Maple Leafs Trade Deadline Rumors: Khaira, Barrie, Gardiner & Stecher

In this post, I want to recap the trade rumors that are being tossed around as the Toronto Maple Leafs struggle to find a place in the playoff picture as the trade deadline nears. Some of these seem wildly speculative and even made up, but there they are – even thrown into the air by hockey insiders themselves.

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In no particular order, here are some of the rumors that have been spreading about players the team might be interested in and what teams might be interested in current Maple Leafs players.

Rumor Recap One: Are Joe Thornton and Jujhar Khaira on the Maple Leafs Radar

On Friday, Elliotte Friedman was interviewed on Edmonton’s 630 CHED and talked about the Maple Leafs possible interest in the San Jose Sharks’ Joe Thornton. However, closer to home (for Edmonton fans) Friedman wondered aloud if Toronto might still be interested in Jujhar Khaira.

Edmonton Oilers Jujhar Khaira Minnesota Wild Nick Seeler
Edmonton Oilers left wing Jujhar Khaira and Minnesota Wild defenseman Nick Seeler battle for the puck (Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports)

Friedman named a number of teams (the Dallas Stars or Boston Bruins for example) who might be interested in Thornton. He also believed the Maple Leafs might be interested, but he didn’t know if Thornton would want to go to Toronto. Because he was such a franchise icon, any trade would have to be done with him engaging in the conversation.

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More specifically, Friedman wondered if the Maple Leafs’ interests might “circle back” onto the Edmonton Oilers’ Khaira as a depth forward. Friedman outlined his thoughts about Khaira:

I’ve also wondered about Khaira and Toronto again. I know they talked about it last year at this time. I’ve kind of wondered if Toronto would revisit that. I know he hasn’t had as great of a year, but he’s a better player than he’s shown. I’ve wondered if that has been rekindled at all.

from ‘Tyler Ennis? Jujhar Khaira? Anton Slepyshev? Edmonton Oilers rumour mill heating up,’ Toronto Sun, 02/21/2020)

Rumor Recap Two: Might the Maple Leafs Be Interested in Zach Bogosian

Bob McKenzie was interviewed on TSN1050 radio and was asked if there might be some interest in soon-to-be free agent Zach Bogosian from the Maple Leafs:

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McKenzie responded: “I think they probably would. There will be a bunch of teams that, once you lose the money he has been making on his existing NHL deal and it gets mutually terminated, he is a free agent with an opportunity to sign. I’d bet there are at least a half a dozen teams that will talk about signing him and probably look at him as a league minimum type of guy for depth.”

Zach Bogosian, Steven Stamkos
Buffalo Sabres defenceman Zach Bogosian and Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Chris O’Meara)

Who knows about the 29-year-old Bogosian himself? However, he’s a highly coveted right-shot defenseman with a ton of NHL experience. Surely, unless his game has completely sailed off the edge of the world, he has something to offer a team. It’s not impossible that a veteran can come into a new team and make a difference, as the Montreal Canadiens found out this season with Ilya Kovalchuk.

Rumor Recap Three: Maple Leafs Are Probably Not Interested in Rasmus Ristolainen

Elliotte Friedman was on WGR 550 radio talking to The Instigators about the possibility that the Maple Leafs might be interested in Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. His take was that he’d “be shocked” if the Maple Leafs made a trade for Ristolainen.

Friedman said, “I heard the rumors yesterday about Toronto and Ristolainen. I would be shocked. I really would. I just think if you know Toronto’s management, it doesn’t seem to be a fit to me. It doesn’t seem like the type of player Toronto would prioritize.”

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Then he noted a story Brian Burke told that, when he was with the Calgary Flames, the team thought about getting Ristolainen. However, their analytics people prepared a report that showed that his numbers were poor and the team didn’t follow up. He believed the Maple Leafs would never pay the price the Sabres wanted for the young defenseman.

Rumor Recap Four: Is Jake Gardiner a Possibility to Return to the Maple Leafs?

On his recent 31 Thoughts Podcast, Friedman noted that the Carolina Hurricanes were shopping Jake Gardiner. Obviously, the news of him being available peaks Maple Leafs fans’ interest – for good or for bad. Gardiner was one of the most polarizing players the team has had in recent seasons.

Jake Gardiner Carolina Hurricanes
Jake Gardiner, Carolina Hurricanes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

On that podcast, Friedman didn’t say that the Maple Leafs were interested in Gardiner. Basically, he didn’t even mention the Maple Leafs in the same breath at all when speaking about Gardiner. But, one would have to be awfully forgetful not to immediately create that possible link.

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Obviously, we don’t know how much Gardiner’s back is still troubling him. But, for all the things defensively that haunt the Maple Leafs fan base, he’s had lots of success in Toronto. Furthermore, there’s something intriguing about bringing Gardiner into the conversation. At least Jon Steitzer at The Leafs Nation believes so – he wrote a rather lengthy analysis of the situation.

Rumor Recap Five: Would the Maple Leafs Trade for Troy Stecher?

The Maple Leafs have reportedly asked about the Vancouver Canucks defenseman Troy Stecher. He’s a good skater and penalty killer, and he can play both as a bottom-six pairing, although recently he’s been playing with Alexander Edler on the second pairing on a shutdown unit for the Canucks.

Troy Stecher Vancouver Canucks
Troy Stecher, Vancouver Canucks, Jan. 12, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The word is that, if Stecher were traded to the Maple Leafs, Tyson Barrie would be the player coming back. Given how rookie Quinn Hughes has come into his own this season as a game-controlling defenseman, Barrie’s skills seem a bit redundant to me. Hughes runs the first-unit power play and does it very well.

On the face of it, that trade sounds like a better deal for the Maple Leafs than for the Canucks. There’s no doubt that Barrie is strong quarterbacking the power play, but Hughes already does that on the first unit and Tyler Myers does that well on the second unit. Still, those are the rumors.

In fact, in The Province on Feb. 21, writer Patrick Johnston noted the Maple Leafs’ interest in the Vancouver-area native Stecher. He even suggested that Stecher might be flipped by the Maple Leafs to get another player. (from “Canucks’ Troy Stecher philosophical on trade deadline buzz,” The Province, Patrick Johnston, 02/21/20)

Where Does this Talk Leave the Maple Leafs?

All this talk leaves the Maple Leafs still scrambling for a playoff spot. The fact that star defenseman Morgan Rielly remains a month away from playing and Cody Ceci – like him or not – remains out with an injury means that the team’s defense needs help.

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I’m believing the rumors that, should Barrie be traded, there would be a defenseman coming back in the deal. General manager Kyle Dubas is likely to have another surprise up his sleeve before the next two days have come and gone.

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