Welcome to my new series ‘2022 Offseason Trade Targets’ where we’ll examine several teams the Toronto Maple Leafs could be interested in doing business with this summer. From minor moves to blockbuster deals, I’ll cover them all as we dive into some potential trade options for general manager (GM) Kyle Dubas.
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The Leafs’ GM will be looking to improve his hockey club this summer after coming up short against the back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning. The Maple Leafs have all the talent in the world but can’t seem to put it together when it matters most. Almost two decades of first-round disappointments have Leafs Nation’s patience growing thin. This offseason is going to be one of the most interesting ones in franchise history as Dubas is entering the final season of his current contract and there’s been a ton of conflicting reports on the vision of his roster this summer. From standing pat to a big shakeup trade, at this point, everything seems to be on the table.
Let’s start in the Windy City with a Chicago Blackhawks team who is undergoing a complete rebuild. Here are two trade targets Dubas should have his eye on:
If the Maple Leafs do indeed go the “Summer of Kawhi” route and complete a blockbuster trade, this could be the move. The Blackhawks are in full rebuild mode and the rift between management and the veteran core has been ongoing since the middle of last season. Dubas would be smart to keep a close watch on the availability of Patrick Kane and if the Blackhawks star is open to leaving town, Toronto should be pitching a top-line role alongside Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.
Adding the Stanley Cup champion to Toronto’s top six would give the team a completely different look. It would allow for Michael Bunting to move down with John Tavares and William Nylander on the team’s second line, providing even more of a balanced attack.
Kane holds a full no-movement clause so any decision will be his, however, playing alongside Matthews and Marner should be an easy sell. The 33-year-old has one season left on his contract carrying a $10.5 million cap hit and there’s no doubt Chicago will have to retain some salary, regardless of where Kane gets dealt. Perhaps a three-way deal could be on the table here just because of the hefty average annual value of his contract. With some of his salary staying on the Blackhawks’ books, the trade package would need to be very substantial, and rightfully so, as he’s still a world-class player.
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In 2021-22, the American Olympian recorded 92 points in 78 games and has proven himself to still belong in the top tier of game-changers in the league. And while regular-season stats are great – the Maple Leafs know all about that – it’s Kane’s Stanley Cup playoff experience that makes him an ideal target for Dubas. He’s a proven winner, a closer, and someone who shows up when it matters the most as he has played in 136 postseason games and recorded 132 points. Just imagine the space that would open up on the ice if he was playing with the Maple Leafs’ stars.
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So yes, Kane should be an offseason trade target for Toronto’s GM and you’d have to think a rebuilding Blackhawks team would have some interest in a number of the Maple Leafs’ top prospects. However considering Chicago dealt a young up-and-coming player in Brandon Hagel last season, a contradicting move that really angered Kane and Jonathan Toews, it’s hard to say exactly what their management team would be looking to acquire if one of their superstars were on the table.
If the Blackhawks are indeed open to moving just about anyone for a package laced with future considerations, the Maple Leafs should have some interest in the price tag of Alex DeBrincat. The 24-year-old is one of the best young snipers in the league and is as natural a goal scorer as they come. Adding his firepower to Toronto’s top two lines would be a massive upgrade for the hockey team.
This past season, DeBrincat potted 41 goals in 82 games and finished with 78 total points. He’s a proven 40-goal scorer in the league and someone who would fetch a hefty return on the trade market. Dubas has an abundance of talented prospects full of potential who other teams are drooling over, and Chicago hasn’t been afraid of listening in the past, so he needs to get himself involved here.
The Blackhawks’ sniper has one season left on his contract at a $6.4 million cap hit and the kicker here is the fact he’s a pending restricted free agent who, unlike Kane, would essentially be under team control after next season. Kane’s deal is a bit riskier just based on the fact he could easily leave after one season and then not only is one of your top-six forwards gone but so are the prospects you stuffed into the trade package. Another interesting element is how DeBrincat is set to make $9 million in actual cash in 2022-23, making him an even bigger target for the Blackhawks to move on from before the next season begins.
There you have it, folks, if the Blackhawks and Maple Leafs complete some business this summer, I’d expect to see either Kane or DeBrincat heading to Toronto. Chicago doesn’t have a ton of quantity to offer Dubas via trade, but they certainly have some quality. Keep an eye on these two teams as the summer of uncertainty begins for both organizations.