JT Miller, Toronto Maple Leafs trade target?
Photo: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

In today’s Leafs Links, the latest on JT Miller, the Canucks’ intentions at the deadline, and where Kyle Dubas’ priorities lie heading into the trade deadline.

LeBrun: Leafs scouting the Canucks, interested in Miller; Canucks not sold on the prospect of moving him (TSN)

On TSN Insider Trading on Thursday evening, Pierre LeBrun and Darren Dreger discussed the forwards available in Vancouver, the Leafs‘ interest in JT Miller, and just how likely GM Patrick Allvin is to deal the Canucks’ leading scorer.

LeBrun on Leafs assistant GM Laurence Gilman scouting the Canucks of late:

He was there for back-to-back games. He was spotted Sunday at MSG to watch Rangers-Canucks and Monday in New Jersey, he watched Devils-Canucks. We are told he was there largely to watch JT Miller among a few other players.

That is not surprising. The Leafs have been linked to Miller before. They are among several teams who have kicked tires on him. I don’t think there is anything too serious at this point, but the Leafs are doing their due diligence.

When I talk to other teams around the league, what I get is that Vancouver is really not that into the idea of trading JT Miller. A team is really going to have to step up to get the engine of the Canucks out of their roster.

They are certainly answering calls. We will see where it goes.

Dreger on the Canucks’ appetite to trade Miller:

Only a handful of teams have called on JT Miller, and that is because they know Vancouver’s preference is to hold onto the player for now. He has another year remaining on his contract.

The Rangers would like to get their hands on JT Miller [again]. He is a target of theirs, as is Rickard Rakell of the Anaheim Ducks. They are also one of many suitors in on Ben Chiarot with three weeks looming [until the deadline].

Chris Johnston on the other forwards potentially available in Vancouver:

The asking price is believed to be slightly more modest when it comes to Canucks forwards Brock Boeser and Conor Garland. Perhaps that is a reason they may be more likely to be moved — one or both of them — at the deadline rather than Miller.

There are NHL teams who have been in contact with Vancouver about that. The Canucks are on the fringes of playoff positioning but are getting close to making some decisions. I believe they are looking for some players, not just future assets like draft picks.

Friedman: Leafs looking for the best defenseman they can find (SN)

On the Sportsnet intermission, Elliotte Friedman described the Leafs‘ deadline priorities as pretty firmly fixed on addressing their defense with the cap space available.

I think they’re looking for the best defenseman they can get. They have indicated to other teams that they are not going to hold out Jake Muzzin for the rest of the regular season if he is able to play. They are not going to rush him back, but if he is healthy enough to play, they are going to play him.

That means they have a couple of million to play with. I think they are going to look for the best defenseman they can find.

To me, that player — and this is to me — is Hampus Lindholm. I don’t know what Anaheim is going to do yet there, and I don’t know what the cost is going to be. I expect it is going to be high. I just generally think that is what Toronto is going to look at: the best defenseman they can find for what they can afford.

On Kyle Dubas’ level of urgency entering the deadline:

I don’t think he is afraid to make a big move. I also don’t think he is going to go out there and think of, “If we don’t win a playoff round, my job could be in jeopardy, so I have to do something to save that.” I don’t think that is the way he thinks. I think he thinks about how he can win, and he is not afraid to make a move in order to win, but I don’t think he worries about self-preservation.

They don’t have a lot of draft picks, but they have a lot of talented prospects other teams like. I think he is going to be very careful about what he decides to move, particularly for a rental. But I don’t think he is afraid, and I don’t think he is thinking he has to do it to save himself.

CJ: Addressing second line + defense an ideal deadline for Dubas (TSN1050)

On Leafs Lunch on Thursday, Chris Johnston suggested that goaltending is likely not a priority for the Leafs over second-line forward and defense this deadline.

I don’t think there is anything imminent. I don’t get the sense they’re meaningfully in the goalie market. I know there has been talk about that of late… That is not to say there is no scenario where they would trade for a goaltender before the 21st of March, but I don’t think it is a top priority for management, at least at this stage.

I do think, ideally, they’d like to get a defenseman and a forward if possible. It will depend on the cap space and to some degree on what happens with Muzzin and his availability. It is still kind of early yet — as crazy as that sounds — because a lot of these deadline deals come together in the last few days before the day itself.

Johnston on whether the Canucks will sell and if Miller is a feasible fit:

I think you’ll see them trade out one player of some significance  — if not more — and really start to reset the table for what could be a busy summer.

I see them more as sellers. They are a team that the Leafs have kept an eye on. In a perfect world without a salary cap and if the assets lined up, JT Miller would be an ideal fit for Toronto’s second line. I am not saying they are going to be able to make that happen.

The Leafs are looking for options on that second line. In a perfect world, the optimal lineup in their mind doesn’t include Alex Kerfoot on the second line. It is not a specific criticism of Kerfoot; they just believe they could be a better team with Kerfoot down the lineup and someone else with Tavares and Nylander.

It is not the top priority for the team by any stretch, but if they could make a move that helps the second line and then do something defensively, that is an ideal deadline for Kyle Dubas.

Bernstein & Pagnotta: Leafs with possible interest in Conor Garland, Max Domi; latest on Hampus Lindholm & Josh Manson (TFP)

David Pagnotta and Dennis Bernstein of The Fourth Period provided their latest intel on Conor Garland, Max Domi, Rickard Rakell, Josh Manson, and Hampus Lindholm ahead of the trade deadline.

Pagnotta on the market for Max Domi:

He is a UFA at the end of the season, and Columbus is trying to see if they can get some life and push over the next few weeks to get closer to a playoff spot, but realistically, the eight positions are pretty much accounted for in the playoff picture.

Columbus has a few players on expiring deals they need to figure out the future with. Domi has a $5.3 million cap hit in the final year of his deal. There are some teams who are interested in this player more than likely not in a winger role in the top six — likely a second-liner.

The Rangers, Maple Leafs, and a few other teams have been linked to Domi. The interesting thing about the Maple Leafs and the Blue Jackets: They have been scouting each other quite a bit over these last couple of weeks already. It is something to keep tabs on as we wait to see what the future holds for Domi. It is looking more and more like he is going to be dealt to a contender by the deadline.

Bernstein on the possible suitors for Conor Garland:

He is a fantastic player in the middle-six category; he is not a top-line player in Vancouver, obviously. A couple of teams: The Leafs are always looking for help at the deadline, and the Devils are looking at a long-term process with respect to building their roster. Those are two teams who could be in the market for Garland, who is an effective player at a reasonable price with term.

Pagnotta’s latest on the three pending UFAs in Anaheim:

Rickard Rakell, Hampus Lindholm, and Josh Manson are all set to be UFAs this summer. It looks like some things are starting to pick up on that front. The Ducks’ GM Pat Verbeek really wants to get a full understanding as to whether or not it is possible to re-sign any one of these three players.

Prior to the GM change in Anaheim, we were told that Lindholm was geared towards testing the free-agent waters in July. If that holds up even after these new conversations with Verbeek, there is a very good likelihood he is going to be dealt.

There are tons of teams — pretty much every team — that are looking to bolster their blue line and have interest in Hampus Lindholm. They are just waiting on the Ducks to decide what exactly they are going to do.

He shares an agent with Rickard Rakell — Claude Lemieux — so they are having conversations as well about Rakell’s future. There is a better chance he will be moved ahead of the deadline.

Josh Manson would like to stay in Anaheim; they have to figure it out.

Those three guys they will need to figure out. If Lindholm is officially available, we will know it relatively soon, and he jumps to the top of the charts for a lot of teams.