Yesterday I took at look at former London Knights from Mark Hunter’s time as GM that might be of interest to the Maple Leafs as the trade deadline approaches. The time Kyle Dubas spent in charge of the Sault Ste. Marie was short but there are still a fair share of former players scattered around hockey that might be of interest to the Maple Leafs. Guys like Darnell Nurse, Zach Sanyshyn and Jared McCann are likely completely off the market (although with the way Jim Benning is going this week who knows) but there are some very nice secondary players/prospects that would look pretty good being reunited with Dubas and their former coach Sheldon Keefe.
Matt Murray – Soo Greyhounds 2010-2014
Matt Murray is one of the best goaltending prospects in the AHL and by all accounts it seems that he’s NHL ready. Now I know it was mentioned this week on Hockey Night in Canada that teams were calling about Murray and they’ve been told that he is not available, but the fact is that he is one of the few pieces the Penguins could move to improve the team enough to legitimize their ‘going for it’ approach. After the Kessel trade this past summer, and with Malkin and Crosby not getting any younger, the Penguins are clearly in win-now mode. The team is fighting for their lives to get into the playoffs after a terrible start and a trade in the next few days seems necessary. Sure they could pick up veteran rentals, or bottom line grinders but that’s not going to make a significant difference and as February 24th gets closer, the Penguins front office might be willing to start listening to offers for Murray. It’s been argued Murray may not even be the best goaltending prospect in the Penguins system (Tristan Jarry has looked great in his rookie season in the AHL) and that Pittsburgh might be wise to take advantage of the hype to improve their current team.
With James Reimer’s impending free agency and Jonathan Bernier’s terrible play this season, the Leafs are almost certainly looking to bring in another goalie and Murray would be a huge acquisition. He can ride out the year as the starter of the Calder Cup favorites playing for his junior coach and then make the jump to the Leafs for next season.
Potential Cost: Leo Komarov + a pick
Blake Speers – Soo Greyhounds 2013-2016
It just makes perfect sense that Blake Speers would be a target for the Maple Leafs. After being drafted by Kyle Dubas in the first round of the OHL Priority Selection Draft, Speers was then drafted into the NHL by Lou Lamoriello’s New Jersey Devils before Sweet Lou made the jump to the Leafs. Speers fits the mold of a Kyle Dubas-type player. He’s a smooth skating forward that likes to have the puck on his stick and has the puckhandling ability to maintain possession long enough to make something happen offensively. He’s not necessarily small but he could definitely stand to put on some strength before he makes the move to pro hockey next year. He’ll battle down low but is all too often out muscled by bigger opponents. This is something that comes along with age and physical maturity so we need to wait a while before we can hold it against time. The Devils have been much better this season than many expected and are currently battling with the Penguins for a wildcard position. Many expect them not to do anything drastic but as the deadline approaches, New Jersey could look to add a couple of pieces in order to make a push for a couple home playoff dates this year and Speers is the kind of player teams could be asking for in exchange for a rental.
Potential Cost: Michael Grabner with salary retention, Matt Hunwick
Colton White – Soo Greyhounds 2013-2016
Eleven picks after Kyle Dubas drafted Blake Speers into the OHL, he made defenceman Colton White a Soo Greyhound. Thirty picks after Lou Lamoriello drafted Speers for the New Jersey Devils, he called Colton White’s name at the NHL draft. Another player that first into the Dubas/Lou venn diagram is Colton White, a great skating defender that could help bolster the Maple Leafs’ defensive prospect depth chart. Playing a smaller role on last year’s juggernaut Greyhounds team, White has answered the call when called upon to lead in the top-4 this season. He won’t dominate opponents physically but he uses what he has to get the job done in his own end. A very quick skater that is able to maintain position, White uses his stick well and doesn’t let his size get in the way of being a solid defensive player. His offensive numbers won’t wow you but he’s got great instincts and vision that lead to a very nice breakout pass. He’s still only 18 and would be a long term project but is the kind of guy the Leafs could spend time developing how they see fit. Like with Speers he’s the kind of prospect that the Devils might be forced to move if they want to improve their current roster.
Potential Cost: Hunwick, Grabner
Michael Bunting – Soo Greyhounds 2013-2015
After being drafted by the Coyotes in the fourth round, Michael Bunting had a breakout year with the Greyhounds last season. He has looked decent this season moving between the ECHL and the AHLs Springfield Falcons as he tries to learn and grow his game to fit in as a pro. The Scarborough native grew leaps and bounds in his two seasons under Marlies head coach Sheldon Keefe and if the Leafs could snag him from Arizona he’d be put in the perfect situation to learn and maximize his potential. Bunting is a smart, hard-working two-way winger that may lack the foot speed to every be a regular in the NHL but with work in the minors and with an elite coaching/training staff, a little improvement in his speed could result in a very fine fourth line player on a really good team. The Coyotes aren’t likely in the mood to deal away prospects, especially for the two commodities the Leafs are willing to move (picks or veteran rentals) but if there is a young fringe player on the Marlies that Arizona likes that could fill a different hole, there might be a trade that is mutually beneficial long-term.
Potential Cost: Viktor Loov
Ryan Sproul – Soo Greyhounds 2010-2013
A favorite over here at The Leafs Nation, Ryan Sproul is another player that not only has a tie to Kyle Dubas but would have also been familiar with Mike Babcock from his time at Detroit Red Wings training camp over the past few years. Sproul is currently in the middle of his third season with Grand Rapids as Detroit overripens him the way they do with most of their prospects. At 23, Sproul is a guy that would look good on the Leafs third pairing as more bodies are moved out. He’s probably better and more NHL ready than Loo or Percy so acquiring the young defender would give him the chance to play some NHL games this season and give him a leg up going into camp next summer. At 6’4 215lbs, Sproul looks the part of a physical shutdown defender but he is much more than that. After putting up more than a point per game over his last two seasons in the OHL, Sproul hasn’t carried over the high-end offensive numbers into the AHL but he is no slouch. He can quarterback a powerplay (a second unit on an NHL team) and has the offensive instincts to make plays you don’t often see from a big defender. He has the potential to be an all-around defenceman that looks very good on the second pair and would fill the need for a right-handed shot on the blueline. Detroit is once again in a playoff spot and will be looking to hold off Pittsburgh and New Jersey to avoid Washington in the first round so a guy like Sproul may be attainable.
Potential Cost: Leo Komarov
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