The Toronto Maple Leafs must submit their list of protected players to the NHL by July 17. The Seattle Kraken will then have four days to announce who they’re selecting from each team. If the Kraken end up choosing Alexander Kerfoot from the Leafs, it will create a gaping hole at third-line center. Today I examine three trade targets for general manager Kyle Dubas should the team lose Kerfoot in the expansion draft.
First, let’s set the table for what exactly this trade entails. Recently I suggested the Leafs are better off to protect Justin Holl over Kerfoot, and if that happens to be the case, it’s likely Kerfoot’s selected. The team would then turn around and acquire a replacement via trade that falls under the following criteria:
- Position: Centre
- Must make under $5 million per season
- Have at least two seasons left on their contract
- Kills penalties
- Western Conference team in 2021-22
Christian Dvorak, Arizona Coyotes
Dvorak’s name recently surfaced in some trade chatter as hockey insider Elliotte Friedman reported the team could be moving on from the 25-year-old center. The Coyotes have long been rumored to be trying to trade veterans off their roster, and the Maple Leafs could pounce on the availability.
The 6-foot pivot wouldn’t be walking into a dressing room he didn’t feel comfortable in as Dvorak was teammates with Mitch Marner with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League. It does nothing but help when a player leaves for a new team and has a trusted companion waiting on the other side.
This past season Dvorak continued on his development path as he recorded 31 points in 56 games and was on pace to shatter his career-high in points in an 82-game season. He’s a name many people aren’t familiar with because they don’t follow the Coyotes and someone who, if he played in a different market, may be a household name. With four seasons left on his contract at a very reasonable $4.45 million per season, he’s someone Dubas and company could fit under the salary cap this season and beyond.
If Kerfoot is indeed the player the Kraken chooses, the Leafs will have just over $12.8 million to work with. Throw in the fact there’s money going out potentially in any deal, so there’s plenty of wiggle room to add someone like Dvorak to your roster. Add in the fact he’s two years younger than Kerfoot, has the ability to kill penalties, and possesses way more offensive upside.
Dvorak’s defensive game continues to evolve, which is an important aspect to the Maple Leafs as this needs to be a focus for the teams’ third-line. This is a player the Maple Leafs should target as he’s able to play in all situations and is on a very team-friendly contract. The acquisition cost might be within reach as Dubas will not want to lose Kerfoot and create another massive hole within his roster. The Coyotes want prospects and the Leafs have plenty to consider.
Roope Hintz, Dallas Stars
Hintz is a big body at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds and would certainly become one of the Maple Leafs’ biggest forwards. He’s versatile as he’s able to play the wing and down the middle, which come time when the injury bug is chomping through your roster is very beneficial.
Hintz had a breakout season in 2020-21 as he finished with 43 points in 41 games, the first time in his career he was over a point a game average. At 24 years old and under contract for two more seasons at $3.15 million annually, it’s going to take an arm and a leg to pry him away from the Stars. Especially considering how much injury trouble the Stars have had recently and how high they are on this player. Someone like Maple Leafs prospect Nick Robertson would need to be included in this deal, and quite frankly, it’s undetermined if the Leafs are willing to deal him.
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It also makes you wonder if the Stars would love to pair Robertson up with his older brother Jason, who had a breakout season in Dallas, finishing as a finalist for the Calder trophy. Losing Hintz for a 19-year-old lottery ticket is a tough sell to a fanbase, so the pot would need to be sweetened. A defenseman would also need to be included, as the Stars have four pending free agents from their top-six and a bunch of loyal fans to keep happy.
Elias Lindholm, Calgary Flames
Lindholm would give the Maple Leafs an absolute stacked deck down the middle if he’s slotted on the third line. This past season he finished with 47 points in 56 games and he meets all our trade criteria and some. The Swedish center can play in all situations, and more importantly, be effective. He’s been everything as advertised in Calgary after arriving in a trade for Dougie Hamilton, along with current Flames defenseman Noah Hanifin.
The Flames are not shopping this player by any means, so while they apparently want to shake up their roster, any return for Lindholm would need to be extensive to get Calgary to agree. He’s signed to a very nice contract of $4.85 million per season for the next three. With Calgary potentially losing Mark Giordano in the expansion draft, they will have a huge hole to fill on defense. Perhaps the Leafs could do their part to help this cause, but admittedly this would be the hardest of the three deals to complete. Morgan Rielly would need to be included, and likely two other pieces.
The Maple Leafs will look much different next season and there’s nothing they can do about it. It’s becoming more and more likely the team loses Kerfoot to Seattle. If that ends up being the case, any of these three players would be a solid option to replace his minutes. It’s all going to come down to how much Dubas and company want to give up in a deal. The waiting game continues. Kraken, you’re on the clock.
Shane covers any and everything to do with the Toronto Maple Leafs & Pittsburgh Penguins. A constant contributor to the THW family, his passion and unique perspective on the game results in some diverse content. Certainly versatile, you can find Seney also contributing at NHLTradeRumors.me, BaseballRumors.me & BBallRumors.com. Follow along on Twitter @ShugMcSween