Connecting the dots: Maple Leafs might now be after a pair of Flyers defencemen

Photo credit:Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
2 months ago
During Elliotte Friedman’s Headlines segment on Hockey Night in Canada, Elliotte highlighted that there was a team inquiring about Sean Walker and Nick Seeler as a package deal. Given that the Maple Leafs were previously in the hunt for the Flames duo of Zadorov and Chris Tanev, it seems reasonable to consider that Brad Treliving would once again be attempting to get all of his blueline shopping done with one team.
The Walker and Seeler duo might not be as flashy as the Zadorov/Tanev combo but comes with a couple of advantages. First, the fact that Walker and Seeler are not the household names that Tanev and Zadorov could serve the Leafs well when it comes to price to acquire them. Not having to pay the size of Zadorov or for Tanev’s reputation is a plus. And as we saw the price for Zadorov wasn’t overly steep and the Flyers may already be viewing Walker as a found wallet after acquiring him from the Kings.
While RAPM charts aren’t everything and I’m sure many of you roll your eyes as soon as you see these in a post, it is worth noting that Seeler and Walker have been the better duo statistically this season. It’s fair to say that the utilization of Walker mirrors Tanev’s utilization and the same can be said of Seeler and Zadorov. If you are curious about the physical side of things, neither Seeler nor Walker match Zadorov’s hit total, but both have over 30 hits this season and would slot in 2nd and 3rd behind Jake McCabe when it comes to hit count by defencemen on the Leafs. They’d move the bar that way as well.
Read more about Sean Walker as Leafs Trade Target
There is also the cap situation that needs to be considered and, in that sense, Seeler and Walker are also a preferable duo. Seeler is on the final year of a $775k cap hit and Walker is on the final year at $2.65M. The Leafs could acquire both without salary retention and if they asked the Flyers to retain on Walker, they wouldn’t have to pay a ridiculous surcharge to make that happen.
When it comes to fit for the Leafs, neither truly has the potential to a top end defender for the Leafs and that could be the biggest drawback. Walker, like McCabe, is generously a 4D on a top team and Seeler is most certainly a bottom pairing option. You could be comfortable playing both up in the short term and a blueline of Rielly, Brodie, Walker, McCabe, Liljegren, and Seeler with Giordano as the 7D definitely looks more appealing than what the Leafs have today but the debate is whether two good defencemen or one great defenceman better serves the Leafs. I guess it largely comes down to your opinion on Giordano, Lagesson, and Timmins to determine that.
Given that this is just my speculation based on the general idea of trading for both defencemen fits with what Toronto is previously trying to do, I don’t want to reach for what the cost to acquire both players would be and do I want to pretend that I know what the Flyers value besides the fact they would probably still be prioritizing futures in any acquisition. Philadelphia is also in the strange situation of presently sitting in a playoff position despite the fact they’ve gone into this year expecting to be deadline sellers. Maybe that turns them into a team looking to make a hockey trade but what seems more likely is that they are in a holding pattern until late February when the Hurricanes take their spot in the top three of the Metropolitan.
As for the Leafs, with Liljegren skating and Samsonov and the Leafs depleted blueline managing shutouts, Toronto doesn’t need to rush into a deal either.
Data sourced from CapFriendly, Evolving Hockey, and Hockey Reference

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