It’s no secret, the Leafs defense isn’t exactly amazing. It’s arguably the one thing holding the team back from being an over the top true contender, particularly on the right side, where our depth consists of a left-handed Ron Hainsey, Nikita Zaitsev, Connor Carrick, and Roman Polak. Not terrible by any means, but not exactly cup contender worthy either.
While the Leafs definitely have some decent prospects in the minors to wait for (Timothy Liljegren, anyone?), it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have a high end defenseman of some sort that could fill the void while we wait for those prospects to grow. Without further ado, here are five defensemen the Leafs should go after.
Mike Green, Detroit Red Wings
Of all the players you’ll see on this list, Mike Green is probably the most reasonable, realistic, and affordable option. He’s not the point per game, 30 goal scorer that he was in Washington many years ago, but Green is still an excellent defenseman, good enough that he looks good on an otherwise mediocre Detroit Red Wings team. Unlike other big name defensemen on the trade market, Green is a bit more underrated in that you won’t have to give up as much, but his value is a little bit more under the radar as a play-driving defenseman, something that would work perfectly with the Leafs. He could effectively play in that top pair role with Rielly or Gardiner, or at least better than Hainsey or Zaitsev, and he’d at most cost only a first and a prospect. Green might be the guy the Leafs should go after first if looking for a defenseman at the deadline.
Tyson Barrie, Colorado Avalanche
Much like Green, Barrie is a little bit underrated in how good he is, and Barrie is also a little bit younger than Green, at the ripe age of 26. Also, unlike Green, he is slightly cheaper at $5.5 million, and has two years left on his deal after this year. That would give a little bit more of a window for the Leafs defensive prospects to grow in the minors, if they were to let go of Barrie when the contract is up. Plus, his age fits with the Leafs current window for contention. However, he’d cost a little bit more than Green due to being younger, and Colorado probably isn’t looking to trade him anyway, due to the current injury of Erik Johnson, and the team still being in the heat of the playoff hunt.
Ryan McDonagh, New York Rangers
I include this name on the list mostly because of the fact that McDonagh is a good defenseman, that I would certainly like to have on my team. But, there are many factors that make me against it. First, the Leafs aren’t on McDonagh’s list of teams he’d accept a trade to, so that would end it there. Second, McDonagh is a left-hand shot, so unless him, Rielly, or Gardiner want to try the right side, the Leafs would still have that hole on the right side. Finally, the Rangers are probably going to ask a lot for him, which wouldn’t be worth it when there are better fits for the Leafs on the market.
Chris Tanev, Vancouver Canucks
While Tanev’s name hasn’t exactly been on the trade market, Tanev and the Leafs seem to have been linked a lot (mostly through Leafs Twitter, but still linked), and with the Canucks in the position they’re in, they probably wouldn’t be apposed to trading him. Not only that, but he’s the ideal kind of shutdown defenseman that you’d want to play with Morgan Rielly, is right handed, and is on a cheap $4.45 million contract for two years after this season. Also, we’re talking about trading with Jim Benning here, it wouldn’t be that hard to fleece him.
Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
A man can dream, right. As unlikely as this is, it’d be hilarious to see Erik Karlsson on the Leafs, although the Leafs would have to give the Senators the arms and legs of every player to get Karlsson on the team, and there’s no way in hell the Senators would ever trade their franchise defenseman to their provincial rival.
It’d still be funny though.