At any NHL trade deadline, playoff teams tend to trade with non-playoff teams, and while we do see the odd exception, it’s a safe bet that any trade the Maple Leafs will make will be with one of the sellers.
With the Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators, and Edmonton Oilers fighting for two playoff spots in the Western Conference, let’s assume that they won’t be trading roster players for futures.
That leaves us with 15 potential sellers at this year’s deadline, a list that includes: Anaheim, Arizona, Buffalo, Chicago, Columbus, Detroit, Montreal, New Jersey, New York (Islanders) Ottawa, Philadelphia, San Jose, Seattle, Vancouver, and Winnipeg.
This article will go through all 15 of these selling teams to determine which players the Leafs could be interested in. I’ll cast a wide net before compiling a list of top targets by position and term.
Possible trade targets among the potential sellers
Players with term: D Jakob Chychrun (4 x $4.6M), LW Lawson Crouse (1 x $1.53M, expires RFA).
Rentals: C Johan Larsson, LW Alex Galchenyuk
Chychrun is the big name here. He was on Team Canada’s radar prior to this season and is still just 23. His $4.6 million cap hit is a bargain, but it’s a bit tricky to fit him in Toronto’s cap situation next season unless Jake Muzzin is willing to waive his no-move clause.
It’s tricky to pull off, but adding a 23-year old high-end defenseman on a bargain contract for four years is intriguing enough to at least seriously consider. Chychrun belongs on the top-10 targets list as a result.
I’ve been interested in Larsson for years. He grades out well defensively every single season, he’s better in transition than someone like Riley Nash, and his cap hit is just $1.4 million. It likely wouldn’t cost much to acquire him since he is currently injured. His two-way game would come in handy over a playoff run.
Acquiring Larsson could allow Jason Spezza to shift to the wing. The Leafs could use some additional depth up the middle, especially if they consider moving Alex Kerfoot. You also might be able to extend him for a bargain price.
I don’t think Crouse makes much sense given that he’s an RFA this offseason. The Leafs probably can’t afford to give him a big raise; plus, the Coyotes would want a fair amount back in return for him. If they’re in the market for a power forward, there are other options that make more sense.
I guess I’d at least consider taking Galchenyuk back as a 13th forward who can play with Tavares and Nylander if injuries occur, but I’m focused on larger moves here. I don’t think Phil Kessel or Anton Stralman make much sense.
Players with term: LW Maxime Comtois (2 x $2.04M, expires RFA), G Anthony Stolarz (2 x $950k).
Rentals: LD Hampus Lindholm, W Rickard Rakell, RD Josh Manson.
The Ducks look like an ideal trade partner for the Leafs. Let’s start with the rentals.
Lindholm was one of the best defensemen in the NHL by both goals above replacement (GAR) and expected goals above replacement (xGAR) over his first six seasons in the league. He’s fallen off by those numbers in a big way over the last three seasons, but he’s the same age as Morgan Rielly, who the Leafs just signed to an eight-year deal. Did he really decline that much after he turned 26?
Watching him play, I still think he’s quite good. He’s 6’4″, a good skater, and looks like an ideal shutdown defenseman who is quietly effective as a puck mover. That said, the acquisition cost could be too high, and I’m not sure what the Leafs’ plan would be if Rielly, Lindholm, Muzzin, and Sandin are all healthy given that Lindholm also plays the left side.
It seems like Josh Manson could re-sign in Anaheim, but if he isn’t moved, his skillset and right shot would be a great fit. Like Lindholm, the cost to acquire him could end up too rich for my liking, but he’s good enough to call about.
Their forward rental option, Rakell, is also fairly good, but I’m not sure he’s the #1 option to fill what the Leafs need. Unless he’s cheaper than expected, I’d rather not spend assets on a rental second-line winger who struggles defensively and isn’t overly physical.
Comtois makes a lot of sense for the Leafs. Given his low cap hit, they could probably involve a third team to retain 50% for a low price. The Leafs will face a bit of a cap crunch this season, but adding Comtois at a low cap hit sounds like a great idea. He’s the same age as Timothy Liljegren, he led the Ducks in scoring last season, and he’s a 6’2″ power forward who can hit, fight, and add net-front scoring. However, I see him as more of an average third-line winger rather than a top-six option. I might prefer Rudolph Balcers of San Jose in terms of a cheap left-wing add.
Stolarz is a big 6’6″ goalie with a .915 save percentage over 53 career AHL games. The Ducks could use him behind John Gibson next season, but they already have their number one option. He could compete to be Toronto’s starter this season, and at a $950k cap hit, he’d be a great fit for Toronto’s cap situation next season. The Leafs spent under $6 million in cap space for their goaltenders this year, so they’ll need to add someone like Stolarz if they want to spend as much on forwards and defense next season.
Players with term: No targets.
Rentals: No targets.
The Sabres don’t have much to offer the Leafs. Colin Miller isn’t a bad player — I was interested in him in previous off-seasons — but I’m not sure if he’s really needed after adding Ilya Lyubushkin.
The Leafs have eight NHL-calibre defensemen right now, so unless they make other moves, I don’t anticipate much interest in Miller or Mark Pysyk. Vincent Hinostroza and Cody Eakin could also be available, but I don’t think they are a great fit.
Players with term: LW Brandon Hagel (3 x $1.5M), Dylan Strome (1 x $3M, expires RFA).
Rentals: G Marc-Andre Fleury, D Calvin de Hann.
Fleury is the most established goaltender available by a wide margin. It’s incredibly risky to give up a first-round pick for a rental goaltender, but there’s considerable upside as well.
If he struggles, the Leafs gave up a first-round pick to hurt their playoff chances. If Jack Campbell returns to his previous form, they gave up a first-round pick to watch Fleury sit on the bench. If Fleury plays well but they still lose to a good team, it’s probably not worth it.
I don’t think the Leafs will give up a first unless their goaltending implodes before the deadline, but if the cost drops, he could make more sense, especially if Mrazek’s cap hit goes the other way. He’s at least worth keeping an eye on.
Calvin de Hann consistently grades out well defensively, and his ability to play either side would be valuable. He’s not the best defenseman on the market — and he’s probably not a massive upgrade over their current options — but he’s a fine plan B. I don’t think he can be the major addition at the deadline, and I am not sure I’d even go as high as a second-round pick for him, but he’s worth keeping an eye on.
Hagel is a great fit as a Bunting-lite in the Leafs’ top six. His $1.5 million cap hit could allow them to spend more on defense and goaltending in upcoming seasons. I’d strongly consider giving up a first-round pick for him, but it sounds like the price will be higher than that. He’s a top target, but like any player, the price could end up chasing the Leafs away.
Strome is on a heater as of late with three straight multi-point games, taking him up to 30 points in 45 games this season. It makes me wonder if Chicago is willing to pay him what he’ll likely earn in arbitration. He was struggling to gain traction in the team’s top nine at the start of the season, but he’s now playing with Patrick Kane. Acquiring him is a bit of a long shot, but he would make for an interesting rental.
Players with term: C/RW Jack Roslovic (1 x $1.84M, expires RFA), LD Vladislav Gavrikov (2 x $2.8M), C/LW Alex Texier (2 x $1.53M, expires RFA).
Rentals: C/LW Max Domi.
I’m not the biggest Domi fan — he consistently grades out terribly defensively — so I’d probably pass. I’d be interested in Roslovic or Texier if the price was cheap enough, but they’re both younger players who struggle defensively, and I’d only really be interested if I can get them for 50 cents on the dollar. I’d at least call about them, but I think a rebuilding team will outbid the Leafs.
Gavrikov is a valuable 6’3″ defenseman on a great contract, but he plays on the left side and his name hasn’t been in the rumour mill. If the Leafs are comfortable moving one of Rielly or Sandin over the right side, I think he’s a great target, and it wouldn’t cost a ton to get a third team to retain 50% of his cap hit. I’m not sure if the Leafs want a left-shooting defenseman, but if they do, he’s near the top of my list.
Players with term: No targets.
Rentals: C/W Vladislav Namestnikov.
I don’t see Dylan Larkin getting moved. Alex Nedeljkovic hasn’t looked great this year, so Namestnikov is the only target worth calling about.
Namestnikov could bring some secondary scoring to the table and either slot in as a second-line winger or fourth-line center. His versatility would be valuable, especially if they consider moving Kerfoot, but he can’t be the Leafs’ biggest acquisition.
I wouldn’t give up a second-round pick for him, but he’s at least worth keeping an eye on. I don’t think Nick Leddy, Troy Stetcher, or Marc Staal fit what the Leafs are looking for. Filip Zadina is at least interesting, but I think he makes more sense for a rebuilding team.
Players with term: LW Artturi Lehkonen (1 x $2.3M, expires RFA).
Rentals: No targets.
I’m not a big fan of Ben Chiarot’s game, so Lehkonen is the only potentially worthwhile target I see on Montreal. Lehkonen has been a god by Evolving Hockey’s RAPM, where he’s graded out well defensively for years. Tavares and Nylander could use a two-way winger like him on their line, but the Leafs do already have some strong two-way wingers in Pierre Engvall and Ilya Mikheyev.
Lehkonen is a good underrated player who is worth calling about, but he would make more sense if he was signed beyond this season.
Players with term: RD Damon Severson (2 x $4.17M), LW Andreas Johnsson (2 x $3.4M), LW Tomas Tatar (2 x $4.5M), C/LW Pavel Zacha (1 x $2.25M, expires RFA), LD Jonas Siegenthaler (2 x $1.125M, expires RFA), G MacKenzie Blackwood (2 x $2.8M, expires RFA).
Rentals: No targets.
There are plenty of potential options on the Devils, but I don’t think any are overly likely fits for Toronto.
Severson is the best of this group despite how poorly he plays whenever he faces the Leafs. He’s a clear top-four defenseman according to both the numbers and the eye test. He’s on a reasonable contract, and on paper, his playing style would complement Muzzin’s game well. The Leafs could pay either the Devils or a third team a little bit extra for some salary retention. He’s worth calling about, but the price could be crazy.
Johnsson and Tatar both make some degree of sense if there’s salary retention. I assume the Devils would be willing to part with them given their current cap hits, so the Leafs would mainly be paying for salary retention from either them or a third-team. I’d like a bigger winger for the Leafs in an ideal world, but both are good enough options to consider.
I like Zacha as well, but the Leafs probably can’t afford his next contract, so you’d probably have to plan to flip him.
Siegenthaler has incredible defensive impacts this season by RAPM and has graded out quite well over the course of his career. He’s worth calling about given his skillset and team-friendly contract, but he plays on the left side and the Devils have no reason to trade him unless they get a haul in return.
Blackwood is in a similar situation. While his cap hit would make sense for the Leafs, it would be difficult to rely on a goaltender who has struggled in back-to-back seasons.
New York Islanders
Players with term: G Ilya Sorokin (3 x $4M), G Semyon Varlamov (2 x $5M), RD Scott Mayfield (2 x $1.45M).
Sorokin is having a great season at age 26, so he probably won’t be moved. Acquiring him is a major long shot, but if you’re prepared to give up a haul for a goalie, he’s probably the right guy.
Varlamov has been good rather than great this season, but he was great last year and the Islanders may be comfortable losing him for next season based on how Sorokin is currently playing. Given that he’s a free agent after next season, it wouldn’t cost a ton to include some salary retention from a third team.
Mayfield’s size, playing style, and contract make him an intriguing fit on Toronto’s right side. However, I’m not convinced that the Islanders are overly keen on moving him nor am I sure how much better he is than Liljegren or Holl. He made more sense as a target prior to the Lyubushkin trade, but he’s at least worth calling about.
Players with term: RD Artem Zub (2 x $2.5M), G Matt Murray (3 x $6.25M)
Rentals: G Anton Forsberg, C Chris Tierney, LW Nick Paul.
I wrote about Forsberg here. He carries a limited track record at the NHL level, but he was great at the AHL level and has been terrific for the Sens since the start of December. He’s been one of the best goalies in the NHL in recent months and carries a cap hit of just $900k, so he wouldn’t prevent the Leafs from making other moves.
The Sens are already paying Murray over six million per year, so there’s a chance that they’re willing to trade Forsberg. While he’s a rental, the Leafs could also look to extend Forsberg at a reasonable price, as they need a goaltending solution beyond this season.
Zub plays the right side and grades out fairly well by RAPM, but I’m not sure that the Sens want to move a right-shooting defenseman unless it’s for a haul. Tierney has graded out well by RAPM this season, but he hasn’t in the past, and I have no idea what to make of him overall.
Paul is a fine player who could potentially fit on the second line, but I wouldn’t give up a second-round pick for him if I were the Leafs.
Players with term: No targets.
Rentals: W Claude Giroux, RD Justin Braun.
Giroux is a star-calibre player who is worth giving up a first-round pick for, but he carries a full no-move clause and can choose where he wants to go. acquiring him is a long shot.
Braun grades out very well defensively but horrendous offensively. I suppose I’d consider trading for him if the cost is lower than expected, but they already traded for Lyubushkin, and I’m not sure if he’s much better than Holl or Liljegren.
Players with term: LW Rudolfs Balcers (2 x $1.55M, expires RFA), RD Radim Simek (3 x $2.25M), G James Reimer (2 x $2.25M), G Adin Hill (2 x $2.175M).
Rentals: C Tomas Hertl.
Hertl is a star center who every team should be calling about. He might end up re-signing with the Sharks, or the acquisition price could be ginormous, but there’s little question that he’s a major difference-maker. Having Matthews, Tavares, Hertl, and Kampf up the middle would be incredible depth, with the flexibility to shift Tavares over to the wing if needed. My guess is that he stays in San Jose, but I’m a massive fan of his game.
Balcers plays with Hertl and is an under-the-radar 24-year-old winger. I like his two-way game, he’s half-decent offensively, and he isn’t afraid to throw some hits. The Sharks likely aren’t shopping him, but he’d probably cost less than Comtois. He can’t be the Leafs’ biggest addition at the deadline, but I like him as an under-the-radar player who could potentially slot in anywhere on the left side.
Simek is a 29-year old left-shot defenseman who typically plays on the right side next to Marc-Edouard Vlasic. The Sharks already have Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson, and Ryan Merkley on the right side, so Simek might be available. He typically grades out well defensively, but he doesn’t bring much to the table offensively. Frankly, he’s a boring player who is difficult to get a read on.
Both Hill and Reimer are currently injured. Hill has struggled in 24 games this season but had some success with Arizona in previous seasons. Reimer has been quite good in 34 games this season, but he wasn’t great with the Hurricanes last season, and he’s not overly durable. Both are long shots.
Players with term: D Carson Soucy (2 x $2.75M).
Rentals: LD Mark Giordano, F Calle Jarnkrok, F Marcus Johansson.
I wrote about Soucy here. A 6’5″ left-shooting defenseman who plays the right side, he’s graded out extremely well by GAR and xGAR so far in his career. The Kraken could use picks and prospects, but the Leafs could use a 6’5″ defender who brings a shutdown style to the table. The Leafs could pay extra for salary retention, although his $2.75 million isn’t overly excessive, either.
I’ve always rooted for Giordano, but he’s 38, and I’d prefer Lindholm or Gavrikov if the Leafs are going to pay up for left-side help. I’m not sure what the plan would be given that the team already has Rielly, Muzzin, and Sandin on the roster. Giordano is from Toronto and has made over $60 million in his career; could he pull a Jason Spezza and sign with the Leafs for a heavy discount in the offseason?
Jarnkrok is a good two-way forward who is good on the forecheck. He can play any forward position (though he’s better on the wing) and contributes on both special-teams units. I wouldn’t give up a second-round pick for him if I were the Leafs, but he’s a good contributor if he’s cheap. He scores quite a bit, but he never seems to pick up any assists.
Johansson isn’t as good as Jarnkrok, but he’s a fine depth forward if he’s really cheap. Joonas Donskoi may also be available, although I’m not a huge fan of his game.
Players with term: C/LW J.T. Miller (2 x $5.25M), RW Conor Garland (5 x $4.95M), RW Brock Boeser (1 x $5.875M, expires RFA), RD Luke Schenn (2 x $850k).
Rentals: LW Tyler Motte.
Miller is an ideal fit if the price is reasonable, but it sounds like the price could be ridiculous. He has 181 points in 177 games as a member of the Canucks, brings some grit to the table, and he would fit in as an elite second-line winger or an elite third-line center. Given that it’s just two seasons, the Leafs could pay extra for salary retention. He’s really good, but everyone knows that he’s really good, and a team like the Rangers could have a bigger appetite to make a massive bid.
Garland is small but really, really good. His contract is a bargain, but like Chychrun, the Leafs would need to get creative to fit him in for future years. Some people will rule him out because of his height, but he’s fairly comparable to Nylander by the numbers, and he could improve the second line significantly. He’s a long-shot — it’s tough to fit a $5 million forward into the mix long-term — but I do like him and I would try to trade for him.
I don’t see Boeser as a great fit; the Leafs can’t afford him next season, so he’d be a pure rental. The Leafs don’t have a major need on the right side nor a huge need for him on the power play. Motte isn’t much of a scorer, but he does grade out extremely well defensively this season. I’d only be interested in him if he was very cheap.
I’m not sure if the Leafs need Schenn for this season following the Lyubushkin trade, but he makes plenty of sense as a depth defenseman for next season as he could fill a roster spot for just $850k. Perhaps he’s more of an offseason target, but he makes a little bit of sense this season if they move someone like Holl. He’d be great to include in a trade for Miller or Garland; if the Leafs trade for a player with significant money and term, they’ll need to save cap space elsewhere next season.
Players with term: RD Dylan Demelo (3 x $3M).
Rentals: LW Paul Stastny, C/LW Andrew Copp.
Demelo is a good under-the-radar defender who grades out well defensively year after year. He’d be a good fit in Toronto’s top four. There’s a chance that the Jets would move him given that they also have Neal Pionk and Nate Schmidt for the right side. I think he’s a bit of a long shot, but I’ve always liked his game.
Copp and Stastny are both fine contributors who could play on the left side in the top six, but I don’t think I would want to pay what it would take to acquire them. Copp grades out as iffy defensively, and I think he’s more of a middle-six scorer than a major difference-maker. Stastny is still quite effective at 36, but if I’m giving up a second-round pick or more, I want more of an upgrade.
This is a long list, but many of these players won’t end up being available, at least not for a reasonable price. The Leafs will need to have a strategy in place if they plan to acquire an expensive player with term such as Garland or Chychrun, and this type of move would likely put them in the market for cheap players with term such as Schenn and Stolarz. This list would be pared down in a hurry if the Leafs ruled out trading for a certain position (e.g. goalie), or a certain handedness (e.g. defensemen who play the left side).
Goalies (Rental): Forsberg, Fleury
Goalies (Term): Stolarz, Varlamov
Defensemen (Rental): Lindholm (L), Manson (R), de Hann (L/R), Giordano (L)
Defensemen (Term): Gavrikov (L), Demelo (R), Chychrun (L/R), Soucy (L/R), Severson (R), Schenn (R)
Forwards (Rental): Larsson, Hertl, Giroux, Namestnikov, Jarnkrok, Rakell
Forwards (Term): Garland, Miller, Hagel, Balcers, Lehkonen, Comtois