Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Ethan Bear is a low risk defensive addition the Maple Leafs should consider
By James Reeve2 months ago
The Toronto Maple Leafs continue to hemorrhage defencemen, with three of their top six potentially out long-term, and desperately need some reinforcements.
Timothy Liljegren has been on LTIR since November 4th, having suffered an injury against the Boston Bruins two days prior, there’s genuine concerns that John Klingberg’s season could be over after his own health issues and potential for surgery, while 40-year-old Mark Giordano did not return to the Leafs’ 2-1 OT victory over the Florida Panthers, having played just 6:31, and now set to miss weeks with a broken finger.
With three of the team’s initial top six defencemen potentially out for a while, the Leafs could do with bringing in new faces to help tape over the cracks.
While the likes of William Lagesson, Simon Benoit and Max Lajoie are all capable of filling in for the short-term, having a genuine top-six quality blueliner brought in externally is the most logical move that the team can make.
A trade has been considered for some time, with regular links to the Calgary Flames, while GM Brad Treliving has even commented on that possibility.
However, there is always a significant cost attached to making a trade, especially if teams are playing well or are expecting to bottom out and want to recoup as much value as possible. At this time of year, the free agent market is typically virtually nonexistent, but this season there is one player that is available that would be the perfect addition for the team to make.
Ethan Bear is a proven NHL defenceman, with 251 regular season appearances to his name with the Edmonton Oilers, Carolina Hurricanes and Vancouver Canucks over the past five seasons.
After being selected in the fifth round (124th overall) in the 2015 Draft, the Regina, Saskatchewan native has registered 63 points (16 goals, 47 assists) and finished tenth in Calder Trophy voting after his official rookie season.
Last season, Bear put up 16 points (three goals, 13 assists) in 61 games with the Canucks – roughly a 22-point pace over a full 82-game season. He ended the year playing for Team Canada at the World Championships, where he won the gold medal for his country while playing in eight games. Unfortunately, Bear was injured while representing Canada, requiring shoulder surgery that has seen him remain without a contract so far this season.
Via Elliotte Friedman on 32 Thoughts, Bear is not yet ready to return to the ice but should be ready closer to Christmas time. While the Leafs could do with adding someone soon, the 26-year-old right-shot would still be an ideal addition for the team to make, giving them better options in their top four or bottom pairing.
As previously mentioned, making a trade for defencemen especially comes with a cost. Bear, however as a free agent, would not cost anything in terms of assets. The Leafs would simply have to negotiate a suitable contract, which would likely only see him play out the season before being reassessed in the summer.
His last cap hit came in at $2.2 million, and with his lengthy spell out there could be some argument that he should not be paid that much this time around, as he will need to prove to teams that he can stay healthy and get up to speed quickly enough to be an impact player for the second half of the season.
Even if Bear costs in the region of $1.5 million, it would still be a valuable player to bring into this core, bolstering the group and even giving them options when the likes of Giordano and Liljegren do eventually return to action.
Holding onto trade assets, such as draft picks and prospects, to use at the deadline for a more significant move, would be a sensible approach for Treliving, and so taking a gamble on Bear without having to lose anything other than cap space could be an ideal approach to take in order to strengthen a weakened defensive group and give the Leafs some stability on their back end.
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