Bolstered by recent trades, the Toronto Maple Leafs will go for their fourth consecutive victory Wednesday night when they visit the Edmonton Oilers, who have also gotten busy ahead of the trade deadline.
The Maple Leafs acquired defenseman Jake McCabe and forward Sam Lafferty in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday.
The deal followed a Feb. 17 trade in which Toronto obtained forwards Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari from the St. Louis Blues. The perception is that Toronto has added toughness.
“There’s no reason for us to really beat around it,” Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas said Monday. “We’ve wanted to become more competitive. That has been the goal, something we feel like in those big moments that we’ve needed and maybe we’ve lacked a little bit of, is to push us over the top.
“The thing about all three of the forwards we’ve acquired is they also have proven they can score and they can score in tight at the net, where we’re going to have to find a way and where we haven’t found a way in key moments in the past.”
McCabe will fill a void left by Jake Muzzin (cervical spine injury), who is out for the season.
“We always liked how physical (McCabe) is, how competitive he is in the neutral zone and, combined with how he can defend and move the puck, he seems to relish that role,” Dubas said.
As for Lafferty, Dubas said: “For me, the speed is the No. 1 thing that he brings, but also the versatility to play center, to play wing.”
Toronto kept busy Tuesday. It dealt defenseman Rasmus Sandin to the Washington Capitals for defenseman Erik Gustafsson and a first-round pick in the 2023 draft, then shipped forward Pierre Engvall to the New York Islanders for a 2024 third-rounder. Toronto also acquired Luke Schenn from the Vancouver Canucks for a 2023 third-round draft pick.
The Maple Leafs won their third straight on Sunday, opening a five-game trip with a 5-1 victory over the Seattle Kraken.
Auston Matthews was reunited on a line with Mitchell Marner and responded with two goals. Marner added three assists. Matthews had gone four games without a goal and three games without a point.
Toronto defenseman Mark Giordano set an NHL record with his 2,045th blocked shot of his career on Sunday. The NHL began tracking blocks in the 2005-06 season.
The Oilers made a pair of deals on Tuesday. After sending forward Jesse Puljujarvi to the Carolina Hurricanes for the rights to forward prospect Patrik Puistola, the Oilers landed defenseman Mattias Ekholm from the Nashville Predators in exchange for defenseman Tyson Barrie, forward prospect Reid Schaefer, a 2023 first-round draft pick and a 2024 fourth-round pick. Edmonton also received a 2024 sixth-round pick.
The team said Ekholm plans to travel to Edmonton in time to play against the Leafs.
The Oilers are coming off a hard-fought 3-2 home loss to the Boston Bruins. Connor McDavid scored his 49th and 50th goals this season for the Oilers in a game that had a playoff feel. The Oilers expect the same Wednesday night.
“It was a playoff-like game, (the Bruins) have the best record in the league, so they are a really good team,” said Oilers forward Zach Hyman, a former Maple Leaf. “It was a tight game out there. As you continue to progress in the season and play against teams like that, they are getting ready for the playoffs and that is how they are playing.”
“It’s disappointing, obviously. They’re the best team in the league,” McDavid added. “I thought we played them hard and gave ourselves a chance to win.
McDavid took 61 games to reach 50. Only Wayne Gretzky (39) and Jari Kurri (53) have reached the milestone quicker for the Oilers. It was the first time in his career that he has scored 50 goals in a season.
–Field Level Media