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Breaking: Leafs connected with four different teams in the trade market on Thursday night

They're getting prepared for the big day. They have their eyes on a massive target at trade deadline day.

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Thursday was officially the first day of February 2018. For most hockey fans, and all general managers around the league, this is the most interesting month of the entire season.

The trade deadline is on February 26th, and teams are ramping up their efforts to scout out the league and find the best players to acquire in order to make a playoff run.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of the teams in the mix hoping to make a big splash at the trade deadline to make a run at the Cup in this year's playoffs.

Their most dire need is well-documented - a top-flight defenseman.

There are several available on the trade market right now. Looking at TSN's trade bait board, curated by Frank Seravalli, there are some very interesting names to take note of.

Courtesy of TSN

Mike Green, Ryan McDonagh, Ian Cole, Erik Gudbranson, Tyson Barrie... all interesting names, and they've been connected with the Leafs via numerous reports. One name not on this list is of course Oliver Ekman-Larsson, but he's figured to be on other reporters' trade bait boards. Arizona Coyotes GM John Chayka has reportedly made himself more open to the idea of trading him before the trade deadline, but it will take a king's ransom.

The Leafs were spotted scouting the Coyotes and Dallas Stars, as well as the Chicago Blackhawks and Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night.

The Coyotes have several defensemen available beyond Ekman-Larsson, but there's little doubt in our minds that the scouts have an assignment to continuously watch his game and see if he's worth the high price tag. The Stars are likely not in selling mode, but there have been rumblings that Julius Honka may be available for the right price. A promising young defenseman who hasn't had a fair shake in Dallas, yet.

The Leafs have been connected with Gudbranson and Chris Tanev of the Vancouver Canucks, but it's unclear if Jim Benning is willing to part with any of them.

The Chicago Blackhawks are on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, and while there's belief that they can still make it, they may find themselves as sellers on February 26th, opting to restock the cupboards a bit, parting ways with veteran players.

Patrick Sharp comes to mind, but when it comes to Stan Bowman, no one really knows.

Any way you shake it, Toronto will be one of the most interesting teams to follow on deadline day - their action or lack thereof will be a huge storyline going through the rest of the year and playoffs, as well as the draft and free agent frenzy.

Buckle up, ladies and gents.