Leafs make two more trades as potential series vs. Lightning, Bruins loom


The Toronto Maple Leafs aren't fooling around. 

The Leafs, entering Tuesday, had already acquired top-six center Ryan O'Reilly and bottom-six forward Noel Acciari from the St. Louis Blues, plus defenseman Jake McCabe and middle-six forward Sam Lafferty from the Chicago Blackhawks earlier this month. Those two moves by themselves would have made Toronto one of the biggest winners of the 2023 NHL trade deadline, which is set for Friday at 3 p.m. ET.

But the Leafs weren't done. They made two more impressive additions Tuesday.

One of these moves was acquiring veteran defenseman Luke Schenn from the Vancouver Canucks for a third-round pick. The other deal was acquiring defenseman Erik Gustafsson and the Boston Bruins' 2023 first-round pick from the Washington Capitals in exchange for defenseman Rasmus Sandin.

It's safe to say the Leafs are fully in win-now mode, and why wouldn't they be?

Sure, the Leafs have given up a lot of quality draft picks to acquire these players, but this team has a chance to do something special and earn the franchise's first playoff series win since 2004.

The Leafs are in second place in the Atlantic Division. They also rank No. 7 in goals scored, No. 6 in goals against, No. 5 on the power play and No. 11 on the penalty kill. The Leafs' .907 save percentage is the seventh-best of any team. And they just added a former Conn Smythe Trophy winner in O'Reilly, two versatile forwards in Acciari and Lafferty, and two solid depth defensemen in Schenn and Gustafsson. Toronto could make even more moves if it uses Boston's 2023 first-rounder just acquired from Washington.


Bruins' path to Cup Final getting harder as Leafs, Rangers, Devils load up

These trades improve the Leafs' chances of surviving what probably will be the toughest road to the conference finals of any team in the league.

For the Leafs to reach the Eastern Conference Final, they will need to beat the three-time defending conference champion Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round, and then, in all likelihood, the No. 1 seed Bruins in the second round. The Lightning and Bruins just to reach the conference final? Yikes. The winner of the Metropolitan Division side of the bracket -- whether it's the Carolina Hurricanes, New York Rangers or New Jersey Devils -- will be a very tough opponent, too. 

The Bruins are 2-1-0 versus the Leafs with one more matchup in the season series scheduled for April 6 at TD Garden. Boston beat Toronto in the first round in 2013, 2018 and 2019. The B's were deeper, tougher, and played better in clutch moments late in games of those playoff battles. 

The Leafs, after improving their roster with all of these trades, are far better equipped to beat a juggernaut like the Bruins than they've been in recent years. This is the most talented, deepest and well-balanced Leafs squad in a long, long time. The Bruins would still be the favorites to eliminate the Leafs in Round 2, especially with home ice advantage, but a Toronto upset would be a real possibility.