The Toronto Maple Leafs have been hit with some adversity this season. From the get-go in training camp, they have been chomped on by the injury bug and right now, it’s the worst it’s been all season. With three of their best defensemen out of the lineup and with a couple of forwards struggling up front, expect to see general manager (GM) Kyle Dubas ramp up his trade efforts.
The Maple Leafs have already been busy this week, sending Curtis Douglas to the Arizona Coyotes for defenseman Conor Timmins. The former Soo Greyhound is someone the organization is extremely familiar with, as the team was linked to him for roughly a week before a deal was completed. He’ll help with the depth on the back end and should be given a look while the likes of TJ Brodie and Morgan Rielly are on the shelf.
Timmins is a former second-round pick and has some serious offensive upside. He hasn’t been able to stay healthy, so it will be interesting to see how his body reacts should he be given regular minutes for the next few weeks. The Maple Leafs are hopeful he can find his stride in the NHL and give them an option moving forward into next season and beyond.
Maple Leafs Will Continue to Search for Defensemen
Even with the acquisition of Timmins, expect to see Dubas active on the defensive trade market. I don’t feel like the team is sold on Victor Mete and Mac Hollowell being their best depth options heading into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It’s likely we see them add some sandpaper to their d-core and acquire some more toughness on the blue line.
Some intriguing names who are cheap cap hits, good penalty killers, and aren’t afraid to mix it up in the dirty areas of the ice include Vancouver Canucks defenseman Luke Schenn. There’s going to be a ton of trade interest in him as the Canucks are expected to move out several players before the deadline. He makes only $850,000 and is a pending free agent. The acquisition cost won’t be severe and he’s a name you can expect to see on the Maple Leafs’ radar given his style of play.
A few other early trade candidates at this time are Arizona Coyotes defenseman Joshua Brown, a towering presence and someone who plays the game tough as nails. He is fourth in the entire NHL in penalty-killing minutes and doesn’t mind using his body to impact the game. He has recorded 42 hits and 40 blocks in 17 games this season.
Josh Holden of the Ottawa Senators, Vladislav Gavrikov of the Columbus Blue Jackets, and Dmitri Kulikov of the Anaheim Ducks are also names to keep an eye on as each would fit the Maple Leafs’ needs, one way or another.
Maple Leafs Will Test Forward Market
Don’t expect to see all of Dubas’ attention on just defensemen as the Maple Leafs also have some issues up front. We saw during the New Jersey Devils game on Wednesday night (Nov. 23), that their forward depth is something to be worried about. It was a tough look for the hockey club to send out a second power-play unit of Alexander Kerfoot, Pierre Engvall, and Nick Robertson. The trio has combined for only five goals this season and a lot of that falls on Kerfoot and Engvall who have been regulars in the lineup. Considering the options at the moment, who else was head coach Sheldon Keefe going to put out there?
Kerfoot in particular is a forward the team needs to consider moving. He’s a pending free agent and may be at the end of the road with the Maple Leafs regardless, however his lack of production should force Dubas to pull the trigger on swapping him out for another forward.
Ideally, the Maple Leafs can acquire someone with an offensive punch, who is versatile enough to play both wings and has some Stanley Cup Playoff experience. Is San Jose Sharks forward Timo Meier too expensive? Likely, yes. Gustav Nyquist of the Columbus Blue Jackets is an interesting option; however, after a 53-point season in 2021-22, he has only three goals so far this campaign and hasn’t been the most productive player in the 65 Stanley Cup Playoff games he’s dressed for.
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Some other forwards to keep an eye on include Frank Vatrano of the Anaheim Ducks, Andreas Athanasiou of the Chicago Blackhawks, and Conor Garland of the Canucks. Athanasiou of this trio is someone the Maple Leafs could zone in on as they have trade history with the Blackhawks and the Toronto native’s game aligns nicely with their style of play.
Maple Leafs GM Has Trade Assets to Dangle
As we witnessed with the Timmins trade, the Maple Leafs do have some young forwards who entice other teams. Even with Douglas moved to the Coyotes, they have a number of prospects who could be included in trade packages to land some talent before the deadline.
The likes of Alex Steeves, Fraser Minten, Nick Abruzzese, Bobby McMann, Roni Hirvonen, Matthew Knies up front, and young defensemen William Villeneuve and Topi Niemela could be prospects we see discussed in deals in the coming weeks. If Dubas moves either Niemela or Knies, expect to see a blockbuster deal shaping up as these two are the Maple Leafs’ top two prospects.
Early on this season, Dubas tried to trade both Wayne Simmonds and Nicolas Aube-Kubel and both times was unable to find a trade partner. With only one trade so far this season, it hasn’t been for a lack of trying, as the Maple Leafs GM has been working the phones day in and day out. The wheeling and dealing is not finished as they have some big holes to fill, including secondary scoring and some more depth on defense. Remember the meme of Dubas holding two phones to his ears? That’s likely an accurate portrait of his communication style at the moment.