Insider Urges Maple Leafs to Keep Forward Instead of Trading Him

Toronto Maple Leafs jersey detail.

Getty Toronto Maple Leafs jersey detail.

The Toronto Maple Leafs will need to navigate a delicate situation throughout the offseason. It involves unhappy forward Nicholas Robertson as he informed the team he “has no plans to re-sign” with the franchise.

Even then, Leafs Morning Take host and director Nick Alberga believes Toronto should “give another shot” to the forward. Having new head coach Craig Berube could help Robertson going forward.

“Just because Nick Robertson has requested a trade, it doesn’t mean that the Leafs should be inclined to do anything at all,” Alberga wrote at The Leafs Nation on July 9. “In fact, at this point, it would be in their best interest to keep the 22-year-old winger around indefinitely.

“In the grand scheme of things, there’s no point in forcing a trade. Furthermore, they’re probably scouring the market for a similar player, so why not give Robertson another look, and reassess the situation at a later date.”

Initially, NHL insider Chris Johnston first reported Robertson’s trade request on June 30. Speaking after the first day of free agency on July 1, Maple Leafs general manager Brad Treliving confirmed “there was some frustration with Nick.”

The Leafs extended a qualifying offer to Robertson on July 1, effectively making him a restricted free agent with his three-year, $2.39 million entry-level contract expiring at the start of the month.

Nick Robertson Struggles in Toronto

The Maple Leafs drafted Robertson with the No. 53 pick in the 2019 NHL draft. Robertson, however, has only played 87 regular-season games from the 2020-21 season on.

He scored 17 goals and assisted 17 more in those appearances, adding 1 point in 10 postseason contests. He has been in and out of the lineup for most of his career, and he broke the 15-games-played barrier for the first time last season appearing in 56 matches.

During the 2023-24 season, Robertson scored 14 goals and 13 assists for 27 points in 56 regular-season outings. Robertson, however, failed to score a single point in the six playoff games he participated in.

Robertson conceded an interview to Sportsnet’s Luke Fox at the end of the 2024 regular season and already opened the door to an exit from Toronto.

“No. Nothing major,” Robertson said discussing contract extension talks on April 11. “It’s my first [negotiation]. I can’t say I’m worried about it now; I don’t even know how this process works. But I haven’t heard anything. I just play. It’s kind of nice knowing that [my agent will deal with it], though. I want to play and let him worry about that.”

According to Alberga, Robertson’s main reason to want out of Toronto is a lack of playing time. The forward only averaged 11:22 minutes per game in 2023-24, a career-high mark after failing to crack the 11-minute barrier in the three years prior.

“By all accounts, the 2019 second-rounder wants out because he’s looking for an uptick in playing time,” Alberga wrote. “Well, Sheldon Keefe is gone, and Craig Berube is now in charge. In the grand scheme of things, it would make a lot of sense for Robertson to get a significant look with the big boys in the top-six.”

Maple Leafs Still Have Offseason Work To Do

Jonas Siegel of The Athletic suggested a lack of better third- and fourth-line centers as Toronto’s “biggest unaddressed need” during the 2024 offseason.

“The Leafs got nothing out of their third- and fourth-line centers—Pontus Holmberg and David Kampf—in the playoffs and haven’t upgraded the position at all this summer,” Siegel wrote on July 8. “There’s nothing left in free agency, so barring a trade, this is what the Leafs have for now.”

Alberga echoed the same sentiment in his column about Robertson, pointing out the Leafs hunt for “help up front.”

“Even though it’s fair to state that a good portion of the heavy lifting is now complete, there’s no question that they will continue to look for ways to better the roster between now and training camp,” Alberga wrote. “One thing is for certain: They’re looking for help up front—especially with Tyler Bertuzzi departing for Chicago.”

While playing time is never guaranteed, Alberga believes if the Leafs should bet on internal options such as Robertson. He thinks if the franchise is looking for external options to fill some holes in their roster, they could instead give Robertson another chance.

That said, it’s also probable the Leafs keep scouting the free-agent market. The franchise is linked to former Toronto forward James van Riemsdyk in a potential reunion. Daily Faceoff considers van Riemsdyk the “top remaining free agent.”

Read More