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Brad Treliving’s next trade must move the needle for the Maple Leafs
By Shane Seney2 months ago
Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brad Treliving has already made one trade this season, dipping his toes into the trade market with his new team. It’s time to make a splash.
While his first move shipped out Sam Lafferty to the Vancouver Canucks in a bit of a salary dump deal, Treliving’s next trade must move the needle for the Maple Leafs and land them an impact player. The focus has zeroed in on Toronto’s blue line and rightfully so, as the Leafs GM is looking for a defensive-defenseman, ideally right-handed, who can impact the game protecting the puck, killing penalties and helping close out leads.
Leafs Have Been Linked to a Couple Blueliners
Early on this season it became clear the Calgary Flames were going to sell off some their pending unrestricted free agents. Nikita Zadorov has already been moved to the Canucks and now the focus is on Noah Hanifin, Elias Lindholm and Chris Tanev.
Tanev does make a ton of sense for the Leafs as he checks a lot of boxes with his style of play and attention to detail on the defensive end. My colleague Jon Steitzer recently dove into Tanev as a risky but talent defensive option and there’s no doubt until the Flames move him in a trade, the rumors about heading to Toronto will stay connected. Tanev and Treliving know each other very well.
There’s also Sean Walker from the Philadelphia Flyers. A blueliner I’ve showcased recently as a potential trade target that makes some sense for the Leafs. Walker is on pace for a career season, is a pending unrestricted free agent and at $2.65 million against the cap, is a manageable contract that Treliving and company could likely squeeze in without too many ramifications. Walker is from the Toronto area and can play in all situations. He’s not overly physical but doesn’t shy away from contact and has recorded 11 points in 23 games this season in Philly. The only issue is he’s having a career season so the acquisition price could skyrocket into a territory Treliving could be wise to avoid.
Treliving’s Already Added Depth
For those that think the Maple Leafs GM has just sat on his hands since he arrived into town are wildly mistaken. Treliving has been aggressive on the free-agent market as soon as he was able. He’s worked the phones tirelessly trying to make deals before the NHL rosters needed to finalized to kick off the season and he’s managed to move on from Lafferty to help make room for the likes of Nick Robertson and others.
Just think where the Maple Leafs would be without William Lagesson and Simon Benoit. Benoit was signed by Treliving late August and the 25-year-old rugged defenseman has filled in nicely throughout his eight games of action. Benoit is at his best when he’s keeping his game simple and in front of him and using his 6-foot-3 frame to his advantage. Lagesson, on the other hand, is a little smoother skater and with the puck and has been a serious bright spot for the Leafs. The 27-year-old Swede was a free-agent signing by Treliving on the first day of free agency, so you know they had Lagesson’s name circled on rightfully so. He’s been stellar in his 13 games of action and while neither blueliner helps light up the scoresheet on a nightly basis, they play sound defensive hockey and are able to move the puck.
At certain points this season the Maple Leafs have been without Conor Timmins, Jake McCabe, Timothy Liljegren, John Klingberg, and Mark Giordano on defense. Thanks to some shifty work during the summer months, Treliving was able to set the Leafs up for success. Something that’s flown under the radar it seems.
Time for Treliving to Make a Splash
The Maple Leafs made some bold moves over the summer months and it’s time for their GM to make a splash. It’s obvious he’s trying as several reports have surfaced stating Toronto was in talks with the Flames about acquiring both Zadorov and Tanev:
These kinds of reports should be music to the ears of Leafs fans. It means Treliving isn’t afraid to make another bold move and try and land something of significance to push the Leafs over the top. It couldn’t be more obvious this season that they need another defenseman and it just seems like a matter of time before something is announced. It just needs to be a cannonball splash and not just a footprint in a puddle.
The Maple Leafs will continue to be linked to the Flames and that makes sense given the familiarity levels involved, but what Treliving needs to avoid is adding a depth defenseman and ensuring whoever is acquired can log heavy top-four minutes and push the needle closer to Stanley Cup contender. More Brett Pesce and less Ilya Lyubushkin.
Leafs Fans Should Start Preparing Themselves
The only hard part about acquiring significant talent via trade is that something is being shipped out that someone isn’t going to like. The money also needs to balance out in a hard salary cap world so don’t expect to see the Leafs moving out just picks and prospects and no NHL salaries. There’s no doubt Treliving is working hard to try and find another defenseman, maybe two, but that’s going to come with young talented pieces being moved out.
Depending on who is acquired and how big the package becomes, the likes of Nick Robertson, along with prospects Topi Niemela, Nick Abruzzese and Pontus Holmberg could all be in play, along with the Maple Leafs 2024 first-round pick.
Nonetheless, Treliving can’t settle with his next trade. Toronto’s defense can’t handle another band-aid solution and it will be vital for the Maple Leafs GM to acquire an impactful top-four defenseman. Someone who can eat up significant minutes and be a reliable in their own end and help the Leafs hold a lead. Winning in regulation? A story for another day.
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