Going into the Trade Deadline this year, the Leafs appeared to be singly focused on getting a depth middle six winger. However, it slowly came to light that, despite a lack of cap space, they had their sights set on a number of different roster improvements.
At the end of the day, Toronto added two forwards, one defender, and one goaltender, whose averaged annual salaries are a combined $11.95M, but costing the Leafs only $6.45M against the cap. To add such value for such a good financial cost, Dubas had to pay some draft pick premiums, but no assets that the Leafs couldn’t afford to spend.
This post will dig into the statistics of each of the acquired players, and figure out just what they add to this already powerful Toronto team.
Interestingly, the Leafs made two separate trades with the Columbus Blue Jackets for injured defensive forwards. THe first was Riley Nash, and the second was Nick Foligno. As the biggest acquisition the Leafs made, Foligno carries with him a certain expectation to really move the needle when it comes to the Leafs’ success this season. As an energetic middle-six winger, Foligno will drive opponents mad with his checking and intensity.
Both players were covered in my co-contributor and friend Scott Maxwell’s column here, but I hope to build upon that with some different visuals and statistical models than what he used.
According to Micah Blake McCurdy’s Isolated Impact model, Foligno brings something the Leafs have been clamoring for for years: forwards who play effective defense.
Foligno won’t be alone in this regard on this Toronto team, with defensive stalwart Zach Hyman and newly acquired Nash, but he should be one of the best in this regard.
Nash seems to be on par with Foligno defensively, except that he is a black hole offensively.
Mikheyev – Engvall – Nash as a line might actually impose heat death on a hockey game. Maximum nothing will happen. Goals that previously occurred in the game will be destroyed
— Acting the Fulemin (@ATFulemin) April 9, 2021
By Evolving-Hockey’s Goals Above Replacement model, and drilling down just into 5v5 offence and defence to compare with the above graphics, Riley Nash actually pulls ahead of Foligno by a pretty wide margin defensively, but it’s again evident that Nash isn’t going to help the Leafs’ offence very much:
And similarly, by Expected Goals Above Replacement:
(Man, Galchenyuk and Simmonds have both really bounced around. Poor guys.)
Coming from the same team, I thought it might be interesting to use Natural Stat Trick’s Line Tool to see how much they’ve played together to see if they might be influencing each others’ results. I found that to be definitively not the case, since they’ve only played about 70 minutes of ice time together in their 3 shared years in Columbus.
|Player 1||Player 2||GP||TOI||TOI/GP||CF/60||CA/60||CF%|
|Riley Nash||Nick Foligno||37||68.86667||1.861261||42.57||60||41.5|
|Riley Nash||w/o Nick Foligno||37||342.7833||9.264414||43.6||50.24||46.46|
|w/o Riley Nash||Nick Foligno||42||493.7||11.75476||48.01||55.91||46.2|
|w/o Riley Nash||w/o Nick Foligno||45||1353.683||30.08185||50.82||59.79||45.94|
Between these two forward depth additions, and the subtraction of Barabanov, they gained more established and veteran defensive forwards to complement Engvall, Simmonds, and Kerfoot. Both Foligno and Nash will have to heal up from injuries, and survive quarantining for 7 days, before they can join the Leafs team. It’s not expected that Nash will be ready until playoffs.
With the injury to Frederik Andersen, the Leafs gained both an opportunity and a problem to deal with. Andersen’s cap hit being stowed away on LTIR allowed them to make bigger-than-usual deadline additions. It also left the Leafs with a tenuously manageable goaltending tandem of high-flying Jack Campbell and less-than-stellar Michael Hutchinson.
In acquiring Rittch from the Flames, they get someone performing at a higher level than Hutchinson to help ease Campbell down from the soaring heights he’d had been achieving, but was always sure to level off from, as has been evident recently.
Rittich’s 2020-21 season hasn’t been great, but nor have the Calgary Flames in general, so it’s hard to tell what’s affecting what. But, his 2019-20 season wasn’t that great either, I’m afraid.
|Season||GP||5v5 Sv% (NST)||GSAA (NST)||GSAA (HR)||GSAE (MP)||QS% (HR)|
Save percentage (Sv%) from Natural Stat Trick (NST), Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA) from NST and Hockey Reference (HR), Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAE) from Moneypuck (MP), and Quality Start percentage from HR.
Conventionally, 91.6 and 91.7 save percentages are pretty well average. However, the GSAA numbers show that his 2019-20 season was below average, and 2020-21 is hovering around average.
Both GSAE and QS% show that he’s not performing at that high a level. However, the Leafs are not counting on him to be their starter, and paid only a 3rd round for him with half his salary retained, so we can’t expect him to be as good as Campbell.
Rittich has already had to play twice since being acquired by the Leafs, the first in a back-to-back against his old team which he got to overtime, and the second in an unfortunate night for Jack Campbell where he was pulled and Rittich came in as relief.
As the last piece the Leafs fit into the fold, Hutton comes as a defender ready to step in and play a solid but not flashy role.
Our editor and blog Dad did a good summary of what Hutton brings to the Leafs roster here. As Mikko Lehtonen unfortunately learned earlier, Ben Hutton has to know that the Leafs’ six defenders are solidly chosen at this point. It will take an injury for him to crack the lineup. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth looking into what his stats have been.
And by Expected GAR:
And by Isolated Impact:
Ben Hutton comes in well suited for his role as a replacement level defenseman. None of his stats are that impressive, and he certainly can’t be filed as a steal for the Maple Leafs. It’s valuable though that he comes in knowing that his role is as the 7th best defender Toronto has, where a better player may feel slighted with a press box role.
Hutton will have to quarantine before being able to join the Maple Leafs.
The Leafs also acquired some Marlies depth in Antti Suomela and Stefan Noessen, but the likelihood that either makes any impression on the Leafs this season is nearly none. As such, I left them out of this piece.
Ultimately, I don’t think that anyone can say that the Leafs made a splash at the trade deadline, but they certainly bolstered their depth and can probably claim to be a fair bit better when it comes to defensive forwards. Otherwise, in Rittich and Hutton they have capable bodies to play in case of more COVID-19 protocol issues or other injury problems taking players out of the lineup.
The Leafs are poised for a deep playoff run and capable having extra hands that all fit under the salary cap somehow is certainly valuable. Whether the draft picks paid were a fair price is entirely outside of my comfort zone; all I can say is that Dubas certainly was willing to pay a hefty draft pick cost to build up this year’s team, and I think that makes me excited.