The Toronto Maple Leafs are in a relatively comfortable position going into the second half of the season - the weakness of the Atlantic division has made it so that they are virtually a lock to make the playoffs as one of the top 3 teams of the division.
As such, they will be buyers at this year's trade deadline - although the possibility of selling still looms. They have several notable impending unrestricted free agents on the roster. James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, Leo Komarov, Dominic Moore, and Roman Polak. All veterans, and all leaders in some capacity.
The belief is that they will hold onto most of them for the playoffs, if not all. In essence, they are all rentals. Komarov and Polak are favourites of Mike Babcock, Moore is a proven playoff performer, and JvR is a key net-front goal scorer for this team. Bozak is an effective 3rd line centre, and while his numbers have dipped, he still provides balance to the offensive lines.
Given all this, there's no guarantee that Lou Lamoriello keeps them all. The blueline has long been a consideration for this team, and one must think that a name like Mike Green will be evaluated ahead of the trade deadline. Ian Cole also could garner interest.
One or more of the aforementioned players could be used as bait to acquire a rental, or even a key player for the upcoming playoff run and the future.
The Fourth Period's David Pagnotta reported that there were 20 scouts and executives at the Leafs game Wednesday night against the Ottawa Senators - and while there's no doubt that a large contingent of them were focusing on the Sens, as they are taking calls on just about every player on the team, the Leafs do have pieces teams are interested in, and there could eventually be a deal that comes out of all this.
The Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins were both represented, which could mean nothing, or be a sign of things to come. The teams have been linked this season, and there's no reason to not believe that there's some smoke here.
Mike Green is on pace for approximately 50 points this season, his best production since his glory days around 2007-2010. A power play specialist and quality right-shot defenseman is something the Leafs could sorely use, and this might be a year where they can afford to give up their first round pick.
Their scouting and player development team has been strong as of late, and there's little doubt that they won't find some gems in the later rounds of the draft.
Now - where would a player like Green slot into the lineup? Hard to say. Babcock relies on Ron Hainsey and Roman Polak, and when Nikita Zaitsev returns from injury, it's hard to see where the fit is. Of course, the simple answer would be to shift Zaitsev to the third pairing, scratch Polak, and slot Green in on the second pairing.
But as of now, there's no reason to believe that Babcock would do that. Which is kind of a problem in itself.
Ian Cole is a top four defenseman on a lot of teams and was a prominent figure on the Penguins' Stanley Cup-winning squad the past two seasons, and there's reason to believe a Bozak for Cole deal could be in the works, with other pieces to balance out the deal.
Long story short - a trade could happen today. Or tomorrow. Or in a month and a half when the trade deadline rolls around. But according to multiple reports from the likes of Elliotte Friedman, Bob McKenzie, and Pierre Lebrun, the trade market is heating up, with more and more rentals being added into the fold, and you can bet the Leafs will be making calls to solidify their roster ahead of the 2018 NHL playoffs.