Maple Leafs Have 3 Trade Candidates to Find Help on Defense

The Toronto Maple Leafs are off to an interesting start to the 2022-23 season. Head coach Sheldon Keefe has watched his team lose opening night, which he then gave them a tongue lashing for. They then turned it around for a couple of games as Ilya Samsonov stood out in net, and now, after game four of the regular season, he has decided to call out Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner for their performance in a 4-2 loss to the dismal Arizona Coyotes.

The Maple Leafs are fragile, and in more ways than one. Goaltender Matt Murray is out for at least a month due to injury, defenseman Timothy Liljegren is already on the shelf and meanwhile, Jake Muzzin appeared to go down with a neck injury against the Coyotes and is likely going to miss some time.

General manager (GM) Kyle Dubas has been actively working the phones to start this season and the trade market should be heating up in Toronto. The team needs some depth on defense and should consider moving these three players in order to land some help:

Wayne Simmonds

An easy target, veteran forward Wayne Simmonds has found himself on the trade block to start the regular season. It’s certainly not by choice, as he has been very vocal about wanting to stick around Toronto and at least finish out his current contract. Leafs superstar Auston Matthews even called Simmonds family and was happy to see the bruising winger return to the NHL club earlier this week.

Wayne Simmonds Toronto Maple Leafs
Wayne Simmonds, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The 34-year-old Simmonds found himself on the outside looking in after training camp and after the team’s embarrassing loss to the Coyotes, perhaps we see him inserted into the lineup Thursday night against the Dallas Stars.

Simmonds is a pending unrestricted free agent who has a modified no-trade clause which protects him against 10 teams of his choice. Dubas and company have e-mailed all 31 teams to notify them that he is available and so far, they haven’t received any bites.

Related: Penguins and Maple Leafs Emerging as Potential Trade Partners

This trade, if it does transpire, will be about finding Simmonds a good fit for this season and not necessarily about what the team will get back in return. Dubas needs to ensure they land an experienced defenseman who can play the right side, as the Maple Leafs are left-handed shot heavy and currently only have Justin Holl flanking the right side with a right-handed shot. They need to find a better balance on the blue line, and trading either Simmonds or one of the next two forwards could do the trick.

Pierre Engvall

Perhaps the Maple Leafs’ worst forward after four games this season, Pierre Engvall is off to a rocky start. The 26-year-old winger has found himself on the team’s third line with Alexander Kerfoot and Calle Jarnkrok, and frankly, the trio have zero chemistry and have struggled to find an identity early on this season.

Pierre Engvall Toronto Maple Leafs
Pierre Engvall, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

In four games to start the 2022-23 season, Engvall has zero points and is a minus-2 rating. He’s only thrown six hits, compared to the 14 by Matthews, and his seven shots have not necessarily tested the goaltender.

Engvall is a pending unrestricted free agent and is making $2.25 million against the cap. The Maple Leafs are cash-strapped, to say the least, so this money could be beneficial to use on their blue line. He holds minimal trade value on the open market, however, if you’re only looking to add a depth defenseman in the deal, Dubas should be able to pull this off.

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At 6-foot-5 and coming off a 15-goal season in 2021-22, Engvall would be intriguing to a number of different teams. Because he’s only signed for this season, the commitment level is low, so teams wouldn’t be locked in long-term if things didn’t work out. As such, the Maple Leafs forward is emerging as a prime trade candidate to start the new season.

Alexander Kerfoot

Another Maple Leafs forward who finds himself as a trade candidate is Kerfoot. He’s playing alongside Engvall and Jarnkrok on the team’s third line to start this season and unfortunately, the trio hasn’t been able to generate much so far.

Alexander Kerfoot Toronto Maple Leafs
Alexander Kerfoot, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Kerfoot is a pending unrestricted free agent who is making $3.5 million against the cap. The Maple Leafs need to create salary cap flexibility and they need help on defense, so perhaps by moving Kerfoot, they could kill two birds with one stone. It’s just a figure of speech, but essentially Dubas needs to multitask in a major way and could do so if he moved Kerfoot for help on his blue line.

It’s worth noting, too, that Nick Robertson wasn’t able to play the season opener because Dubas and company couldn’t afford to pay him. They barely snuck under the salary cap by $4.00 to start the 2022-23 season and now with Robertson back up with the big club, he deserves a legit shot at regular minutes in the NHL. Robertson could be inserted, meanwhile, Kerfoot could be traded for a defenseman, and the Maple Leafs may just find themselves in a better situation altogether.

With all this being said, let’s summarize and point out the fact the Maple Leafs are off to a sloppy start. Injuries have crept into the equation; the head coach has called out basically everyone after four games and the GM is working the phones on the trade market. If Dubas decides to pull the trigger to land a defenseman, look for one of Simmonds, Kerfoot or Engvall to be sent packing.

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