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Weekes: Zadorov trade discussions to pick up when Leafs return from Sweden

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Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Alex Hobson
3 months ago
The Toronto Maple Leafs are returning from Sweden this week after a very successful Global Series that saw them sweep their competition, defeating the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 on Friday afternoon and the Minnesota Wild 4-3 on Sunday morning. Leading the way was Swedish superstar William Nylander (yes, we can call him that now), who scored two goals and added five points in two games this weekend. 
Despite the Leafs’ recent wave of good fortunes, they’re apparently already knee deep in the trade market. Click on any article or flip on any sports radio show in Toronto, and there’s a good chance you’ve heard the name Nikita Zadorov once or twice. The rugged 6-foot-6 defenceman requested a trade from the Flames the same night the Leafs defeated them 5-4, and given the style of player he is along with the Leafs’ issues defensively, it makes sense that the two are linked. Oh, and if you want, google the team general manager Brad Treliving worked for until the Leafs hired him. 
While Leafs fans on social media have already assumed their roles as armchair GMs to map out what a Zadorov-to-Toronto trade would look like, ESPN Insider Kevin Weekes further added to the speculation on Saturday. 
According to Vancouver Canucks media personality Rick Dhaliwal, the Flames are looking for a young prospect who can jump into their lineup right now. They made a similar trade with the New Jersey Devils this summer, acquiring 25-year-old Yegor Sharahgovich in the package for Tyler Toffoli. If this is the case, the Leafs can step up. They’ve got a wealth of young players in the AHL who are more than likely ready for full-time NHL minutes, but simply have too many names to jump on the depth chart. Guys like Nick Abruzzese, Alex Steeves, and Pontus Holmberg come to mind. 
Zadorov, 28, has a goal and six points in 16 games this year, and is also leading the team in hits with 31. While he’s sturdy defensively, his calling card is his physicality and ability to clear out the front of the net. He can also chip in offensively now and again, scoring 14 goals for the Flames in 2022-23. The only issue with him is that he’s left-handed, which would give the Leafs six lefties until one of John Klingberg, Conor Timmins, or Timothy Liljegren returns. It wouldn’t be an ideal situation to work through, but it would be a manageable one with three months before the trade deadline.
If we’re being realistic here, the player who would best fit the Leafs’ needs of those who are available would be Chris Tanev. He’s right-handed and his MO is strong defensive play, very reminiscent of what Luke Schenn brought to the team last season. Elliotte Friedman reported his belief in the Leafs’ interest in both Zadorov and Tanev a little bit ago, so I’d imagine Treliving is kicking tires on both. But, as of right now it seems like the former will be the first to go given the added pressure of his trade request.
Either way, it’s no secret that the Leafs’ are in dire need of some help on the back end right now, and it shouldn’t be a coincidence that talks aren’t expected to pick up until the Leafs come back from Sweden. Any real action might have to wait until the deadline, but the issue could force their hand earlier than that.

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