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Ryan O’Reilly gets the top spot on the TLN Leafs Trade Target List

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Photo credit:Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
15 days ago
Last week we ran a number of posts with the TLN contributors weighing in on what they thought of the Leafs season so far. It was probably a good thing to ask before the Leafs dropped a couple to Detroit and Boston, but that’s not really the point. The point is that while we would pool our thoughts on the Leafs season, I also asked everyone to put forth a list of five names that were their top trade targets for the Leafs. The end result is this, the TLN Leafs Trade Target list. There was no priority put towards the first name on everyone’s list, this is just a count of the top 15 players list and a look at how much sense they make for the Leafs.

T-8: Sean Monahan

Sean Monahan is a pure rental option that checks a few boxes for the Leafs. He’s a capable top six player that is having a better than expected season on a poor team, and has shown that he can achieve even more when he’s given better players to work with. The fact that Monahan is a center means that the Leafs can either roll three lines with some offensive capability, or the Leafs would have the option of putting either Monahan or Tavares on wing. Having the added security of a capable top six center if injuries occur is a plus, even if William Nylander might not be the worst option in the world.
Acquiring Monahan certainly wouldn’t cost the Leafs as much as Horvat, O’Reilly, or even Toews, but he would still likely require some salary retention, something an organization like Montreal can easily do. It should go without saying that Monahan is a player the Leafs would be hesitant about including a first for or a top prospect, and with Montreal already being the one team with multiple first round picks (and good ones at that) the idea of the Habs having a bright future is scary.

T-8: Andrei Kuzmenko

I think Kuzmenko would be higher on this list if he weren’t a relatively new commodity playing on a lousy team in a time zone that makes it difficult for Leafs fans to keep track of him. Andrei has 36 points in 41 games, and that is good enough to put him easily in the Leafs top six. He also only has a cap hit of $950k so salary is in no way a burden. There were also rumours that the Canucks are only looking for a 2nd round pick for him. If they’d take a 2024 2nd, there really seems like no excuse for the Leafs not having this done already, but trades are rarely as simple as we make them seem on the internet.
Kuzmenko is a rental and likely due for a raise ($6M AAV is what is rumoured), and he will be a UFA so there’s no asset managing around it. There is also some talk that Andrei really likes it in Vancouver and might prioritize staying there if he’s given the opportunity, even if the Canucks organization are making it incredibly hard to understand why someone would want to be there.

T-8: Patrick Kane

My personal bias is that Kane is a hard no. To put it most gently I have issues with his character, and that’s just my first red flag. There is also his down production (likely explained away from him being on a terrible team), and he’s working through some injury stuff that could become a concern.
Now I’m not going to simply trash Kane, as there is a reason why people selected him. There’s no doubting his playoff success, he has the best statistical career of anyone on this list, and the Blackhawks are certainly eager to sell and capable of retaining salary on deals.

T-8: James van Riemsdyk

Nostalgia is a powerful thing and it’s easy to remember the good times with JVR. He was a solid point producer, and although not a physical presence, he was effective down low in the offensive zone and often creative when doing so.
The Flyers will be eager to dump him and potentially will take what they can get for him depending on how active the market is. There will need to be the full 50% salary retention on JVR, but he is certainly a player that allows for the Leafs to acquire him and still have the resources to pull off other deals as well.

T-8: Tanner Jeannot

Last season Tanner came on strong as looked like a great blend of physical play and offense that was going to blossom into one of those hard to find power forward unicorns in the league. This season he has been punctual.
There is a very good chance that on the John Tavares line that Jeannot could rediscover what worked so well for him last year, but there is also a chance this could be a repeat of the Nick Ritchie situation where the Leafs can’t slide in an underperforming power forward into their top six and expect things to go smoothly.
The cap hit on Jeannot is fantastic, as is the fact that he is a pending RFA and the pure rental situation can be avoided. The catch, along with Jeannot only having 9 points in 42 games is that the Predators won’t be giving him away for free. He might be underwhelming so far this year, but someone is going to have to pay a little more to see if he can be that middle six powerforward of last season.

T-8: Mattias Ekholm

When I saw that Ekholm was hitting the trade market I thought that was a pretty big deal but have to say I never really thought that he would make sense for Toronto. With three more years after this one at $6.25M there is some definite risk there and visions of the Jake Muzzin contract are dancing in my head. Of course not every over 30 contract is the Jake Muzzin contract, and Ekholm’s style of play might lend itself better to the early 30s.
That said the Leafs left side is pretty solid with Rielly, Sandin, and Giordano with Brodie capable of moving over and Benn as a depth option. I know that statement kick starts a referendum on Rielly so let me say that adding on the left side only makes sense if the Leafs want to move on from Rielly. I know some fans do, but the organization isn’t there. If the Leafs see something changing with their blueline group come summertime, Ekholm provides a steady presence that can be used in all situations that allows a short term upgrade and longer term replacement option.

T-8: Sam Bennett

Leafs fans will get a good look at Bennett on Tuesday night and there will be an opportunity to see if he can be a potential W/C option for the Leafs middle six.
Bennett brings a bit of a physical presence and some less than consistent offensive production. Don’t expect a whole lot more offence than the Leafs are getting from Alex Kerfoot just expect him to get it grittier fashion more aligned to the blueprint of playoff hockey.
What the Panthers are willing to do as far as moving someone within the division, and what their asks would be considering they are both in a cap crunch trying make room for Duclair and likely wanting to acquire high draft picks after dumping their 2023 1st for Ben Chiarot last year remains to be seen. It seems like everyone is going to be looking for 1st round picks and Bennett might warrant a 2024 1st, but until someone sets the market it’s hard to say if it’s even worth their time to trade Bennett who has two more years left at $4.425M.

T-8: Ivan Barbashev

The thing about Barbashev is that he’s the least exciting name on this list so that feels like he’s a lock to be acquired. His $2.15M price tag makes sense. The fact that he produces slightly above the rate of Kerfoot and Engvall is enough to classify him as an upgrade and he checks the physical play box as well. Again, whether that is your priority or not, it is something we can expect the Leafs to entertain and the presumed penciling in of Matthew Knies to the Leafs lineup supports that as well.
The fact that Barbashev isn’t a household name means that someone could grab him at far less than he should actually cost. The fact that the Blues are still potentially in the playoff hunt means that we’ll have to wait and see if he’s even an option.

T-6: Travis Konecny

No matter what is going on with the Flyers this year it seems like giving up on Konecny would be absolutely insane. If you are Flyers ownership are you wanting to let Chuck Fletcher determine the fate of Konecny in the organization? Konecny has played well under Tortorella, and by most accounts Torts will likely survive the inevitable spring firing of Fletcher, so why dig a bigger hole than needed when the Flyers can still be lottery team bad without scorching the earth?
Of course, the Flyers are anything but conventional in their approach and Konecny could very well be available. Kicking tires on him makes a ton of sense and bringing Konecny in now could make some of the future tough decisions the Leafs will make a bit more bearable. He addresses the offense, toughness, agitation, etc. needs of the Leafs. His contract is very reasonable, it’s just going to be the price that needs to be paid to acquire him that will hurt, and if it doesn’t start with a 1st and a great prospect I’d be shocked.

T-6: Jakob Chychrun

While defense might not be seen as the priority for the Leafs there are a lot of things about Chychrun that can’t be ignored. He is a young, talented, affordable defenseman that could easily play big minutes on any team in the league. He plays a physical game, he can penalty kill, has a heavy shot for the powerplay, and there is an upside that no one really knows about because we’ve only ever seen him on the Coyotes.
The 2 1sts and a 2nd price tag doesn’t seem too out of line for Chychrun. Consider that the Leafs would also likely be dumping some salary in the deal when paying that price and it’s reasonable.
Chychrun puts the Leafs over the top defensively for the playoff run and offers them some choices in personnel in the offseason. It doesn’t hurt to look at whether something is feasible here. A lot of teams will regret not kicking the tires and a post trade deadline quote along the lines of “we tried, but the price was too high” is all I really require here.

T-3: Max Domi

As long as Max Domi is in the league there will be people calling for the son of Tie making an appearance in the Leafs lineup. This is one of those times it might make more sense than usual as the rental window makes it lower risk and his price tag is manageable, but given who the Hawks have that they will want to retain salary on, don’t expect a discount on Domi.
There are a lot of things that need to be unpacked with Domi though. One, if you are playing him at center you’re already doing it wrong. If you are expecting him to exhibit any of the pugnacity of his father, you are going to be underwhelmed, as beyond his chirps and the occasional penalty taken in frustration, there isn’t much physical play. He’s not someone who is going to give you consistency, he’s going to have dry spells, and those 30 points in 41 games, 14 of them came on the powerplay and he’s at best going to see second unit work in Toronto.
I think Domi is someone you need to consider in the same fashion as JVR. If you don’t have to give up a lot and there is a chance of being better, why not? He might not be the most likeable guy, but he’s not Patrick Kane either.

T-3: Vladimir Tarasenko

Between Tarasenko, Barbashev, and O’Reilly it’s clear that a lot of the TLN crew are hoping the Blues slide out of a playoff spot and are counting on a good team that is underperforming providing the necessary upgrades.
Tarasenko is hurt. Tarasenko is expensive. Tarasenko is a rental. He’s also the best name brand offensive option on this list after Patrick Kane and a down year with a struggling team isn’t the full picture of him.
The word is that Tarasenko can return as soon as this week and that should quell some of the injury fears. The cost to acquire Tarasenko will still loom large, and while the Blues are still close to the playoffs, it seems they will likely take advantage of having six potential rentals to sell to set them up for a retooling of their lineup.

T-3: Bo Horvat

A couple of months ago I think Bo Horvat was my runaway favourite deadline target, now I’m pretty sure my favourite targets are the ones that let the Leafs keep their best assets and make stealthier upgrades along the way.
There is something to me admitting that I was right the first time and recommitting myself to the Bo Horvat way of life.
Horvat is a two-way center who is scoring at a career year pace. He makes the Leafs more responsible while going with what looks like the most over the top offensive option as well.
The two biggest problems with Horvat are the cost to acquire him and the risk of falling so much in love with him that you want to find any way possible to keep him around next season. If you are doing the latter, the former doesn’t seem so bad.
There is no way Horvat goes anywhere with the Canucks acquiring a first and a very good prospect in the process, and that would be steep for a rental. The other thing to consider is that if things go sideways for the Leafs again in the playoffs and a change of direction is called for, wouldn’t re-signing Horvat be a great first step before tinkering with the rest of the lineup?

2: Timo Meier

I feel like anytime I’ve discussed trades on this site this season Timo Meier’s name has been part of that discussion. I think his bizarre RFA status with a $10M qualifying offer combination has been covered at length and should lead to him being treated as a rental more than an arbitration-eligible RFA. There is some wiggle room in how that plays out, sure, but for argument’s sake here, he’s a rental.
Meier as a $6M AAV rental is worth considering. He’s a point per game player, he hits a ton and adds the physical play the Leafs want in their top six, and could be a finished option on the second power play unit, assuming the Leafs want to keep the band together on the first unit.
Meier’s still in that 1st and prospect territory that has been discussed with a lot of the best rentals on this list and the reality is that Toronto is going to pay that for someone. The biggest drawback to Timo is that he isn’t a center, so Toronto would be reliant on Matthews and Tavares staying healthy and having Nylander as the Plan B.

1. Ryan O’Reilly

Sorry that the title killed the suspense here, but I think there’s a lot about O’Reilly that just seems too obvious as a target for the Leafs that I didn’t need you to be shocked by who is number one.
A former Conn Smythe, and Selke winner, O’Reilly checks some important boxes on team defense and playoff play. His offensive numbers are down this year, but let’s be optimistic that his offense hasn’t completely dried up even if he is scoring less frequently than Alex Kerfoot.
I think people might assume O’Reilly is a tougher player because of that Selke, playoff performer image, but let’s not forget that he’s a former Lady Byng winner as well. He’s going to make the Leafs tougher to play against but he’s not cracking skulls.
O’Reilly is also out with a broken foot until mid-February. That’s a short window to evaluate if he’s ready to go or if he’s another Nick Foligno situation (at least his upside is significantly higher than Foligno’s.) Maybe the price will slide on Ryan as a result and he could be a worthwhile gamble, but if all things are equal I think we’ve had better players on this list and O’Reilly just benefits from the consensus factor of a lot of us all thinking he’s in the top five of worth exploring.

The full list:

1Ryan O’Reilly
2Timo Meier
3Vladimir Tarasenko
3Bo Horvat
3Max Domi
6Travis Konecny
6Jakob Chychrun
8Ivan Barbashev
8Tanner Jeannot
8Patrick Kane
8Mattias Ekholm
8James van Riemsdyk
8Sam Bennett
8Andrei Kuzmenko
8Sean Monahan
HMConnor Brown
HMFrank Vatrano
HMTroy Terry
HMJames Reimer
HMCarson Soucy
HMTyler Motte
HMAdam Henrique
HMJonathan Toews
HMLuke Schenn
HMBrock Boeser
HMMatt Dumba
HMShayne Gostisbehere
HMMax Jones
 

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