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The Leafs should trade for Sharks defenceman Mario Ferraro

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Photo credit:Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports
Alex Hobson
1 month ago
You’re going to be hearing a lot about the Leafs and the trade deadline in the next couple of weeks. The team is on a pretty bad skid right now, having lost four straight games with the three most recent coming in the form of blown leads. Thus, the topic of whether or not the Leafs should even buy at the deadline has come up.
Let’s get one thing straight right off the top – the Leafs will not be having another trade deadline like last year. They don’t have as many assets to work with, and with the amount of concern surrounding multiple areas of the roster, blowing your wad on a bunch of rentals for a team that doesn’t necessarily deserve upgrades isn’t a smart business model. 
That said, this doesn’t mean the Leafs shouldn’t be buying at the deadline. Any year with Auston Matthews under contract should be one to pursue a Stanley Cup, and regardless of where the team’s at right now, they’ve got the top-end talent to keep them in it until the very end. While they shouldn’t be after every last rental on the market, they should certainly be keeping tabs on players that carry term and can help them beyond this season.
One team they could find that kind of player on is the San Jose Sharks, and that player is Mario Ferraro.
A native of Toronto, the 25-year-old defenceman is currently in his fifth NHL season, all spent with the San Jose Sharks. He was originally selected in the second round of the 2017 draft and has nearly 300 NHL games under his belt. While he doesn’t bring much on the scoresheet, with one goal and 14 points in 45 games this year, he plays a heavy, defense-first style that the Leafs could use. 
Ferraro is an absolute workhorse for the Sharks on the penalty kill, leading the team in average penalty kill TOI (time on ice) of 3:16 per game. For context, the second-highest on the Sharks is defenceman Jan Rutta, who averages 2:54 per game. 
For as much heat as players like Justin Holl and Alex Kerfoot took while they were here, the penalty kill is noticeably suffering without them this year. The Leafs currently have the 22nd-ranked PK in the league, and someone like Ferraro who has 130(!!) blocked shots on the year would help them greatly in that department. To put things in perspective, the Leafs’ leader in blocked shots is T.J. Brodie with 92, and the Shark with the most blocked shots after Ferraro is Kyle Burroughs with 75. He’s also skated more minutes than any other Shark this year, which wouldn’t be an expectation with the Leafs. 
There’s also both the age and money factors when it comes to Ferraro. He doesn’t turn 26 until September, and his $3.25 million annual salary is more than manageable when it comes to fitting it under the cap. With T.J. Brodie and Mark Giordano both on expiring contracts, Ferraro is somebody that the Leafs could bring in to fill a similar role to Holl next year and beyond, given his contract won’t expire until after the 2026-27 season.
One issue with the Leafs’ defensive corps this year has been the struggles of Brodie. While Morgan Rielly has still evidently felt comfortable next to him, he’s taken a noticeable step back this year and doesn’t look like someone the Leafs can (or should) trust to log top-pair minutes in the playoffs. He has one year left on his deal at $5 million annually, and while it’s pretty safe to assume he won’t be re-signed in the offseason, perhaps there’s a world where the Leafs could send him the other way. Timothy Liljegren has taken a step forward this year and already logs more minutes nightly than any other defenceman. I think it would be much easier to get away with sliding him onto that top pair than it would have been in years past. 
In terms of a return, I see Ferraro as a very similar player to Jake McCabe. The Leafs were able to swing a deal with Chicago to get him and Sam Lafferty for a first-round pick, a third-round pick, and Joey Anderson, but that was also with Chicago retaining 50% on McCabe. If they can figure out a way to send salary out with or without Brodie involved, and without needing the Sharks to retain salary, perhaps they could use their surplus of Marlies prospects and a mid-round pick or two to create an appealing package for Mike Grier and the Sharks. 
The Sharks also have players like Anthony Duclair who could be on the chopping block. Maybe they try to swing a deal for both players and dangle their first-round pick this year? I can’t see Treliving wanting to part with the first unless it’s for someone whose services could be used beyond this year, but bringing in Ferraro and a solid bottom-six rental like Duclair could make that idea a little more enticing. 
In a perfect world, somebody like Calgary’s Chris Tanev and someone like Dillon Dube would make for an ideal deadline for the Leafs. That said, it would be foolish to assume those two teams would be able to swing a deal without the Treliving tax (aka dealing with your old team), so if there’s no noise there, the Sharks would be a decent team to check in on regarding deadline upgrades. It’s hard to justify a Home Alone Christmas morning-style deadline for the Leafs this year, but they should still be buying as long as they’ve got Auston Matthews under contract. Regardless of if you think this team is worthy of a big deadline, a trade for a player with term who can help beyond this year is never a bad call to make.

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