"We would have been hurting ourselves long-term and we weren't prepared to do that," Dave Nonis, Toronto's senior vice-president and general manager, told reporters.
Nonis, who said he made plenty of calls to test the waters, said the asking prices were high and the talent on offer limited. The sense he got was there might be more movement come the summer.
"There wasn't a lot available in general," he said. "I think deals that changed the look of your team seemed to happen at the draft."
Nonis acknowledged that his team had been up and down, putting the onus on the Leafs to return to their winning ways before the Olympic break.
"If we do, we should be fine. And if we don't, then we're going to have some difficulties," he said. "But it's not a bad team. I think we've got a good core group. We're very young still."
Nonis said he did get trade inquiries, pointing to younger players like rookie defenceman Morgan Rielly — who turns 20 on Sunday.
"Morgan Rielly's easy to move today. But it doesn't makes sense to us."
He said the team could have got some "pretty good high picks" for some of its players facing unrestricted free agency this summer.
One of those is forward Dave Bolland, who is recovering from a tendon injury. There is no time frame on his return, with Nonis saying some movement was still causing him discomfort.
"It's going to take however long it takes. I'm hopeful and confident that he'll be back this year," said Nonis.
Bolland had surgery after being checked into the board by Zack Kassian in a 4-0 loss in Vancouver on Nov. 2.
Asked about taking on other team's unrestricted free agents via trade, Nonis said either the price was too high or he felt the Leafs already had comparable players.
"Why pay a price for nothing?
Asked how close the Leafs were to being a Stanley Cup contender, Nonis said the salary cap has changed the NHL landscape so that anyone who gets into the post-season has a chance to win it all.
"Are there favourites? No question, Would I put ourselves in as a favourite? No. But I think you saw in the last year we were pretty close to moving on."
Toronto, which took Boston to seven games in the first round of last season's playoffs, was 32-23-8 going into Wednesday night's game in New York against the Rangers.
Other Leafs who are eligible to become unrestricted free agents after the season are forwards Nikolai Kulemin, Jay McClement, Mason Raymond and Troy Bodie, and defenceman Paul Ranger.