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10 free agent forwards the Maple Leafs could target

Boston Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk shoots on Ilya Samsonov of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Photo credit:Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Seney
18 days ago
The 2024 NHL free agency period is only a week away and Maple Leafs general manager Brad Treliving has been meeting with his scouting department the past couple of weeks to get a good sense of what talent is available this summer.
Toronto has roughly $20 million to spend this summer and have some of its own pending free agents to consider bringing back as well. Treliving needs to ensure he makes smart, calculated decisions and doesn’t move the team in the wrong direction this offseason.
After reviewing which defensemen could be on the Maple Leafs radar, here are 10 free agent forwards the Maple Leafs could target this offseason:

Top-tier and long-shot targets

Jake Guentzel

The idea of the Maple Leafs adding Guentzel is admittedly a long-shot packed with variables. He’s one of the best wingers on the market this summer and there’s been several reports about interested teams ready to pounce, including the Vancouver Canucks as a potential front-runner. Guentzel is a Stanley Cup-winner, he’s in the prime of his career and if the Leafs added him this summer, it would likely come at the cost of both Max Domi and Tyler Bertuzzi not returning.
Is that worth it? Perhaps, but there’s also been speculation that if Mitch Marner gets traded, Guentzel could be an option to sign with some newfound financial flexibility. Most of the chatter recently has been about Marner being extended, so it’s hard to say if the two players would be intertwined.
At the end of the day, any team adding Guentzel immediately becomes deeper. He’s a proven scorer, he’s essentially a point-a-game player in the playoffs and from all accounts, his teammates love playing with him. Cap space is rather tight in Toronto, so if Treliving ends up signing Guentzel, it will be difficult for him to add two top-four defensemen which the team sorely needs.

Steven Stamkos

Our very own Jon Steitzer dove into a second chance on Stamkos, as the veteran forward appears to be set to once again hit the free-agent market. The Stamkos/Tampa Bay situation will be something the Maple Leafs should be monitoring as he’d provide the team with a versatile weapon for their top-six, who can play either on the wing or down the middle and help push his friend John Tavares to the wing.
It’s tough to see Stamkos playing anywhere else besides Tampa Bay but without an extension Stamkos will be open to hearing from interested teams. While the Maple Leafs aren’t leading Cup contenders at the moment, adding Stamkos and filling out their defense core could certainly help push the team in a positive direction.
Stamkos is projected to earn $6.1 million on a three-year deal, according to AFP Analytics. For comparison, the Leafs paid Tyler Bertuzzi $5.5 million last season — which of the two would you rather have? Treliving could make the money work, but it’s convincing Stamkos to leave Tampa which will be the most difficult aspect– if the Lightning don’t shoot themselves in the foot.
The relationship between Lightning GM Julien BriseBois and Stamkos has been tested at times, so it will be interesting to see if they can strike on an extension before Treliving, and several other GM’s get a chance to pick up the phone.

Patrick Kane

Kane looked like more of himself last season, enjoying a healthy return to the ice with the Detroit Red Wings, where the future Hall-of-Famer recorded 47 points in 50 games.
The 35-year-old is still a dynamic offensive weapon. His vision and play-making abilities are still elite, while his health and hip condition continue to be wildcards in the back end of his career. He’ll also be in that $6-million a year ballpark and with the Maple Leafs’ ample cap space, he could fit in Toronto. A first line of Kane, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner has the potential to be special, and allows for Matthew Knies to line up on the second unit with Tavares and William Nylander. Not a bad, top-six!
Kane’s been rumoured to be interested in heading back to New York, so it will be interesting to see what shakes up come July 1 when free agency opens. It may not be as farfetched as you think, given Toronto’s previously reported interest in Kane.

Elias Lindholm

Lindholm is coming off a down year and likely cost himself millions with his performance down the stretch. After a shaky start with the Calgary Flames, the Swedish centre was moved to the Vancouver Canucks and never found his footing. He finished the year with 44 points in 75 games but has shown in the past he’s capable of providing much more offense, with 82 points in 2021-22.
Lindholm could give the Leafs another versatile option who has plenty of experience down the middle and on the wing and could be a nice complimentary No. 2 centre behind Matthews for years to come. He plays in all situations, he’s very familiar with several of the current Maple Leafs and adding him to the mix could be a seamless process.
There’s growing speculation the Boston Bruins and Nashville Predators are going to deliver massive contract offers and there’s certainly a chance the Maple Leafs get priced out quick in contract talks. It’s worth noting Treliving traded for Lindholm in Calgary and signed him to a six-year contract in 2018.

Middle-Tier and most likely targets

Jake DeBrusk

Leafs Morning Take host Nick Alberga reported last week that Jake DeBrusk and the Maple Leafs have mutual interest on a contract this summer. DeBrusk has been a Leaf killer in the past and would be a rare case of a free agent signing with an arch rival. His relationship with the Bruins’ organization has been rocky at times and his name was littered in trade rumours for several seasons, so it will be curious to see if he’s ready for a fresh start this summer.
DeBrusk is 27, he can play in all situations, he’s a beast along the wall, has 30-goal potential and could give the Leafs two workhorses on the left side joining forces with Knies. DeBrusk seems like a perfect fit for a Craig Berube run hockey club based on his size, work ethic, playing style and playoff success.
He is projected to earn $5.8 million per season on his next contract and is likely looking for at least five seasons of term. Considering the money involved, it feels like if DeBrusk signs in Toronto, that ends Bertuzzi’s tenure. It’s another case of who you’d rather have?

David Perron

Perron admitted on Leafs Morning Take that he loved playing for Berube in St. Louis and now the veteran winger may have an opportunity to re-join his former head coach in Toronto.
His work ethic is elite and while some may question his skating, especially at 36 years old, the fact is he’s never been an elite skater and his 1,131-game NHL career has been built on smarts, positioning, tenacity and some amazing hand-eye coordination. Perron’s vision is something that could help out the Leafs’ power play. He recorded 17 points on the man advantage last season and his career-high of 27 points on the power play came back in 2019, playing under Berube and on a Stanley Cup-winning team.
Perron’s projected to earn $3 million on his next contract, something the Leafs should be able to afford and still be able to take care of other business including adding multiple defensemen and another goaltender. He’s a Cup-winner, he has offensive creativity, work ethic and the versatility to play either wing, Perron checks a lot of boxes as he’s perfectly suited for next season’s Maple Leafs.

Sean Monahan

Familiarity is a major element of NHL transactions and Treliving is very familiar with Sean Monahan. The two spent multiple seasons together in Calgary and perhaps there’s a reunion in store this summer.
Monahan played in 83 games last season — yes, 83!  — due to a trade from Montreal to Winnipeg and finished the season with 26 goals and 59 points. He’d give the Leafs a centre for their top-nine and some options to either play him in the No. 3 spot or move Tavares to the wing, which continues to be an option discussed.
Monahan will earn around $5-5.5 million annually on his next contract and at 29 years old, while coming off a one-year deal, is certainly going to be looking for some stability on his next contract. His playing style doesn’t scream a Berube-type, as he finished last season with just 29 hits in his 83 games but with Monahan’s ability to play multiple positions, play on the power play and penalty kill, there’s some value to consider here.

Adam Henrique

Henrique has been linked to the Maple Leafs in the past and this could be the summer he finally lands in Toronto. The 34-year-old veteran finished this past season with 51 points in 82 games split between the Anaheim Ducks and Edmonton Oilers.
Like Monahan, Henrique can do a little bit of everything, playing on special teams, including as an above-average penalty killer who has 16 career short-handed goals. He could be looking for some term on his new contract as he enters the back nine of his career, and the term could scare off Treliving and company. There’s been some chatter about the Domi/Bertuzzi negotiations hitting snags because of the term being asked for by the player and his reps.
Regardless, Henrique could give the Leafs another option down the middle, another penalty killer and someone who can fill in on the second power play. Adding another veteran up front never hurts. The dollars have to make sense for Toronto and don’t expect to see them overpay for someone Henrique’s age.

Dakota Joshua

Former Maple Leaf fifth-round pick Dakota Joshua could have a chance to re-join the organization who drafted him back in 2014. He’s spent the past two seasons with the Vancouver Canucks and in 2023-24, had his coming out party.
Joshua finished this past season with 32 points in 63 games and could be a huge upgrade for the Leafs over the likes of Connor Dewar and Noah Gregor. Joshua continued his strong play into the playoffs, scoring eight points in 13 postseason games and at 6-foot-2, with a fearless mentality, Joshua is well suited for a Berube-led hockey team. Toronto would be adding a wrecking ball as he’s recorded back-to-back 200-hit seasons and with an ability to kill penalties, could be a solid depth addition up front.
His contract could be tricky to navigate as he had a career-best season making just $825,000 so it’s likely he’ll settle for a little bit less money with more term.

Anthony Duclair

Duclair has played for eight organizations and he’s only 28 years old. Regardless of where he’s played, Duclair has managed to contribute, finding a way to carve himself a role. Most recently, he finished last season with the Tampa Bay Lightning, recording 15 points in 17 regular season games and chipped in with two assists in five Stanley Cup Playoff games.
Duclair’s game is built on speed, hockey sense and creativity and the Leafs may have some interest in adding him into their top-nine. He’s projected to earn just over $4 million on his next deal, so again, the potential of adding him in Toronto could be influenced with where Bertuzzi winds up. The Leafs have emerging prospects Fraser Minten and Easton Cowan, who will push for forward spots next season, so it’s unlikely Treliving adds multiple wingers as he’d like to add proven defensemen instead and has prioritized this, according to Bertuzzi’s agent.
Regardless, Duclair could provide some secondary scoring, play a very similar role to what Bertuzzi brought last season, and do so with a ton more speed to offer. Duclair has elite wheels and this could be a nice compliment to any line Tavares’ is centering.

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