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LeBrun: “Dubas Could Strike Early”

No hockey means more trade deadline content. That’s a sad fact. The other sad fact that is even when hockey resumes we’ll still probably spend the next month talking trades instead of games, but thankfully we’re exactly one month away and it will all be over soon (until summer).

TSN and their army of insiders are fast at work connecting the Leafs to every possible defenseman on the market, and today it was Pierre LeBrun’s turn to connect those dots:

In Toronto, LeBrun wonders whether the Maple Leafs will add a top-four defenceman to help fill the void left by the injured Morgan Rielly. Rielly is expected to be sidelined into March and LeBrun notes that general manager Kyle Dubas could strike early again this year and acquire a player such as Matt Dumba, T.J. Brodie or Josh Manson. LeBrun believes Dubas does not want to move winger Kasperi Kapanen, but acquiring top-four help on the blueline won’t come cheap.

Since LeBrun was updating on all the Canadian teams, there were also this relevant piece in the Flames and Oilers sections:

The Flames have been in search of a right-handed forward throughout this month and LeBrun reports that remains their priority. He wonders, though, whether the team would consider moving pending unrestricted free agent Brodie in order to fill that need. LeBrun notes the Maple Leafs had interest in Brodie over the summer and could potentially make a deal involving Kapanen. He believes acquiring Tyler Toffoli from the Los Angeles Kings, however, makes the most sense for the Flames.

We’ll double back to that in a second, here’s the Oilers piece:

The Oilers are on pace to make the playoffs for just the second time in the past 14 years and LeBrun believes general manager Ken Holland would like to add a top-six winger to help his team get there. He reports Senators centre Jean-Gabriel Pageau is high on Edmonton’s wish-list, while players with term the team could include Tomas Tatar of the Canadiens and Maple Leafs wingers Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson. LeBrun adds that Holland is at least open to taking calls on restricted free agent Jesse Puljujarvi, who is eligible to return to the NHL next season.

Okay, so that’s not a ton of new stuff involving the Oilers. They are interested in Kapanen and Johnsson, and at times we’ve heard Kerfoot’s name mentioned too. The challenge is trying to figure out a trade that would make sense between these two teams. The Oilers have Darnell Nurse, who isn’t exactly having his best season, but he’s a player that Keefe and Dubas are quite familiar with as they had him on the Greyhounds. It seems like Edmonton wants to value him over the Leafs wingers, and finding a balanced deal seems like a challenge.

Additionally the Oilers do have Jesse Puljujarvi, who is a player the Leafs should be very interested in. He’s having a great year in Finland, and the Leafs could have their cake and eat it too by dealing one of their wingers to the Oilers for a solid winger, who they won’t get until next season, and pick up some cap space for this season that they can use to be more flexible at the deadline. The catch is that it sounds like Puljujarvi doesn’t want to play for a Canadian team and would ideally want to be in a market with less pressure on him.

Beyond that, I hope we can throw out any notion of the Leafs trading for Adam Larsson. This seems to be something that only people in Edmonton believe is a thing anyway.

Now back to the Flames. I feel pretty comfortable in just tossing aside this Brodie for Kapanen thing, as I can’t imagine why the Leafs would be trading a decent young forward for an unrestricted free agent. The Leafs blueline is already rotten with unrestricted free agents and adding another is not a good idea. That’s not to say that there aren’t other options on the Flames blueline that have some appeal, and that’s also not to say that the idea that Sam Bennett wants out of Calgary isn’t also something the Leafs should be interested in.

Back to the Leafs section

Eventually the Leafs will be connected to every top four defenseman in the league. Like I said, we’ve got a month left and that’s giving us plenty of time to do it. We talked a bit about Brodie above, and why he’s not ideal, but we’ll see how much ideal vs. available plays into Dubas’ decision making process. I’ve discussed Mathew Dumba on this site before, and I don’t think he would be a terrible option, but definitely one that comes with a lot of risk as he has struggled this season and has been reliant on having a strong partner. As for Josh Manson, well, that’s a throwback to a few years ago when he was the preferred Leafs target.

Manson’s numbers are solid and he’s the safest bet on that list. His contract also is the most ideal of the options for the Leafs as well, and I think I’m talking myself into this idea. He loves to hit, so that satisfies a secondary need for the Leafs, who could stand to be more physical, and that’s really not a surprise considering he’s Dave Manson’s kid. Come to think about it the Leafs could have Dave Manson and Bryan Marchment’s kids running around the ice in what could be a glorious return to the Pat Quinn era.

Anyways, the Leafs have interesting options, but the name that keeps on coming up on the Toronto side is Kasperi Kapanen, and it seems like the Leafs aren’t in any hurry to move on from him, though doesn’t it seem like it going to happen? As much as it seems like the Leafs would rather redirect teams to Andreas Johnsson, who’s skillset might be more replaceable by Ilya Mikheyev or Pierre Engvall, I don’t think teams are going to ignore Kapanen’s speed and of course his status as a former 1st round pick will carry weight as well.

My guess is if the Leafs pull off something big it will be Kapanen heading the other way, but if that’s the case it seems like the Leafs are hellbent on getting the player they want in return.