Coyotes Need to Pounce on Maple Leafs Trade Interest

The Arizona Coyotes should have one thing on their mind and it’s tanking for Connor Bedard. Entering Saturday’s play the desert dogs sit 29th overall in the NHL and are certainly within striking distance of becoming the worst team in the league. Being the worst has its perks this season as a generational talent is available at the top of the draft, as well as some other top-five talent that could have lasting impacts on an organization.

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Enter the Toronto Maple Leafs. A team destined for the top of the Eastern Conference standings and a team who appears to have trade interest in the Coyotes. If so, Arizona needs to take full advantage and strike a deal with Toronto to help tank for Bedard and add a slew of top prospects in the meantime.

Maple Leafs Scouting Coyotes Games

It was reported earlier this week that Maple Leafs general manager (GM) Kyle Dubas and some of his executive team were scouting the Philadelphia Flyers and Coyotes matchup.

Kyle Dubas, Toronto Maple Leafs
Kyle Dubas, general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Alana Davidson/NHLI via Getty Images)

Dubas and Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong have done business together recently as the Leafs acquired defenseman Connor Timmins from the Coyotes for prospect Curtis Douglas. All that’s happened since is Timmins has been a huge piece of the Maple Leafs defense, as he stepped in to fill the holes left by some of Toronto’s best defensemen. The 24-year-old blueliner has recorded eight points in 11 games in blue and white and looks to be a player Dubas should consider re-signing in the offseason. Another deal between these two teams could be much bigger than a one-for-one swap.

Coyotes Should Entice Maple Leafs With Blockbuster

Armstrong and company should be dangling one carrot in front of Dubas and the Maple Leafs executive team and that’s their number one defenseman, Jakob Chychrun.

Jakob Chychrun Arizona Coyotes
Jakob Chychrun, Arizona Coyotes (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Earlier this week, hockey insider Frank Seravalli reported via Daily Faceoff the Maple Leafs would be wise to add an impact defenseman before the March 3 trade deadline. Frank makes a great point regarding injury concerns and how depth heading into the Stanley Cup Playoffs is so important. Adding Chychrun would be a move that helps check a number of boxes for the Maple Leafs and could help them finally get past the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The 24-year-old blueliner is back to full strength and firing on all cylinders. Chychrun’s recorded 18 points in 22 games, he’s playing in all situations and the best part about him is his contract. He’s signed through the 2024-25 season at a very reasonable $4.6 million average annual value. While Toronto doesn’t have loads of cap space to work with, they could easily get creative and make room financially to add Chychrun.

Coyotes Should Target Maple Leafs Prospects

If Chychrun is the main piece heading north to Toronto, the Coyotes have a number of different routes they could take when it comes to what to land in return. The Maple Leafs have done a great job drafting talented prospects the past few years and have the necessary talent Armstrong is looking for to finalize a deal. There’s been some speculation about how Armstrong is looking for a future first-round pick along with a prospect who was taken near the top of a recent draft.

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Arizona should start by asking for NCAA prospect Matthew Knies, who is an Arizona native and currently putting up over a point-a-game production for the University of Minnesota. He’s a former second-round draft pick and arguably the Maple Leafs number one prospect. Dubas would likely counter with Nick Robertson instead of Knies, another promising prospect, however one who has had injury troubles throughout the early stages of his career.

Nick Robertson Toronto Maple Leafs
Nick Robertson, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Two other Maple Leafs prospects stand out and that’s Topi Niemela and Fraser Minten. Niemela is a Finnish defensive prospect who has top-four potential and could one day help quarterback a power play. He was drafted in the 3rd round in 2020.

Meanwhile Minten, 18, was selected in the second round at the 2022 entry draft and is putting up huge numbers playing junior hockey in Western Canada. The Maple Leafs quickly signed Minten to a three-year entry-level contract after his impressive debut for the organization last summer. While Arizona may not get everything they ask for from Toronto, Knies, Niemela and Minten should be at the top of their wish list.

Maple Leafs Would Need to Include Two Off NHL Roster

In order for this trade to work it’s going to take roughly $4 million coming off the Maple Leafs books and one of their defensemen heading south. One way Dubas could construct the trade would be to include Justin Holl and his $2 million cap hit along with forward Pierre Engvall and his $2.25 million.

Justin Holl Toronto Maple Leafs
Justin Holl, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

While Holl and Engvall may not be of interest to Armstrong and the Coyotes long term, with a hard salary cap the money needs to balance out for both sides and these two players aren’t going to push the needle for Arizona throughout the rest of this season as they look to creep lower in the standings. Holl, Engvall, Knies and a 2023 first-round pick is likely a deal Arizona would think long and hard about pulling the trigger on.

The Coyotes are a team to watch as the trade deadline approaches. They should be doing whatever it takes to unload Chychrun to a contender, as he’s asked for, along with trying to load up on promising prospects for their future. If the Maple Leafs are indeed interested in the Coyotes best defenseman, Armstrong should work with Dubas and acquire their 2023 first rounder, along with two of Knies, Robertson, Niemela or Minten. Then hope and pray they win the lottery for Bedard.