When the Anaheim Ducks traded defenceman Sami Vatanen to the New Jersey Devils for forward Adam Henrique last week, scores of Toronto Maple Leafs fans came forward to express their disappointment that the team’s management didn’t pursue Vatanen more aggresively.
After all, Vatanen is a 26-year-old, right-shooting defenceman who can put up points and run an effective power play. Sounds exactly like what the Leafs need, right? Here’s the problem: there was no way the Leafs were going to get him at a reasonable cost.
In his latest article for The Toronto Sun, Leafs columnist Steve Simmons debunks the myth that the Leafs trade chips like Tyler Bozak or James van Riemsdyk have the value as a player like Henrique.
According to Simmons, “no general manager worth his salt would take a rental play in exchange for a defenceman signed for the next two seasons.” Fair point. While their on-ice value may equate to the same as Henrique’s, the fact that Bozak and JVR are both pending UFAs make them a volatile asset for any GM. So, who was in play for Vatanen?
“Perhaps, if the Leafs wanted to part with Nazem Kadri,” says Simmons. “Or Connor Brown and another part, which would not have been ideal, they could have had Vatanen.” Yeah… that seems awfully steep. Vatanen may have helped fill a hole for the Leafs, but the holes created by removing Kadri or Brown from the lineup would be even tougher to fill. Probably for the best that the Leafs stood on the sidelines of this deal.