Maple Leafs Inching Closer to Landing a Veteran Defenseman

Toronto Maple Leafs general manager (GM) Kyle Dubas has been working the phones trying to find a trade partner that will give him the perfect defenseman to add to his team. A blueliner who ideally will be on the roster for more than just the rest of this regular season and Stanley Cup playoff run. Someone who brings experience, but is a team guy, who can build instant chemistry and mesh well in the dressing room. A defenseman who isn’t a liability in their own end, doesn’t mind using their body to help block shots and keeps opponents out of the front of the net. If they have a little bit of nasty, Dubas and company would love to see it. The Maple Leafs have been talking trade with several teams, let’s examine a few defensemen being heavily linked to Toronto.

Mark Giordano

The Seattle Kraken captain has been connected to the Maple Leafs all season long when it comes to the trade market and there are a few reasons why. For one, he’s a former Norris Trophy winner who, at 38 years old, has played over 1000 games in the league and knows what it takes to win. Two, have you seen the Leafs’ top-six defense group of late? Adding Giordano would be a huge upgrade.

Three, ‘Gio’ can help out on the power play and would give head coach Sheldon Keefe another option outside Morgan Rielly and Rasmus Sandin. The veteran blueliner leads all Kraken players, averaging 2:46 of ice-time on the man advantage, which would rank him third on the Maple Leafs if he played those minutes in blue and white. He’s recorded 23 points in 55 games so far this season, including eight power-play points.

Mark Giordano, Seattle Kraken
Mark Giordano, Seattle Kraken (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

There’s lots more to like when it comes to the Maple Leafs and Kraken discussing a deal as Giordano is also close with Toronto defenseman T.J Brodie from the decade together as teammates with the Calgary Flames. We’ve seen Keefe have no issues breaking up Brodie and Rielly of late, a pair that’s played a ton together. Perhaps Brodie and ‘Gio’ is a pairing Leafs Nation can grow to love.

Related: Maple Leafs and Sharks Linked to Interesting Trade Targets

Giordano is a Toronto native, who could be interested in re-signing with the Maple Leafs at season’s end. He holds no-trade protection where he provides a list of 19 teams he approves, it’s quite likely Toronto is on the good list. As for the Maple Leafs, management knows they have issues on their blue line, but they’re trying to avoid dealing any picks or prospects for rentals, a strategy that worked horribly last season. So, kudos to Dubas and company for trying something different this season.

The Kraken’s captain is currently making $6.75 million against the cap and there’s no doubt any deal between Seattle and Toronto would see some salary retained. There’s even a chance a third team gets involved so the cap hit can be cut in half once more for the Maple Leafs. As much as money isn’t a factor in Toronto, it’s a huge factor as the hard cap makes business tough sometimes.

As for the likelihood of Giordano ending up in Toronto and what exactly the acquisition cost would be, there are some interesting elements involved here. It’s been recently reported by Chris Johnston of TSN that the Maple Leafs and Kraken have been engaged in talks and Giordano is the target. Kraken GM Ron Francis and Dubas go way back from their days in Sault Ste. Marie, so this connection could surely help facilitate a move. However, it sounds like the two sides have different views on the price tag. We’ve seen recently with Ben Chiarot moving from the Montreal Canadiens to the Florida Panthers, the Canadiens were able to fetch a first-round pick, one solid prospect and another draft pick. A steep price for a rental, without a guarantee of re-signing in the summer.

The Maple Leafs trading for Giordano is trickier than people realize. Salary retention and acquisition price are not aligning between the two executives so this is more than just bringing another hometown kid home for a Stanley Cup playoff run. Dubas needs to be persistent here as the veteran defenseman could fit in perfectly with the group and have a huge impact in the postseason.

Hampus Lindholm

The Anaheim Ducks are open to doing business as newly minted GM Pat Verbeek has been open and honest about his willingness to listen to trade offers, and that includes pending unrestricted free-agent defenseman Hampus Lindholm.

As hockey insider Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff points out, the Ducks are asking for a first-round pick, grade-A top prospect plus another piece, likely a mid-level prospect or conditional draft pick. Another steep price for someone who is only under contract for the rest of this season. Could Lindholm and Toronto be a long-term match? Perhaps. The blueliner is 28-years-old, likely looking for at least a six-year deal on the open market, and with the Maple Leafs having a bunch of Swedish representation on the roster, maybe they can lean on the connection, much like we just saw with the Flames acquiring Calle Jarnkrok from the Kraken earlier this week.

Hampus Lindholm Anaheim Ducks
Hampus Lindholm, Anaheim Ducks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

As for Lindholm, he would be a great fit for the Maple Leafs as he can be cemented into the top-four for years to come. He’s a smooth-skater who makes the right play and while he’ll gladly chip in on offense and join the rush, he’s defensively sound and loves to use his body to make plays. So far in 61 games this season, he’s recorded 22 points and averaged over 22 minutes of ice-time a night. He plays in all situations and would be a huge upgrade for the Maple Leafs to insert into their top-four. He’d likely cost Dubas a first-rounder in 2022 or 2023, perhaps Timothy Liljegren off the current roster and a conditional third-to-fourth rounder in one of the next two seasons. For me, I would make the deal as the likes of Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner are not going to be in town forever. Go all-in; at least you can say you tried.

Zdeno Chara

A name all too familiar to Leafs Nation, could we see ‘Big Z’ finish out his career with a long playoff run with the Maple Leafs? Zdeno Chara is out there on the trade market and Toronto is one of the many teams who could use him. The towering blueliner isn’t the player he used to be, but who is at 45 years old after you’ve played basically half your life in the NHL?

Zdeno Chara New York Islanders
Zdeno Chara, New York Islanders (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)

Chara was recently mentioned by Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet as a complete long shot in Toronto, but he did indeed link him to the Leafs. It’s funny because I felt the very same way back in January when I discussed adding Chara to the Maple Leafs along with his New York Islanders teammate Scott Mayfield. Both could be used to bring in some nasty and provide a new element to the bottom pair of the group.

As for Chara, he’s making league minimum at $750,000 on the cap and personally I would swap him with Travis Dermott, a move that would not only bring in a Stanley Cup winner with a resume that speaks for itself, but it would also allow Dubas to shave $1.5 million off next season’s cap hits, as Dermott is signed through the 2022-23 season. Considering Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello spent some time in Toronto and knows Dermott well, interest may already exist. This deal will come down to if Chara sees the Maple Leafs as a fit, as Isles management will keep the legend heavily involved in his own trade talks.

Leafs Nation, sleep easy and know Maple Leafs management is working throughout the night trying to upgrade the roster before Monday’s trade deadline. Defensemen continue to be the focus and Giordano, Lindholm and Chara remain targets. There’s certainly a chance conversations could escalate to a forward being included in the package. The Maple Leafs have assets as Dubas has a ton of prospects that other teams would love to acquire. We’ll find out how much he loves them, sometime before Monday afternoon.

Explore everything hockey with THW’s Hockeypedia pages.

The Hockey Writers HockeyPedia 800x120