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Insider matchmakers have Tanev and Lyubushkin as fits for the Maple Leafs

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Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
1 month ago
As the article from Pierre LeBrun and Chris Johnston states we are now exactly 10 weeks away from the NHL trade deadline. We can pretty much consider this silly season and there will be no shortage of rumours and speculation up until March 8th. For some of you this is a joyous time filled with endless hope and optimism that the Leafs will pull the trigger on numerous blockbusters that mirror what you’ve created in Capfriendly armchair GMs. Others, myself included, look at this through the lens of Brad Treliving’s previous work and expect some mirror tinkering and recognize that the acquisition of Tyler Toffoli stands alone as Treliving’s one big in-season move over his career as GM. I don’t see Brendan Shanahan and Co. letting Treliving stand pat, so what happens is probably in that beautiful grey area.
As mentioned, Pierre LeBrun and Chris Johnston tag teamed an article playing matchmaker for some key trade targets around the NHL and Johnston saw Chris Tanev as a fit for Toronto stating this:
Treliving working for his hometown Maple Leafs and desperately in need of blueline upgrades. It’s a match made in matchmaker heaven! The only real complication comes from the fact Toronto doesn’t own a second-round pick in any of the next three drafts and isn’t likely to part with a first-rounder in a deal built exclusively around Tanev.
You can find my breakdown of why Chris Tanev is very much a good fit for the Leafs (if he is healthy), and you can find excellent analysis of Tanev and the Leafs fit from Vanessa Kezwer for Sportsnet that highlights the lack of space Tanev gives his opposition and how that is a particularly important need for the Maple Leafs.
Johnston hits the nail on the head with the issue around the 2nd round pick, which is likely the going rate for Tanev. There are other players on the Flames that the Leafs could use and warrant pushing the deal a bit larger to the point of including a first round pick but if the Flames aren’t looking to do that and would prefer to maximize their deals by trading their expiring UFA players individually, that presents a challenge for the Maple Leafs.
Still, it does feel like Tanev and the Leafs are on a collision course. For the record, Pierre LeBrun has Chris Tanev going to New Jersey, which also makes sense if they find themselves back in a playoff spot or value him for the future. (LeBrun also saw Markstrom being added to the Devils as part of their move, perhaps something the Leafs should consider as well if they could ever make the cap space work.)
The other Leafs option mentioned in the article was LeBrun identifying that Toronto might want a second helping of Ilya Lyubushkin. Not an entirely bad idea as he addresses a need, but here’s some of what LeBrun had to say:
They know what they’d be getting in Lyubushkin considering he played 31 games solidly for them two years ago after coming over in a trade. There’s nothing fancy in this dude’s game, but what he brings is what the Leafs could use.
Here’s the thing with that idea, he’s essentially Simon Benoit. If the Leafs really want a second Benoit in their lineup, they go this route. Lyubushkin’s numbers aren’t far off the disastrous numbers Benoit had last season for the Ducks and he’d probably rebound similarly in a Leafs bottom pairing situation. It also seems that even with 50% salary retention there are similar, cheaper options than Lyubushkin for the Maple Leafs as he makes $2.75M AAV this year. That’s a pretty big commitment to someone who can hammer opponents and the puck but still requires bottom pairing sheltering.
If the Leafs make it work moneywise, Lyubushkin isn’t a bad addition and is often the case, depth can play an important role in playoff runs. Having a rightside option that can play physically can help and that might be why the Leafs go this route. There are fairly limited options out there.
You can check out the full reasoning for the players as well as the other four players listed in the Johnston/LeBrun matchmaking speculation here.
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