Kyle Dubas, Toronto Maple Leafs GM
Photo: Canadian Press

In the Leafs Links, Elliotte Friedman speculates on when the Leafs might look to pull the trigger on a deal for forward help, Frank Seravalli discusses the availability of Taylor Hall and Tanner Pearson, and Pierre LeBrun provides the latest sense from around the league as to how busy the trade deadline might be this season.

Leafs Links

Friedman: Leafs could aim for middle of March as optimal trade window (SN)

On Wednesday Night Hockey, Elliotte Friedman speculated that the Leafs‘ upcoming 5-games-in-14-days stretch could be the perfect time to get their trade deadline work underway knowing the quarantine rules and GM Kyle Dubas’ desire to get his work done earlier than later.

The one thing I was doing was looking at Toronto’s schedule and thinking, “Okay — are they looking at it like there is an opportune time in the schedule where we could bring in somebody if we wanted to?” I think there is a spot next week. They go through a spot where they have five games in 14 days. I do wonder if Toronto is going to look at it and say, ‘If there is a point where it makes sense for us…”

And there are a lot of parts to this between needing a partner and cap space and all of that, but I do look at their schedule and say, “I wonder if the Leafs are going to target that,” because they know it is the time between now and April 12th where they have an opening.

I look at that point in their schedule, and the way they think as an organization, I can see them saying, “That might be an optimal time.”

Friedman on the type of asset the Leafs are pursuing:

I still think it’s a top-six forward if they can do it.

Seravalli: Taylor Hall, Tanner Pearson likely to move before deadline (TSN)

On TSN That’s Hockey, Frank Seravalli provided the latest scuttlebutt on forwards Taylor Hall and Tanner Pearson, who are both likely to move by the deadline.

I know Taylor Hall has enjoyed his stay to this point. There was talk previously about Hall considering an extension in Buffalo. But the way this season has unfolded — a four-alarm dumpster fire for the Sabres — I don’t see a way in which they don’t trade him at the deadline to try to recoup some assets. If they want to try to sign Taylor Hall in the summer, that would be an option for the Sabres.

At this point, they may have to eat half of his $8 million salary to make it work. He hasn’t scored since the first eight minutes of opening night, but I don’t think a lot of teams around the league are thinking that Taylor Hall woke up and forgot how to play hockey.

Seravalli on Tanner Pearson:

I would say a guy like Tanner Pearson is more likely to move in the short term [than Jake Virtanen] because the Vancouver Canucks went through this just about a year ago. They had a team with much different expectations. You saw the players that left in the summer: Jakob Markstrom, Chris Tanev, and Tyler Toffoli, who was in a bit of a different situation as an addition at the trade deadline.

Jim Benning can’t go through another season where he doesn’t recoup assets for players that may be walking after the season ends. That is why a guy like Tanner Pearson, who had a great year last year with 21 goals, could be on the move at the deadline as a pending UFA.

Johnston: The Leafs are a juggernaut with real Cup aspirations (SN)

On Hockey Central, Chris Johnston argued his case for why the Leafs are a “juggernaut” with legitimate Stanley Cup aspirations.

It is clear their commitment to playing a different way defensively was more than just talk. I don’t know how many games you have to see to believe that, but if you look deeply into some of the metrics with odd-man rushes and where they are giving up their chances from, it is night and day from previous years. Right now, they are fourth in the league in goals against per game and six in the league in shots against per game. This is an area where the Leafs used to be a bottom third or even worse team.

That is what makes them a juggernaut: They haven’t given up anything offensively, and they are doing it by playing a totally different way in front of their goaltenders. It is a way where they can play three games against Edmonton and only one team looked like they were a real, constant threat of scoring. They are removing some of the chance from the game with how they are playing.

The big question for all of us is how do they compare to everyone else around the league. It is a little tougher thing to measure, but to my eyes, I don’t think the Leafs were as far off in years gone by as it looked like just because they didn’t get by the first round. They gave Boston two pretty good playoff series where they lost in Game 7 already. I just think they have improved leaps and bounds from where they have been before now.

Look out. The bandwagon is going to load up.

LeBrun: Expect fewer trades than a normal year (TSN)

ON TSN Overdrive, Pierre LeBrun provided his sense of how quiet the deadline might be this year compared to seasons past given the unique circumstances at play.

There are going to be trades, but I talked to a couple of executives, and if you combine all of the factors:

1) The border and quarantine restrictions.

2) 18 teams are in LTIR, which is an NHL record in the cap era. That is a lot of teams saying, “If we make a move, the exact same amount of money has to go out the other way.” Normally, that is not what we see at the deadline. Normally, a Toronto or a Boston is adding more because they have a bit of cap room and the other team is selling. With 18 teams in LTIR, is a lot of dollar-in, dollar-out.

3) Even some of the teams that are sitting in a playoff spot — and this doesn’t apply to the Leafs, obviously — don’t have the green light from ownership to add a dime. “We are not making money. Sorry. This is your team.”

When you add all of these three factors, I think it is going to be quieter than the normal deadline period. There will still be trades — Boston needs a D, Philly needs a RD, the Leafs want a top-nine forward. Everyone is going to try to get something done, but when you add it all up, I think we will have fewer in numbers and lesser in quality than a normal year.

Pagnotta: Sellers making it known they’re ready to listen (NHLN)

On the NHL Network, David Pagnotta reports that the Nashville Predators have let it be known they’re willing to listen on a number of available pieces as of early March.

The conversations and discussions are picking up. There are teams that have made it known they are willing to listen already. The Nashville Predators are certainly one club that has a number of pieces available. There are others, of course: Vancouver is basically getting there. Detroit as well.

Nashville is an interesting one. They’ve got some pieces they are willing to move: Mikael Granlund and Erik Haula are pending UFAs. Mattias Ekholm is a very interesting one — with one year left on his contract, he is a player who is going to generate a ton of interest.

We have seen this trend in the last couple of seasons where defensemen on struggling teams with one additional year on their contract are generating more interest and solid value in a package going back. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the price tag be around a first-round pick and a prospect if they can find the right deal.