Maple Leafs and Coyotes Trade Could Produce Summer Blockbuster

The Toronto Maple Leafs and Arizona Coyotes are two teams heading in opposite directions with very different interests. Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas is working his tail off, trying to find ways to upgrade his roster and fill some significant holes. Meanwhile, the Coyotes are open to moving out just about anyone. The two sides have talked trade in the past and their current chatter could produce a blockbuster deal this summer.

Coyotes Have 3 Players on Maple Leafs Radar

As one of my colleagues, Peter Baracchini, pointed out back in March, the Coyotes and Maple Leafs were aligning perfectly for a deal then and not much has changed now. The ‘Yotes are open to dealing anyone under 30 and even have veterans Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Phil Kessel on the block. No Leafs Nation, the team won’t be going there again, but a side note of interest is that the Leafs are still paying Kessel $1.2 million this season in retained salary. Toronto could really use that money right now as they try to navigate some trades. This deal for Dubas would involve the following Coyotes players:

Conor Garland

The shifty winger is like having Mitch Marner on too much Red Bull as Garland’s only 5-foot-10 and 165 pounds and loves to get his nose dirty. After a rookie season in 2018-19, where he ended up scoring 18 points in 47 games, the former fifth-round pick has blossomed nicely into a productive top-six forward in a very short period of time. He recorded 22 goals in 2019-20, finishing with 39 points and he would match the production last season, tallying 39 points in only 49 games.

Conor Garland Arizona Coyotes
Conor Garland would bring speed and tenacity to the Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Garland was seen as the Coyotes’ best player at times this past season and his name has been linked to Toronto on a few different occasions. The team had a ton of interest in acquiring him at the deadline and once they weren’t able to, Dubas and company turned their attention to Nick Foligno. There’s no doubt the restricted free agent is due for a raise on his $775,000 contract from last season, but with only 164 career NHL games under his belt, he won’t have a ton of leverage. If the Leafs and Coyotes make a big trade, there’s zero doubt about it, Garland is included.

Christian Dvorak

Dvorak’s name was recently mentioned by hockey insider Elliotte Friedman as someone available out of Arizona and Toronto as his eventual destination makes a ton of sense. The Leafs are likely going to lose Alexander Kerfoot to the Seattle Kraken expansion draft, as the Maple Leafs, as I reported, are better suited protecting Justin Holl, who is a right-handed defenseman on an excellent contract.

Dvorak would be an upgrade to Kerfoot, based on the fact his offensive upside is through the roof, he’s signed for four more seasons, and at 25 years old, has plenty of room to grow.

Dvorak and Marner were co-captains of the London Knights and led the team to a championship (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Dvorak is someone members of Leafs Nation may not be terribly familiar with and that’s ok. Put it this way; if Dvorak played in a bigger market, you would hear a ton about him. He’s a defensively responsible center who has some serious offensive upside. You’ll find him on the right side of the puck most of the time and someone who can play in all situations, which coach’s love.

If the Leafs lose Kerfoot, they will need a center who can step in and kill penalties. Dvorak can do that and more, as his offensive game is evolving nicely. Last season he was on pace for career-high production in an 82-game schedule, scoring 17 goals and collecting 31 points in 56 games. The Illinois native is capable of scoring 25 goals and could come in around 60 points on a regular basis. He would be a perfect fit to replace Kerfoot in Toronto.

Darcy Kuemper

While the Maple Leafs have yet to permit Frederick Andersen to speak to other teams, as it appears they still have interest in the Danish netminder. However, if the Maple Leafs and Coyotes pull off a huge trade, you can bet your bottom dollar Kuemper is coming North. The 6’5 goalie is long, lanky and super athletic for his size. He’s been a rock for Arizona and has quietly been putting up huge numbers in the desert.

While last season was actually a down year for the 31-year-old, his 2.56 goals-against average (GAA) on a struggling team was rather impressive. Kuemper’s two seasons previous, where he put up a .928 and a .925 save percentage (SV%), were among the league leaders as he’s a goalie who is very comfortable with a heavy workload.

Kuemper has one season remaining on his contract, at $4.5 million. If he’s going to be included in this mega-deal, the Coyotes will have to retain some salary, and that’s going to shoot the price tag up for Dubas and the Leafs. Regardless, if it’s within reach of completing this deal, the Leafs should be willing to pay a pretty penny of prospects.

Arizona Coyotes Darcy Kuemper Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Arizona Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper could be the perfect running mate for Jack Campbell (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Kuemper is considered a bit of a late bloomer as it took him some time to find a starting role, much like current Maple Leafs starter Jack Campbell. With an 82-game schedule on tap for the 2021-22 season, Toronto will need two capable netminders who can provide stability on a nightly basis. Campbell has yet to play more than 31 games in a season, and the Leafs would be better suited to provide a security blanket if things don’t go as planned next season. Kuemper can be everything and more the Leafs need and has the talent to take over as the eventual starter. Having two #1 netminders is never a bad strategy.

Maple Leafs Package Will Include at Least One Player Off Current Roster

While the Maple Leafs have a cupboard full of prospects thanks to a hard-working scouting team, this eventual blockbuster will need to include some money going down to the desert. Dvorak is on the books for $4.45 million, Kuemper makes $4.5 and Garland is in line for roughly $2.5-3 million next season. While I was told there would be no math, it’s pretty simple, the numbers need to add up for Toronto.

The team currently sits with $9.35 million in cap space and potentially having Kerfoot’s $3.5 million off the books next season takes them to almost $13 million available. A player who would likely be included here as he’s only 24 years old would be defenseman Travis Dermott and his $1.5 million contract for next season.

Travis Dermott Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Travis Dermott could play a much bigger role in Arizona (AP Photo/John Locher)

Along with Dermott off the current roster, there would be a boatload of prospects heading to Arizona in any deal that sees the Leafs acquire these three big pieces from the Coyotes. Dubas has shown with the Foligno trade he thinks the team is close and is willing to go for it. This trade would be going for it, that’s for sure. A combination of the Maple Leafs’ best prospects would need to be included for Coyotes general manager Doug Armstrong to consider pulling the trigger.

With the Coyotes losing draft picks due to a scouting scandal, they are open to taking as many as possible off the hands of other teams. The Leafs would be able to provide some serious potential with the likes of prospects Timothy Liljegren, Nicholas Robertson, Rodion Amirov, Mac Hollowell, and goaltenders Joseph Woll and Ian Scott. While I’m not necessarily saying all of these players would be heading to Arizona, a few of them would certainly be, as it’s going to take the very best from the Leafs’ system to be able to solidify this massive return.

The Maple Leafs need to seriously consider snatching up this available talent from the Coyotes, regardless if it takes a slew of prospects to make it happen. The available talent from Arizona is too hard to pass up because it fills so many holes for the Leafs. Throw in the fact, Auston Matthews is only signed for three more seasons, Dubas and company need to go for it every single year until then. Nothing after is guaranteed and neither is the fact this deal may happen. But it should.

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