The Toronto Maple Leafs will look at the rental market to see if there’s a player or two who can help them for the late stages of the regular season and into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Last season they circled the Columbus Blue Jackets and made a couple of deals to add Nick Foligno and Riley Nash, but unfortunately as we all know now, it didn’t work out.
Regardless, general manager Kyle Dubas will work the phones to see what’s available out there, and last week I showcased three forwards. This time around, let’s venture into three defensemen the Maple Leafs should target.
Ben Chiarot, Montreal Canadiens
Number one, the most unlikely of the three. Reports have surfaced suggesting the Canadiens are willing to move Chiarot. The kicker here though is the fact some have suggested Montreal could land a first-round pick in return for their pending unrestricted free-agent defenseman. Make no mistake, there’s zero chance the Maple Leafs trade their first-round pick to the Canadiens, but also there’s limited chance they trade the pick for a rental. If the price tag comes down to a solid prospect and perhaps a draft pick from 2023, then I could see Dubas having interest, but he won’t overpay.
Chiarot would help the Maple Leafs because he’s able to play both the right and left side, he’s more physical than most of their defensemen and he has 56 games of postseason experience under his belt. There’s a long list of defensemen who are pending free agents, but there could be a bidding war for Chiarot’s services. If that ends up being the case, the Leafs won’t stay in the race, and rightfully so. But if the price tag remains reasonable — plus, keep in mind the premium or pot sweetener that it will take for the Canadiens to complete a deal with the Maple Leafs — perhaps something gets done. Ideally, a draft pick from 2023 and a high-end defensive prospect moves the needle.
Colin Miller, Buffalo Sabres
Miller would be a huge upgrade over Justin Holl when it comes to a number of areas, and the Buffalo Sabres are likely going to be moving the pending free agent before the deadline. He is an offensive weapon from the back end, and on a struggling team in Buffalo this season, has recorded 11 points in 24 games.
Miller’s best season came back in 2017-18 as a member of the Vegas Golden Knights when he produced 41 points in 82 games. Adding the mobile right-handed defenseman would be a wise move for the Maple Leafs because it would allow them to have two defensemen on their second power-play unit, which would take off Pierre Engvall. He continues to be run out there on the man advantage and perhaps it’s because the options are limited. Alexander Kerfoot would suggest otherwise.
Back to Miller, the Sabres are not a playoff bound team and will be looking to move assets. A couple of mid-level prospects and a draft pick could be enough to get the deal done. While he’s not a sandpaper type of defender like say Zach Bogosian, Miller would be a great get for the Maple Leafs as he’s someone who can move the puck, make the first pass, chip in on offense and be there to quarterback a power play. He is definitely someone to watch out for closer to the trade deadline in Toronto.
Robert Hagg, Buffalo Sabres
Back to the Sabres, they have another defenseman worth keeping an eye on and Hagg would bring a totally different element to the Maple Leafs than Miller. The 26-year-old is a much more physical defender who is a great shot blocker. Hagg currently has 52 blocks on the season, which is good for seventh best in the entire NHL.
Hagg is a prototypical stay-at-home defender who isn’t afraid to use his body, making $1.6 million on the cap. Back in 2018 as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers, the 6-foot-2, 207-pounder finished the season with 258 hits and 158 blocks. To give you an idea, his blocks would have led the Maple Leafs, and his number of hits would have been over 120 more than any other Leaf. He would bring some sandpaper to this season’s defense core, that’s been missing since Bogosian left in the offseason. Hagg would be an excellent fit with the Maple Leafs and someone who could potentially re-sign long-term.
The Maple Leafs haven’t been shy through the first quarter of this season and it’s been widely reported they have had trade talks regarding their defensemen. Now with the injuries to Travis Dermott and Rasmus Sandin, I don’t think they will be subtracting from this group, and now are much more likely to keep everyone intact, including Holl. However, Dubas and company will be doing whatever they can to be adding talent to their lineup and these three defensemen should be on their radar.
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