Trade Rumors Emerge From Toronto Maple Leafs Following John Tavares' Recent Demotion To The Third Line

Graham Montgomery
February 28, 2024  (4:27 PM)

Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares battling former Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk
Photo credit: Sportsnet

The Toronto Maple Leafs have generally been playing good hockey over the past few weeks, but one player has not caught on, leading to some shocking lineup changes for the team in recent games.

Tavares Struggling With Longest Slump Of Career With Maple Leafs

John Tavares has not seemed to benefit from the team's improved play as of late. He has just 2 goals and 3 points over his last seven games and has recorded a -2 rating over that stretch. He has also had a few blatant mistakes that have lead to goals against, including one especially bad turnover last night that lead to a William Karlsson goal.
This is just one example of the captain's poor play recently. People within the Leafs Organization have noticed this as well, including head coach Sheldon Keefe.

Keefe Demotes Tavares To Third Line Role During Cold Steak

Keefe has been playing Tavares on the third line on the team's last few games. While he would regularly be playing between 18 and 20 minutes a night, he has been playing closer to the 14 minute mark over his last five contests. He's also been demoted off the top powerplay unit. In fact, over the last two games, he has just 18 seconds of ice time on the man advantage, despite averaging nearly 3 minutes per night on the season. The team has attempted to spin this as him 'taking one for the team' but it is clear what the real reason for the demotion is.
«You'd be surprised. Just writing the lines on the board, and all of sudden: Who's on the third?»

On John Tavares — currently the Maple Leafs' third-line centre and second-unit power-play threat — taking one for the team:

Leafs Reporter Hints At Leafs Trade Plans Following Tavares Demotion

Leafs reporter Jonas Siegel did a piece for the Athletic today in which he analyzed the Leafs situation with Tavares. He highlighted all the same concerns we have here, but in more depth. One of the things he mentioned was the possibility of the team acquiring a new center to allow the team to give Tavares more sheltered minutes at five-on-five. Two of the targets he mentions are Adam Henrique and Alex Wennberg.
What that speaks to is the Leafs' need, with just over a week to go until the trade deadline, for another centre. A centre who could replace Tavares as the 2C and/or maybe even allow him to finally play the wing, a more suitable position for him at this stage in his career. Adam Henrique and Alex Wennberg would both fit that bill.

Of course, this does not mean that Tavares will necessarily stay on the third line forever. As Siegel mentions, he could be moved to the wing as well. However, if his cold streak continues, the team will certainly have to do something about their center depth.
As seen on Another demotion for John Tavares leads to trade rumours in Toronto!
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Trade Rumors Emerge From Toronto Maple Leafs Following John Tavares' Recent Demotion To The Third Line

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