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5 Maple Leafs trade candidates as 2024 Draft, free agency approaches

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Photo credit:© Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Seney
1 month ago
Trade conversations are in full flight across the league as the NHL Draft and the opening of free agency are just weeks away. Maple Leafs general manager Brad Treliving is expected to be quite active on the trade market this offseason, with a much-needed desire to make significant changes to the roster.
Treliving knows he can’t just make a trade to make a trade, it has to make logical sense for the current and future state of the Maple Leafs. With massive holes on defence and the need for another proven NHL goaltender, Toronto’s GM is likely prioritizing these two areas in any trade talk.
At the end of the season management preached ‘Everything is on the table’, so let’s dive into five Maple Leafs who are prime trade candidates this offseason:

Mitch Marner

The Marner saga is already in full flight and it’s not even July yet. Marner holds all the cards, he has a full no-movement clause and he may, regardless of how he’s treated by the fans, want to play out the final season of his contract in Toronto. He’s well within his right to do so.
Treliving recently came out and mentioned how he understands Marner has all the power and he’s not going to just move him for the sake of saying ‘See, we did it, there’s some changes’. It has to make hockey sense and when you’re potentially trading a first-line right-winger who can sniff 100 points and gets Selke votes on a regular basis, you have to be very careful on how things play out. Treliving can’t miss if Marner goes, or else he could set the Maple Leafs back three to five seasons and be out of a job in no time.
There have been some teams rumoured to be potential destinations as Matt Larkin of Daily Faceoff recently mentioned the Chicago Blackhawks, Carolina Hurricanes, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Nashville Predators, Seattle Kraken, and Utah HC. To me, if Treliving is able to convince Marner a change of scenery is best, the Leafs GM better hope he wants to be dealt as far west as possible. It would be a nightmare scenario if Marner decides he wants to stay in the division or the conference for that matter.
Nashville continues to make a ton of sense from a market and cap space standpoint. But, at the end of the day, it’s all about what Marner wants to do and at this point, Leafs fans need to remind themselves there’s a chance he plays out this entire 2024-25 season, Craig Berube turns him around in time for the playoffs and he winds up signing an extension. What a turn of events that would be.

Nick Robertson

Robertson started last season admitting he doesn’t care what people think of him as a prospect and the fact he understands his ‘name’ doesn’t have the same ring to it because of his injury history and lack of production. He followed up the awkward pre-season conversation with an inconsistent showing throughout the 2023-24 campaign.
Robertson ended the year appearing in 56 games and scoring 14 goals, 13 of them coming at even strength. He wasn’t able to continue his production into the Stanley Cup Playoffs and throughout the first-round series against the Boston Bruins, didn’t record a point in the six games Sheldon Keefe dressed him for.
With Berube in town, it’s not necessarily going to change Robertson’s outlook on his playing time next season. Berube loves his teams to be heavy on opponents and lean on the other team as much as possible and bring a physical presence night in and night out. That’s not Robertson’s game and he’s been a mess defensively throughout his tenure in Toronto, which was the main reason Keefe had trust issues.
The former second-round pick has approached management in the past about a change of scenery so there’s certainly potential he’ll request a trade this summer. With Matthew Knies and Bobby McMann coming back next season and with the likeliness of Tyler Bertuzzi re-signing, Robertson is going to be strapped into a numbers game once again and not have a ‘proper’ place to play. His game is suited for a top-six role and not for the bottom-six, so Treliving should think long and hard about moving Robertson for a defenseman if he has better options at the top of the lineup.

Timothy Liljegren

It’s not going to be easy for management to make major changes this summer but one move they should be able to pull off is moving on from Timothy Liljegren. After parts of five seasons, it’s time.
Liljegren was the Maple Leafs’ worst defenceman in the playoff series against the Bruins and was very inconsistent throughout the regular season. It’s become the status quo for the former first-round pick. Some nights he shows off his skating and ability to carry the rush and displays a very polished offensive game, but it’s never long before he starts to fan on passes in his own end or make horrible reads defensively. Liljegren is a tweener, and he’s usually leaving people wanting more.
At 25, and a restricted free agent, he holds some trade value as he shouldn’t cost more than $1.8-2 million against the cap for next season. He finished the season with 23 points in 55 games and certainly has the potential to contribute on the power-play, in the right situation.
Speaking of ‘right’, with the amount of right-handed free-agent defensemen available on the free-agent market this summer, including the likes of Sean Walker, Chris Tanev and Brett Pesce, Treliving needs to think long and hard about moving on from Liljegren and including him as part of a roster overhaul.

David Kampf

While moving Marner isn’t going to be easy, trading David Kampf may be damn near impossible. Treliving has made some savvy moves since taking over in Toronto, unfortunately signing Kampf to a four-year $9.6 million contract and giving him a 10-team no-trade clause was not one of them.
Kampf knows what his game is. He’s a shut-down centre who is going to kill penalties, sometimes more effectively than others, and he’s going to chip in with minimal offence throughout the regular season. Last year Kampf managed to post eight goals in 78 games and 19 points total. At $2.4 million annually against the cap, is it worth it?
There’s also the fact Pontus Holmberg is a perfect candidate to replace Kampf’s minutes wherever need be and the Leafs also have Easton Cowan and recently acquired Connor Dewar who could help fill in some of Kampf’s minutes next season.
Treliving could and should look to move Kampf for a bottom-pair defenseman who is nasty to play against, or trade him for a 2024 draft pick and use the additional cap space to shore up the blueline via free-agency or re-signing Joel Edmundson.

Fraser Minten

The Maple Leafs aren’t necessarily loaded in their prospect pool but they do have a couple of NHL-ready forwards, including Fraser Minten. He had a very busy and productive 2023-24 season, which included being named captain of Team Canada at the World Juniors.
Minten is mature beyond his years and showed off not only his character and maturity but also his speed and defensive awareness in a brief four-game stint with the Leafs to start last season. Treliving got a first-hand look and now during trade talks with rival executives, could very well have Minten on the table as a piece to insert into a package.
The former second-round pick turns 20 in July and the future is going to be very bright. Will he eventually become a #1 centre? Likely not, as his offensive upside isn’t high enough but as a depth option down the middle, Minten checks a lot of boxes for the Maple Leafs if he doesn’t get dealt, should compete for a bottom-six job next season. Treliving should be trolling the waters to see how other teams value Minten and if he can be packaged with a guy like Liljegren, the Leafs could get very creative with the type of return their focus their attention on. A top-four NHL-proven defenseman, a goalie to tandem with Joseph Woll, or even a top-six forward, there are endless possibilities when you have players who other teams value.
The Maple Leafs’ offseason is going to be very entertaining to watch. Treliving loves trade talks and with changes on the horizon, he’s likely in his glory throughout the early parts of the summer, trying to do what he can to upgrade the roster. A lot of what the Leafs’ GM does will be linked to free agency and the futures of Domi and Bertuzzi. Silly season is in full swing as the NHL Draft and free agency are just around the corner.

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