 10 — is a non-disparagement clause, though it seems no one thought it necessary to ask for a non-dismemberment rule.”
• Comedy guy Torben Rolfsen of Vancouver, on Calgary Flames’ first-round draft choice: “Samuel Honzek requests trade to get out of Calgary.”
• Canadian parody website The Beaverton, on the NHL Awards night: “NHL honours its best by forcing them to listen to D-List celebrities mispronounce their names.”
• Janice Hough of “With historic sporting events many more people always say they attended than fans who were actually in attendance. Tonight, Yankees’’ Domingo German pitched a perfect game against Oakland A’s. No doubt years from now at least 1,000 people will claim they were at the Coliseum.”
• RJ Currie of “The Chicago Blackhawks chose Connor Bedard with the first pick in the NHL draft. Equally surprising, the sun came up this morning.”
• Headline at “Boston Fan Doesn’t Have Slurs To Describe Disappointment In Celtics
• Another one from the “Stephen A. Smith Blasts Laid-Off ESPN Employees For Not Wanting Jobs Bad Enough”
• Headline at “It’s ESPN firing day, so Screamin’ A. Smith can have an eleventy-billion-dollar-year contract.”
• Another headline: “Negotiations between the 76ers and James Harden are reportedly heating up over who gets to keep his facial hair.”
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by Bruce Penton

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ECA Review