Welcome to my 2022-23 Maple Leafs’ Trade Targets series, where I will examine trade targets from around the NHL. From blockbuster deals to minor upgrades, no stone will be left unturned, and we’ll be sure to have some fun along the way. The Maple Leafs will be busy this season as general manager (GM) Kyle Dubas continues to work the phones trying to construct his next deal.
For the season’s first segment, I’ll head down to sunny California and dive into the Anaheim Ducks’ waters. They are a team that’s open for business and willing to make any move that’s going to help their long-term future, as these Ducks aren’t so mighty and are in the beginning stages of a full rebuild.
Ducks GM Pat Verbeek wants future assets and young NHL-ready talent to add to his lineup, and the Ducks have a legitimate chance to become trade partners with the Maple Leafs. Here are three Ducks that the Maple Leafs should target this season:
Earlier this week, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman linked Ducks forward Frank Vatrano to the Maple Leafs. It makes a ton of sense since Toronto hasn’t received much offense from Alexander Kerfoot and should move him down the lineup.
Vatrano, 28, signed a three-year contract with the Ducks last summer at $3.65 million per season. The Maple Leafs have cap issues, and it’s very likely the Ducks would be asked to retain some salary in this deal. Moving Kerfoot and his $3.5 million salary would be one way to make this deal work financially. However, the Ducks will want more, as they aren’t going to move Vatrano for an older forward who is a pending unrestricted free agent at season’s end.
Vatrano is a goal-scorer who thrives on an offensive line. He would look good beside John Tavares and Mitch Marner on the Maple Leafs’ second line. Injuries have crept up in the past few seasons, so there’s a risk factor here, but Vatrano has tallied four goals and six points in 19 games this season. He’s also capable of killing penalties, which would be a huge bonus should the Maple Leafs lose Kerfoot in any deal.
Klingberg is an expensive target, as he’s worth $7 million against the cap this season. He’s a pending free agent, so the price tag will be interesting to watch as the rental market has yet to be established this season. The Ducks signed him late last summer, and when his one-year deal was announced, he became one of the blueliners to keep an eye on for the rental market. He has a full no-trade clause until Jan. 1, which then becomes 10-team protection until the trade deadline.
The Maple Leafs have lost Jake Muzzin, likely for the season. TJ Brodie continues to rehab an oblique injury, and this week, Morgan Rielly went down – we’re waiting to hear what the imaging says about his apparent knee injury as I write this. At the end of the day, the team needs depth on defense, and Klingberg would be a nice get for them.
In 19 games, Klingberg has eight points. He’s offensive-minded and is a right-handed shot, which Toronto needs more of. Unfortunately, he doesn’t kill many penalties, and this is an area of focus as Muzzin’s absence is a huge hole to fill. At this point, I would rank Vatrano ahead of Klingberg as a trade target for the Maple Leafs.
Not necessarily a household name, Dubas should consider Ducks defenseman Dmitry Kulikov. The 32-year-old Russian blueliner is a pending free agent, making $2.25 million against the cap, and holds an eight-team no-trade clause.
Kulikov makes sense for the Maple Leafs because of his ‘lower’ salary and his defensive capabilities. He’s a solid penalty killer who isn’t afraid to mix it up in the dirty areas of the ice. Again, with Muzzin likely out for the season, I expect Toronto to focus on defensive defensemen in any trade. Kulikov ranks second on the Ducks in hits and first in blocked shots. His 36 blocks would rank third on the Maple Leafs, behind Justin Holl and Mark Giordano.
Considering the Ducks are rebuilding and Kulikov’s age and contract status, he will likely be moved before the trade deadline. Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs need another defenseman, so a deal for him could go down sooner than later.
Thanks for stopping by, as the Maple Leafs’ 2022-23 Trade Targets series is off and running. Dubas and company haven’t been able to make a trade so far this season after trying to move some of their depth forwards earlier. With pressing issues on left wing and a need for a defenseman, expect to see the Maple Leafs GM increase his trade offers in the coming days.
Shane’s been a part of The Hockey Writers team since 2020, covering the Toronto Maple Leafs & Pittsburgh Penguins. A constant contributor, his versatile perspective on game results and everything off the ice produces diverse content. You can also find him on the Maple Leafs Lounge podcast with Peter Baracchini and Alex Hobson. Follow along on Twitter @ShugMcSween