TSN’s trade bait board presents plenty of Leafs scenarios

In the first offseason trade bait board presented by Frank Seravalli of TSN, there are just fifteen names listed as the most likely players to be dealt this summer. Former Leaf and two-time Cup champion Phil Kessel heads up the list, which isn’t surprising considering most hockey media are bracing for the Penguins to do a semi-blowup of their roster in the coming months.

But there’s plenty to dig into with regard to the Leafs as well. Even though just fifteen players populate the list, two are Leafs, and I’d say at least two more will have their names connected to Toronto in trade rumours. Somewhat unsurprisingly, Connor Brown and Nikita Zaitsev are ranked 7th and 12th respectively, so we’ll get into those guys first before looking elsewhere.

1. Phil Kessel
2. Jacob Trouba
3. Ryan Callahan
4. Jason Zucker
5. P.K. Subban
6. Michael Frolik
7. Connor Brown
8. Kyle Turris
9. Kevin Shattenkirk
10. Artemi Panarin (rights)
11. Travis Hamonic
12. Nikita Zaitsev
13. Olli Maatta
14. Colin Miller
15. Milan Lucic

Brown has been floated out there as a casualty of the Leafs’ salary cap situation for a while now, as his 2.1-million AAV is easily movable given he’s a pretty solid player but just doesn’t have anywhere to go in the Leafs’ lineup beyond a bottom six role. For those minutes, a cheap Marlies player makes more sense, so Brown is almost surely gone this summer.

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But I don’t think this necessarily has to be a pure salary dump situation. Brown was rumoured to be part of a potential deal with Edmonton at the deadline that could have seen Toronto receiving Adam Larsson in return. You’d assume there’s a bit more at play here, but it goes to show this might be more about shifting money around and addressing right defence needs all in one go than just getting rid of Brown for a pick.

Zaitsev’s situation is different. Toronto has been trying hard (and failing) to move his contract (4.5-million x 5 remaining) since Dubas took over full time last summer. They would likely have to add to the deal in order to get a team to bail them out of that situation, so we’re probably looking at a pick or prospect going out with him and some shorter term money coming back that’s perhaps more buyout friendly. This is a tough move to make but it would help the Leafs a ton if they can get it done and try to fix Lou Lamoriello’s biggest mistake in his short time as Toronto’s general manager.

Elsewhere on the list we have five right-handed defencemen, and you could see at least three of them being real targets for the Leafs. Colin Miller has a Soo connection to Dubas and would make a lot of sense as a relatively low-risk option (3.875-million x 3 remaining), and Toronto made a huge push for Travis Hamonic (3.85 x 1) when he was being offered from the Isles a couple years back. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Leafs kicking tires on either of these guys.

If you want the more nuclear options, Trouba and Subban slot in quite high on this list, and those are the types of names Toronto will look at if they really want to address this RHD situation and turn it from a glaring weakness to a strength. Trouba is a pending RFA in need of a new deal, while Subban has just three years remaining at $9-million AAV that will take him to age 32. Those are obviously extremely difficult deals to work out, and would shift the entire make-up of the Leafs roster. But Dubas has already shown in just one year to be unpredictable and he obviously isn’t afraid of bold moves, so I wouldn’t count those guys out either.

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  • Stan Smith

    I can’t see any scenario where the Leafs pick up Subban, that doesn’t mean they lose Matthews, or Marner. If you thought the backlash of the Habs trading Subban was something I can see that being dwarfed by how pi$$ed of Leaf fans would be if this were to happen.

    To me, the Leafs have two sets of players that they could trade for different reasons. There is the Marleau, Zaisev, Brown group that would be dealt for cap space. Then there is the Nylander, Kapanen, Jonhsson group that could be traded to acquire assets in return, such as a couple of RHD’s. The Leafs need to take care of business with the first group before even thinking of doing something with the latter.