This is the most pivotal offseason in Toronto Maple Leafs history. The Leafs have their core and depth throughout the organization, but need to make a big splash to jump into the legitimate Stanley Cup contender category.
Fortunately, now that Kyle Dubas is GM, they have a real chance to do this.
Here I outline seventeen (17) trade targets the Leafs should have and the trades they should make to improve their hockey club. The key for the Leafs, of course, is to add without subtracting too much from their current lineup – ideally, you add a core piece while keeping your core completely in tact. Something I believe Dubas has the skills to do.
The trade: Connor Brown, Andrew Nielsen, and a 2nd round pick for Josh Manson
The Leafs get a top four shutdown RHD on a great contract and the Ducks get a winger they reportedly covet, a defensive prospect, and a 2nd round pick to make up the value difference. A home run trade for the Leafs where they definitely don’t fleece the Ducks at all.
The trade: Connor Brown, Andrew Nielsen, and a 2nd round pick for Oliver Ekman-Larsson
The Leafs get a top pairing d-man and the Coyotes get out of OEL’s long-term deal and multiple controllable assets in the process. Works for both sides.
The Leafs would even consider giving up a 1st round pick if Arizona eats some of OEL’s salary.
The trade: Connor Brown, Andrew Nielsen, and a 2nd round pick for Charlie McAvoy
McAvoy is one of the best young RHD in the entire league – a prime target for the Leafs. It’s difficult to make trades with a rival, but the Leafs are willing to give up a great package for a player like McAvoy.
The trade: Connor Brown, Andrew Nielsen, and a 2nd round pick for Rasmus Dahlin
Buffalo is re-building and need as many young assets as they can get – here, they get three and only have to give up one. That nets them TWO more assets than they had previously.
The trade: Connor Brown, Jeremy Bracco, and a 2nd round pick for Dougie Hamilton
Hamilton is apparently on the block and the Flames are in need of forward depth. As such, the Leafs offer Brown and Bracco, plus a 2nd round pick in this year’s draft – a welcome plus for Calgary since they don’t have any picks until the 4th round.
JUSTIN FAULK/NOAH HANIFIN
The trade: Connor Brown, Andrew Nielsen, and a 2nd round pick for Justin Faulk and Jeff Skinner
The Hurricanes are looking for a culture change and want to cut some salary in the process. This trade gives them a hard worker in Brown, a d prospect, and a 2nd round pick as they continue to stock their cupboard.
In return, the Leafs get Justin Faulk (or potentially Noah Hanifin) and Jeff Skinner. Might seem like the Canes give up a lot, but they also cut a lot of salary. A win-win.
The trade: Connor Brown, Andrew Nielsen, and a 2nd round pick for Tyson Barrie
The Leafs have been linked to Barrie for awhile (that’s a double entendre) and finally get their guy by offering a package that helps the Avs continue to build in a competitive division.
The trade: Connor Brown, Andrew Nielsen, and a 2nd round pick for Seth Jones
The Blue Jackets have a lot of pieces in place to become a contender, but also have to pay them and are going to be tight for cash. As a result, they opt to trade Seth Jones so they can sign Zach Werenski. They accept the Leafs offer because CBJ’s cap situation is so tight moving forward.
The Leafs get a top pairing RHD in return, but have to give up three assets to do so. A tough pill to swallow.
The trade: Connor Brown, Andrew Nielsen, and a 2nd round pick for John Klingberg
The Leafs probably covet John Klingberg and offer a tempting package to Dallas with some cheap assets – important with all of the Stars’ high salaries and reported interest in Ilya Kovalchuk.
In return, the Leafs get a top pair RHD on a good contract.
The trade: Connor Brown, Jeremy Bracco, and a 2nd round pick for Aaron Ekblad
After giving up Marchessault and Smith in the expansion draft, the Panthers are on the hunt for scoring (even after acquiring Mike Hoffman). Fortunately, the Leafs have a ton of depth in this department, making this a great fit!
That said, the Leafs actually take on a fair amount of risk in this trade as Ekblad hasn’t proven a ton when not paired with Brian Campbell. But you gotta take risks in trades sometimes.
The trade: Connor Brown, Andrew Nielsen, and a 2nd round pick for Drew Doughty
Doughty is one of the best d-men on the planet. As such, LA is going to be hard-pressed to pay him what he’s worth when he becomes a UFA at the end of this upcoming season.
As a pending UFA, his value isn’t super high. The Leafs entice the Kings with a roster player, prospect, and high pick to get the deal done, bringing Doughty to his hometown team.
PK SUBBAN/RYAN ELLIS
The trade: Connor Brown, Andrew Nielsen, and a 2nd round pick for PK Subban or Ryan Ellis
There have been PK Subban trade rumours this offseason, making him a prime target for Dubas and the Leafs. Nashville is a great trade partner because they are not afraid to make big moves, and this would be a big move for them.
Alternatively, the Leafs could offer the same package for pending UFA Ryan Ellis, who is due a massive raise next offseason. This package would be a bit of an overpayment considering we don’t know if he’d re-sign, but it’s worth the risk.
The trade: Connor Brown, Andrew Nielsen, and a 2nd round pick for Erik Karlsson
Karlsson is going to get traded any minute. The Senators are a garbage fire and are ready for the picking. It’s tough to offer a division rival such an amazing package of assets, but Karlsson is worth it, even if he’s due a big contract by next offseason.
The trade: Connor Brown, Andrew Nielsen, and a 2nd round pick for Kris Letang
The Penguins are looking to retool and balance their lineup, and this deal helps them do that. The Leafs get a good RHD, but the package is a little rich considering he is 31. Still worth it I think.
The trade: Connor Brown, Andrew Nielsen, and a 2nd round pick for Colton Parayko
The Blues are in another offseason where they need to retool. This is a perfect trade for them to do that, but more importantly a perfect trade for the Leafs as they get a big top 4 RHD on a good contract without giving up any core pieces.
The trade: Connor Brown, Andrew Nielsen, and a 2nd round pick for Victor Hedman
Would Tampa Bay give up their stud d-man? Probably not, but for the sake of this article, they can’t resist the Leafs package of stuff.
The trade: Connor Brown, Andrew Nielsen, and a 2nd round pick for the rights to Jacob Trouba
The Leafs get a top pairing RHD and Winnipeg is lucky to get these assets for Trouba as he is a RFA that they might not be able to re-sign based on their cap situation moving forward.
WHAT TRADE WOULD YOU MAKE?
I think you’ll find that I was very fair in my trade proposals, as they address the Leafs’ need for a top pairing D while giving other teams a bunch of pieces the Leafs don’t need.
Let us know which trade you like the most or offer any other ideas in the comments below!