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Report: Maple Leafs expected to pursue Brett Pesce if he hits UFA market

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Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Gould
29 days ago
The Toronto Maple Leafs could certainly use another top-four defenceman (or three), and from the sounds of it, they could be interested in Carolina Hurricanes pending UFA Brett Pesce.
The 29-year-old rearguard has spent the last nine seasons in Carolina and is due a solid raise on his current $4.025 million cap hit, especially if he hits the open market.
On Wednesday, Sportsnet’s Luke Fox listed Pesce as the eighth-best player expected to be available in this year’s class of unrestricted free agents, and the second-best defenceman behind Florida’s Brandon Montour.
“Rumblings that teams were calling on the player and/or the Hurricanes were considering moving him have become an annual tradition in Carolina — largely because a right-shot, penalty-killing, shutdown defenceman with a stable track record is such a rare commodity,” Fox wrote. “Considering the deals given in 2023 to UFAs Vladislav Gavrikov and Damon Severson, Pesce should be looking at a long-term contract with a $6-million (plus?) AAV.
“The player is on record saying he’d welcome an extension with the club that drafted him back in 2013. But with Guentzel, Martin Necas, Brady Skjei, Tony DeAngelo, and Teuvo Teravainen all on expiring deals, Waddell has plenty of difficult decisions to make for his cash-conscious organization,” Fox added. “Pesce may well be pricing himself out. And if he does hit the open market, the Maple Leafs will be one of many teams lining up.”
The Hurricanes originally selected Pesce in the third round (No. 66 overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft. The Tarrytown, New York product racked up three goals and 13 points while averaging 20:17 of ice time in 70 games with the Hurricanes during the 2023–24 regular season.
Pesce suffered a lower-body injury during the Hurricanes’ Eastern Conference quarterfinal playoff series against the New York Islanders and has still not returned to game action, although he has been practicing with the team of late. The Hurricanes currently trail the New York Rangers three games to two in their Round 2 series.
Beyond Morgan Rielly, the Maple Leafs are relatively low on defencemen signed for the 2024–25 season and beyond. The club faces decisions this summer on UFAs T.J. Brodie, Joel Edmundson, Mark Giordano, and Ilya Lyubushkin, as well as RFA Timothy Liljegren.

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