4 forward/defenseman packages the Maple Leafs could target ahead of the trade deadline

Photo credit:Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports
Joseph Zita
1 month ago
With the NHL’s 2024 trade deadline less than a week away, the trade market has slowly started to pick up again, with Calgary moving Chris Tanev to Dallas, Anaheim moving Ilya Lyubushkin to Toronto, and Colorado moving Kurtis MacDermid to New Jersey.
A defenseman or two has always been the top priority for the Toronto Maple Leafs. But in a recent article from Pierre LeBrun of the Athletic, the Maple Leafs may be looking to acquire a forward.
“As far as I can tell, the playoff contenders trying to land a forward before Friday’s trade deadline are the Knights and Oilers, as mentioned, plus the New York Rangers, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers and Colorado Avalanche. Maybe the Boston Bruins are, too, to some degree, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Toronto Maple Leafs looked for a depth forward.”
With that said, I’ve combined Toronto’s need for a top-four right-shot defenseman with a depth forward to make a forward/defenseman package Brad Treliving and his staff could target before the trade deadline, like what Kyle Dubas did last year with Jake McCabe and Sam Lafferty from the Chicago Blackhawks.

Seattle Kraken – Adam Larsson ($4M AAV x 2) and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare ($775K AAV)

Although I’m starting with Adam Larsson and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare from the Seattle Kraken, I also believe this may be the unlikeliest to happen, given the reports that Seattle is likely not shopping Larsson, and rightfully so. However, everyone has a price. Every GM in the league will entertain the idea of trading someone if it’s for the right price, and that’s why I believe that although it’s unlikely Larsson will move, it’s not impossible the 31-year-old gets dealt before the trade deadline.
Brad Treliving has made it known that he’d love to improve the blue line. Just recently, he pulled the trigger on a trade to bring back Ilya Lyubushkin (75% retained in a three-way deal) to Toronto for a 3rd-round and 6th-round pick. However, Lyubushkin isn’t the answer to their problems. Toronto should still be looking for a legit top-four right-shot defenseman, preferably with term on their contract if they’re going to trade away some of their more valuable assets.
Larsson is not only a legit top-four right-shot defenseman, but he has term on his contract – this year and next – at a cap hit of just $4M, which is very reasonable, given how good of a defenseman he is. He’d be the perfect player to play alongside Morgan Rielly for two playoff runs and maybe more.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare is just a depth, fourth-line forward who is defensively responsible and has playoff experience, most notably with the Vegas Golden Knights, Colorado Avalanche, and Tampa Bay Lightning. He’d come in at a cap hit of $775K, which would be easy to fit on the roster.
It’s uncertain what Seattle would want in return for a package of Larsson and Bellemare, but one has to think Toronto’s 1st-round pick in either 2024 or 2026 is the starting point, and they’ll likely have to throw in one of their better prospects. I’m not sure what else they’d have to add, if anything, to get that deal done. I’m not Brad Treliving or Ron Francis.
If Larsson is truly untouchable or costs way too much, Will Borgen wouldn’t be a bad addition. The 27-year-old is a right-shot signed through the 2024-25 season at a cap hit of $2.7M.

Los Angeles Kings – Matt Roy ($3.15M AAV) and Blake Lizotte ($1.675M AAV)

Matt Roy has been a dream acquisition of mine for a couple of years. When the Kings were trying to make room on their blue line last year, given the surplus of right-handed defensemen, I was hoping they were shopping Roy. However, they ended up trading Sean Walker to Philadelphia, who has been enjoying a bounce-back year with the surprising Flyers this season.
Roy, 29, unlike Larsson, is a pending UFA but comes in at a cap hit of $3.15M. Over the last couple of seasons, Roy and Walker had been in countless trade rumours as potential cap casualties for the Los Angeles Kings. As mentioned above, they sent Walker to the Flyers, and now, according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, they could do the same with Roy.
Currently, the Kings have been hit with the injury bug. However, the injuries sustained by their players aren’t significant enough to require LTIR, meaning they’ll return before the end of the season, and the team will be tight with their cap space heading into the trade deadline.
On a recent episode of The 32 Thoughts Podcast, Friedman had this to say about the Kings and their injury/cap situation:
“Arvidsson, Kempe, Anderson, and Grundstrom, all of whom are out, they are not going to miss the rest of the season… what it means is that cap space is gonna be an issue. So, unless he’s [Rob Blake] going to subtract something, and I think we’re all kind of looking at Matt Roy… they’re not going to subtract too much.”
The little segment from Friedman implied that the Kings, who are occupying the first wild card spot in the Western Conference, would likely like to add at the trade deadline, but not being able to place their injured players on LTIR will complicate things cap-wise, and, given that quote from Friedman, Roy may be another cap causality. They have just $2.5M in projected trade deadline cap space with a 23-man roster.
If that’s true, Brad Treliving and the Maple Leafs should be all over that. Outside of Larsson, Matt Roy is the best option in this article. Although he is a pending UFA, unlike Larsson, he is worth a 1st-round pick. They have to be confident the 29-year-old would be open to re-signing with Toronto, though, if they were to spend that 1st-round pick. But even if they did, Roy is a significant upgrade on Toronto’s blue line.
As Friedman said, the Kings might not trade away many pieces to free up cap space, so it’s unknown if they’d be open to trading away one of their bottom six players in Blake Lizotte. If they are, Lizotte brings speed and penalty-killing ability to the bottom six. You can never go wrong with depth forwards.

Arizona Coyotes – Mathew Dumba ($3.9M AAV) and Nick Bjugstad ($2.1M AAV x 2)

The next duo on the list comes from the Arizona Coyotes. Two pending UFAs, Mathew Dumba and Nick Bjugstad, could find new homes ahead of the trade deadline, and Toronto could be a landing spot.
From plenty of different insiders, Dumba has been linked to the Maple Leafs for a while and, of course. He’s a right-shot defenseman who plays with a physical edge and wouldn’t cost a ton against the cap if retained. Dumba isn’t one of my main blue-line targets, but with his name continuing to pop up in rumours around teams like Toronto, who are still searching for more blue-line help, it’s an option.
Bjugstad, however, even if Toronto is looking for just a bottom-six forward, would be a fantastic addition. He’s the type of player the Maple Leafs need in their bottom six and would come in relatively cheap cap-hit-wise ($2.1M), given his production this season, for this year and next. However, given he signed a multi-year deal with the Coyotes, there is a strong chance they keep him for next season unless a team swoops in and proposes a good enough offer.
There is at least some genuine interest in Dumba from Toronto. According to Dumba, Toronto was one of the teams he talked to in the off-season before signing his deal in Arizona.

Washington Capitals – Nick Jensen ($4.05M x 3) and Nic Dowd ($1.3M x 2)

The last duo includes Nick Jensen and Nic Dowd from the Washington Capitals, both of whom have plenty of term left on their contracts. Although, one name is more likely to be moved than the other.
Nick Jensen signed a three-year extension with the Capitals ahead of last season’s trade deadline, so the likelihood of Jensen being traded is slime, I think? However, on a recent episode of The Jeff Marek Show, as well as The 32 Thoughts Podcast, Elliotte Friedman name-dropped Nick Jensen as a player the Toronto Maple Leafs potentially have interest in.
“I think all these other teams are looking for right-shot defensemen, Toronto one of them, now I think they gotta go somewhere else [after Tanev trade]… is it David Savard? Is it Nick Jensen? That’s a name Toronto has kicked around a little bit.”
This quote from the Sportsnet insider dropped before the Maple Leafs acquired Ilya Lyubushkin from the Ducks after their game against the Coyotes on Thursday night, so it’s uncertain if Toronto viewed Jensen as a similar player to Lyubushkin, which I doubt because Jensen is better than the newly acquired Leaf, but you never know if their interest remains strong or legit.
For his teammate Dowd, he’s a perfect playoff-type player signed for the next two seasons at a respectable cap hit ($1.3M). Unfortunately, according to some insiders, the asking price could be a 1st-round pick, given the type of player he is. He’s nothing more than a third-line center who kills penalties, wins face-offs, plays with a physical side to his game, and can chip in anywhere between 15-25 points (on a 29-point pace over 82 games this season).
In the end, it may not cost a 1st-round pick to acquire just Dowd as we get closer to the trade deadline, but if someone swoops in and wants to trade for a package with Dowd in it, a 1st-round pick might entice the Capitals or any team trading away multiple players.
Example: Let’s say a team views Dowd’s value as a 3rd-round pick + a mid-tier prospect… maybe if someone gets a Nick Jensen or someone else in the trade, the Capitals could ask for a 1st-round pick, a prospect, and a mid-draft pick. I don’t know, I’m just spitballing late at night. Either way, players with term on their contracts often go for more at the trade deadline, so we’ll wait and see.
(Contract details from puckpedia.com)
(Stats from hockey-reference.com)

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