According to a report from former FAN 590 reporter and Toronto Maple Leafs insider Howard Berger, the Leafs are expected to make a trade to bolster their blue line sometime between now and the NHL’s Monday 3pm ET trade deadline.
Straight from Berger:
“According to a long–time Western Conference scout with whom I check every year at this juncture, the Toronto Maple Leafs will bolster their blue line before Monday’s National Hockey League trade deadline.”
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to Leafs fans though, really. For weeks now Leafs Nation has been subjected to daily trade rumours with the team being linked to just about every blue liner on the open market.
“Based on the rumblings I’m hearing, it wouldn’t surprise me if [general manager] Lou Lamoriello added at least one defenseman,” the anonymous scout shared with Berger. “If you look at Toronto’s depth chart, you can see who the top four guys are. I think Lou wants to improve on the bottom two for the playoffs.”
If we’re assuming that the top four are Morgan Rielly with Ron Hainsey and Jake Gardiner with Nikita Zaitsev, then that means that Lamoriello is looking to improve upon his third pairing rotation of Travis Dermott, Roman Polak, Connor Carrick and Andreas Borgman. In many people’s eyes, Dermott has earned the opportunity to stick with the team full-time. But, if the Leafs can find him a stable, reliable partner on the open trade market… why not jump at the opportunity?
The Leafs have been linked to Ottawa Senators superstar Erik Karlsson, the Arizona Coyotes’ Oliver Ekman-Larsson and the Los Angeles Kings’ Drew Doughty, but those players all seem like long-shot bets to end up in a Leafs sweater. Even New York Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh seems like a stretch. It’s much more likely that the Leafs pursue a depth defenseman ex-Leaf Matt Hunwick, now of the Pittsburgh Penguins, or Detroit Red Wings’ blue liner Danny DeKeyser. If the Leafs are looking for a top-four contributor they have options in DeKeyser’s Red Wings teammate Mike Green and Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson.
The team’s most recent moves, shipping Nikita Soshnikov to the St. Louis Blues and Eric Fehr to the San Jose Sharks, give it some flexibility at this year’s deadline. The Leafs can afford to take on a contract, or two, and have a bit of wiggle room under the NHL’s salary cap. What they intend to do with that wiggle room however, remains to be soon. Things should get interesting.