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A way-too-early look at some defensive trade targets for the Maple Leafs

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Photo credit:Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Seney
9 months ago
The Toronto Maple Leafs open training camp this week and while there’s been plenty of praise for the team’s offense and goaltending depth, the Leafs blueline continues to take the brunt of the blows. Several media members have questioned whether or not Toronto’s d-core is as big as they’ll need to be and physical enough to go deep into the playoffs.
Frankly they’re a work in progress and there’s little doubt general manager Brad Treliving will be examining the trade market throughout the 2023-24 season, leading up to the trade deadline in early March. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Treliving go out and acquire a blueliner who is long, lanky, tough to play against and sound defensively.
Here’s a way-too-early look at three potential trade targets for the Maple Leafs GM this season:

Nikita Zadorov

It would make sense for Treliving to have interest in Zadorov considering how familiar he is with the Calgary Flames defenseman. ‘Big-Z’ brings a lot to the table including having the ability to play either the left or right side, being 6-foot-6 and 235 pounds doesn’t hurt and he plays nasty.
Zadorov recorded 21 points in 82 games last season and while he can chip in a little on offense, he’d be a great help to the Maple Leafs on the penalty kill. The Flames blueliner is as physical as they come, landing 174 hits last season.
With only Jake McCabe and potentially Simon Benoit, who are considered physical on the Leafs’ defense, Zadorov would bring some much needed sandpaper to Toronto’s back end. The Russian is a pending unrestricted free agent who is making $3.75 million against the cap in 2023-24 and he doesn’t hold any trade protection. Reminder that Treliving traded a third-round pick to land Zadorov from the Chicago Blackhawks and ended up re-signing him to a two-year deal. As we’ve seen many times with Kyle Dubas, GMs love players they are familiar with.

Tyler Myers

Yes, not the sexiest of selections but Myers’ size is exactly what Treliving will be looking for. The Vancouver Canucks are going to try and make the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season so it’s a wait-and-see approach to just how much selling they’ll be doing at the trade deadline.
Myers is also a pending unrestricted free agent who is a tad expensive at $6 million against the cap. The 6-foot-8 blueliner holds a modified no-trade clause that protects him from 10 teams of his choice. The potential of winning a Stanley Cup this season with the Maple Leafs is likely something he’d approve.
From the long battles between the Canucks and Flames, this is another defenseman that Treliving is very familiar with so it would make a bit of sense the Leafs would keep an eye on Myers this season leading up to the deadline. Another appealing aspect of Myers is the fact he was already paid a $5 million signing bonus and his salary is only $1 million cash. This doesn’t necessarily effect the Maple Leafs, who have deep pockets, but there’s certainly a number of teams who will be more interested in Myers because of that.
The former first-round pick recorded 17 points in 78 games last season with the Canucks and also collected 93 hits and an impressive 144 blocked shots. The Maple Leafs are going to need more defensemen who are willing to sacrifice their bodies and kill penalties effectively. Myers will certainly be on their watch list this season, but isn’t likely their top pick.

Brenden Dillon

Again, another d-man Treliving knows quite well from the Flames rivalry with the Winnipeg Jets and from Dillon’s days with the San Jose Sharks. He’s a nasty defenseman who loves to muck it up in the dirty areas of the ice and use his physical presence to impact the game.
Dillon is another potential rental who could be on the block as the Jets are a bubble team and may become sellers before the deadline. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound blueliner recorded 23 points in 82 games last season in Winnipeg and has shown over the course of his career to expect around 20 points per year. Dillon also loves the physical side of the game as he delivered a whopping 198 hits last season, while blocking 108 shots. Again, exactly what the doctor ordered in Toronto.
The Jets blueliner is set to make $3.9 million against the cap in 2023-24 and he does not hold any trade protection. Worth noting the Jets also have the towering 6-foot-6 Logan Stanley who is a former first-round pick and someone on the bubble in Winnipeg this training camp. If Stanley doesn’t make the team out of camp, Treliving may want to consider a waiver claim.
Some other notables to keep an eye on throughout the rental market would be Ian Cole of the Canucks, Chris Tanev of the Flames, and Matt Dumba of the Arizona Coyotes.
Yes, it’s still way to early to be chatting the rental market but when the Leafs defensive corps can’t get any love to open the new season, we might as well do some foreshadowing to some names you could hearing linked to Toronto around the trade deadline. Preseason games around the corner, hockey is back! What a time to be alive.

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