Does Travis Dermott have a future with the Maple Leafs?

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Another early exit from the playoffs has made Kyle Dubas flex his trading muscles a bit. The Maple Leafs’ GM has said he’s not done making trades — which usually comes with some (more like a lot of) speculation.

The guessing game of who gets traded next has picked up and Travis Dermott’s name could be out there. Toronto-born, Dermott enters this off-season as an RFA with a lot of Maple Leafs fans wondering how much he’ll receive.

It’s been an interesting career for the 23-year-old defenceman. Going from winning the Calder Cup with the Toronto Marlies to now sometimes playing on the second pairing on the Maple Leafs, Dermott has been an excitement to watch. However there are question marks as to what’s in-store for him next season.

The Maple Leafs have a crowded defence core after the signing of the KHL’s top defenceman, Mikko Lehtonen. Not only that but Dubas is scouring the market for a top-four defenceman who can help take this Maple Leafs team to the next step. With those two new players, it lowers the chances of both Dermott and Justin Holl returning next season.

This is what the Maple Leafs defence pairings could look like next year:

Rielly – Mystery Man

Muzzin – Lehtonen

Sandin – Dermott or Holl

Rosen, Marincin, Liljegren

The hope is for Timothy Liljegren to get some NHL time at some point next season and you’d only likely see him on the third pairing, which is probably where Dermott or Holl slot in. If that happens, one of the two could be gone, or if the trade is right, possibly both.

I just don’t believe we’ve seen the most of Dermott yet. If you were to give him some more significant time on the second pairing — where we could really see if he has what it takes — the 23-year-old could flourish and possibly keep his role in Toronto.

But it’s always difficult to speculate, because of his play. Sometimes you get the Dermott who you could see having a top-four role. And then there’s the Dermott who looks stressed while having the puck and isn’t the best fit at times. Either one can show up from game-to-game and that’s why it may be a good idea to trade him.

Let’s start off with arguing the side of not trading him. We know the playoffs this season weren’t the best for the Maple Leafs, however Dermott’s numbers show that he’s making strong improvements.

The 23-year-old played just shy of 94 minutes in the qualifiers against the Columbus Blue Jackets. A small sample size, but Dermott had the third-best Expected Goals Against per 60 minutes with 1.75, only behind Tyson Barrie and Martin Marincin (I knew he was good.)

Like I said, with less playing time usually comes better statistics but Dermott had the 4th fewest High Danger Chances Against with 6.4 per 60 minutes. Surprisingly, he was ahead of each player who the Maple Leafs have signed going into next season, again, other than Marincin (is it time for Dubas to re-sign him yet?)

Let’s broaden the spectrum a little bit, shall we? In the regular season, Dermott had the fewest number of Expected Goals Against per 60 minutes of any player who played more than 25 games with 2.44. Part of that total came from playing on the second-pairing alongside Holl when Jake Muzzin was injured.

He also had the fewest High Danger Chances Against per 60 minutes with 10.71, only behind Barrie, who’s likely gone next season. And lastly, Dermott finished 2nd in High Danger Goals Against per 60 minutes with 1.55, behind Cody Ceci who played the same amount of games.

Dermott’s problem has always been staying consistent. Whether it’s handling the puck in the defensive zone or getting it up the ice, it needs to be better. A lot of people have noticed that he looks very stressed when the puck is on his stick and as a defenceman in the NHL, that cannot happen.

He also needs to find out who he’s going to be. Does he want to be that puck-moving, skilled defenceman like Morgan Rielly? Or does he want to be a more physical and grittier guy like Muzzin?

It’s always possible that he could bring all of those aspects into his game, but I don’t know how quickly he can get to that level. If he can though, he’d be an amazing player and one that the Maple Leafs would want for a long time.

The point I’m trying to make is this; Dermott is good, but the Maple Leafs may want to ship him out for a player who can play the same style, but also brings consistency to their game.

He will most likely sign a contract in Toronto at around $2-3 million, but the term is still a question mark. He may do a bridge deal to prove that he’s worth bigger money, or he could play it safe. And who knows — we may have already watched his last game in a Maple Leafs jersey.