NHL trade ratings: Maple Leafs send Rasmus Sandin to Capitals, win for both teams

The exchange

The Maple Leafs get: Defenseman Erik Gustafsson, 2023 first-round pick (from BOS)

Capitals get: Defender Rasmus Sandin

Sean Kind: So we make a big trade with the Leafs a day, until the deadline? Is that how it’s going to work? Okey-dokey. There was a lot to love about Monday’s move: Jake McCabe, as a defensive back who’s really good, is the rarest of birds, and he’s stuck at $2 million for three more playoffs. It’s a second pair that makes money with the third pair. Forget the return costs. Forget the rest of the case, actually. He’s good enough.

What made it a bit of a headache, however, was the crowd that left the Toronto blue line. They didn’t add McCabe to sit him down. So unless he moved, someone would be stuck in the press box, and it might have been Rasmus Sandin.

What they did instead, however, was send a suddenly fired player to Washington for a very, very solid return. Now they’ve added a first-round pick and $600,000 of cap space for the next few days. If you were part of the “Toronto should have added a third line offense instead of McCabe and Sam Lafferty” refrain, that should make you happy. They have just added a major asset which, if sent with a reasonable contract, can net them a winning play now in another relatively slim location. If nothing else, it will be easier for them, cap-wise, to activate Matt Murray and add Matthew Knies on an entry-level contract. Gustaffson, meanwhile, is a classic seventh defenseman for a playoff team. He has offensive abilities but his use needs to be watched closely, and he certainly makes more sense as a healthy scratch than Sandin would have. Cheap, half-decent guys whose contracts expire have their place in the NHL.

On a more conceptual level, it’s a smart and interesting move – and a shrewd reaction to a market that in recent days has changed before all of us. Sandin ($1.4m AAV through 2023-23, FRG after that) has been exceptional in a relatively sheltered role. If he has more to give, the Caps will take advantage; the only defender they have under contract for next season is John Carlson, so the opportunity will definitely be available.

And if that’s what Sandin is in the long run – an elite depth defender, rather than a true top pair guy – the price will have been worth it. Washington returned the first round they got from Boston for a player who can contribute immediately and, perhaps, become a legitimate cornerstone down the line. It’s a well-done volley rebuild, and a particular move that couldn’t have been a big consideration for Brian MacLellan yesterday morning. He acted quickly. Solid markings all around.

Maple Leafs standings: A-
uppercase note: A-


Mirtle: Why the Maple Leafs won the Jake McCabe trade. And what must come next

Corey Pronman: Rasmus Sandin was a solid player in the NHL. He’s a very smart puck thrower with NHL power play skills and vision. He also doesn’t mind playing physically, which is what you like to see from a small defender. His skating has been and continues to be a problem, limiting his defensive value in the NHL. He’s a good player, but he probably won’t have more than 4-5 NHL Ds in his career due to his physical limitations.

Toronto, after acquiring Jake McCabe, got stuck on defense and ceiling issues, and someone had to leave. Sandin is a controllable young player who showed promise, which is why it took a first-round pick to get him. He hasn’t fully delivered on the promise he showed after lighting up AHL as a teenager, and staying consistently healthy has been a problem for him as a professional. For a Washington team trying to re-equip quickly, this is the right kind of asset to target.

Erik Gustafsson is a very talented defender who is having a solid season and has never been better known for his defensive play. His expiring cheap contract is as attractive to Toronto as his on-ice game. Getting a late first round for Sandin is fair value in my eyes.

Maple Leafs standings:B
uppercase note:B

(Photo: Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)

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