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The way-too-early look at Leafs trade deadline targets

As this title suggests, this season might be a bit too young to start talking playoff rental options, but when you sit back and think about it, are we really that far away from those discussions? Christmas is in three weeks, and after that you know the “Trade Bait” boards and such are going to be featured on every hockey broadcast in the eight leading up to February 26th. It’s going to feel like twenty minutes.

Points-wise, the Leafs are off to about as good of a start as we could have hoped (and many of us predicted), and given their own pending free agent situation, they’re in a somewhat unique situation of being potential buyers and sellers in the new year. But if we focus on the former approach, who’s out there that could help them load up down the stretch?

Our natural targets are going to be in the form of 2018 free agents, and there are some intriguing names out there. But as the standings sit right now, it’s difficult to nail down who might fall out of contention and want to sell off. For example, we probably would’ve assumed the Knights would be dishing James Neal as a rental prior to this season, when everyone thought they’d be trash, but that team has stuck around near the top of the table two months in.

Still, there are some teams falling fast in recent weeks, and with that presents some situations where veterans are going to shake loose in the next 11 weeks. There are also a few bubble teams who could be in decision-making mode if they drop even a few games off the pace. Let’s take a gander at a few.

Mike Green

Green is a probably the most natural fit for the Leafs in this whole list, and he’s on a Wings team that’s sinking fast. A veteran right-handed offensive defenceman could do this team some good. Hell, it would be nice to see him in there just so we can see less of Zaitsev and his house-on-fire passes to no one. Green can still put up his share of points – he’s on pace for 55 this season – and I’d be intrigued to see him alongside Gardiner or even Borgman late in the season, along with man-advantage duties.

Rick Nash

This would have seemed like a reach prior to the season, but then the Rangers were garbage for a while and it got me thinking this could happen. Unfortunately New York has been hot recently and probably believe they can be contenders again, so they could hold on to Nash and his 7.8-million dollar hit until it’s off the books after this season. But we can hope that before the deadline they get the hint again that their window is closed and our pal here can finally go home for a Cup run.

Erik Gudbranson

Yes, I know, Gudbranson is the worst player to ever put on skates. He should be in the ECHL, perhaps drawn and quartered, and so on.

Thing is, Gudbranson isn’t really that bad a player, he’s just loved way too much by the two most clown-shoes general managers in the league: Dale Tallon and Jim Benning. Is he a difference-maker? Not really. Can he score? Jesus no. But I think in the case of the Leafs he could potentially be an upgrade on the back-end as 6/7 guy. Actually, unless Babcock suddenly gains some confidence in Young Carrick (which he won’t), I’m quite confident Gudbranson would be a step up on where we are today.

Case in point:

Okay I’ve written enough words about Erik Gudbranson now. Let’s just say he’s an option, and don’t freak out too much if he’s brought in for a couple months (his contract is up after this year).

Patrick Maroon

“”Last time I checked, I play hockey, not school” – Wayne Gretzky” – Patrick Maroon

Maroon is right, he does play hockey. And to be honest he’s not bad at it.

He’s ridden his share of shotgun with McDavid but Maroon can finish – he put up 27 goals last season and is on pace for another 24 this year on a dreadful Oilers club. Edmonton’s season is all but over, and they can barely afford to lose consecutive games the rest of the way, so they have some decisions to make.

Maroon’s contract is expiring and he should be shipped out before the Oilers have to overpay him, if they’re smart (which they are not). But as a rental he might make sense for the Leafs as a thumper that can add some scoring to a line like Matthews’ or a new Nylander-centered trio, especially if one of Bozak, JVR or Komarov shakes loose.

Wayne Simmonds

Simmonds’ contract doesn’t expire until 2019 so he’s not a true rental, and given how good he is offensively, it wouldn’t be like this guy could be had for peanuts futures. But Simmonds is an interesting potential add given that the Leafs could lose all of Bozak, van Riemsdyk and Komarov at season’s end, and having some veteran scoring can’t really hurt, especially at Simmonds’ price point of 3.9-million. If anything, bringing him in could be similar to kicking JVR’s contract expiry (and defensive liability) one year down the road, and you still keep the flexibility for Matthews’ cap reckoning in 2019 when he’s off the books.

Barring injury, the Leafs certainly aren’t a team we’d envision needing a trade at the deadline considering their pipeline of prospects still has guys knocking on the door. But a good veteran upgrade like Green would make a lot of sense for their questionable defence corps, and those heavy forwards listed could give them an element they don’t really have right now outside of Hyman and Marleau.

  • Bleedblueandwhite

    The Leafs will pick up a defenceman but priority has to be an upgrade over Polack and Carrick – stay at home, right side D-man. Mike Green should be available, but its unlikely the Leafs will need him, unless they have an injury to Zaitsev. Frankly the first two pairings are set, Reilly and Hainsey and Gartner and Zaitsev. Its the third pairing that needs upgrading. Green is not a shut down player, he wanders -and he doesn’t kill penalties for the Wings, I’d rather have Chara, even if he’s Left side. Do the Leafs even look at Luke Schenn?

    The other side of this, what is Toronto willing to give up? After draft picks, and because of their roster size, and assuming no one on the NHL regular roster is available – how many “untouchables” prospects does toronto have? I assume Liljegren, Dermott and Grundstrom would require a significant superstar player in return (available – but a high bar). But one of the two Marlies goalies is tradable and Kapanen too, as some of the Marlies forwards – Johnsson, Timashov, Soshnikov and Rychel – all seem to progressing at similar rates.