With the window or free agency opening up in just a few days, time to say how this offseason is going to impact the Leafs! I kid, I kid, but let’s talk defenders.
One topic has always been under question: Defense. It’s something that’s been in the Leafs issues column for what feels like eons. With Tyson Barrie and Cody Ceci splitting town, the leafs need some help on the back end.
Here are just a few names the Leafs should look at snagging up on the market.
Lets first address the elephant in the room. Pietrangelo is coming home to Toronto, right? Well, the King City, Ontario native does has his options open. Reports do suggest that Pietrangelo has potentially expressed interest in the Maple Leafs, and I presume the Leafs feel the same.
However, the salary cap has a huge factor in this equation. Sure, the Leafs managed to get around that problem to sign Mitch Marner last season (David Clarkson and Nathan Horton on LTIR= $10. in cap space) but will lightning strike twice?
Personally, a 30-year-old defender who will enter the latter years of his career may be worrying. Pietrangelo is still a capable point-scoring defender and finished this past season 4th in Norris Trophy voting.
Depending on the term and the desire of him to sign in his hometown, Pietrangelo would finally relieve Morgan Rielly and give him a huge upgrade as a defence partner.
Odds are the definitive team that is the frontrunner for Pietrangelo is the Vegas Golden Knights, with St Louis not too far behind to resign him. Stranger things have happened though.
This one is something Leaf fans would not be so upset about as a consolation prize. Gudas is an interesting story. A former 3rd round pick of the Lightning back in 2013, he was a 3rd paring guy who mainly spent his time killing penalties. He was traded in 2016 to the Flyers in a deal that got the Lightning Brayden Coburn and again traded in 2019 for Matt Niskanen.
With Gudas, you get a player that is analytically good with an added bonus of him playing a physical game in the process. He’s a good contributor at 5 on 5 ice time but has had an issue of taking some bad penalties and serving some suspensions. Granted all players do mature, and if the Leafs want a player to perhaps slot with Jake Muzzin on a shutdown pairing line, Gudas definitely fits the mold.
This one is going to be fun. Hamonic is a player that hockey fans were clamouring over years ago. He was a highly touted right shot defender that played a great two-way game that many teams value. Unfortunately, he has not had the best few years in Calgary.
The Leafs were linked to be in on Hamonic back in 2017 but were outbid by the Calgary at the 2017 Draft. Considering Hamonic is a native of Manitoba, perhaps his preference could be to stick in Western Canada. However, given his service as a defensive-minded player, he would make an exceptionally great fit with Toronto. It also gives John Tavares a little bit of familiarity as the 2 played in Long Island together for 7 seasons.
Tanev is a player that Leaf fans have wanted for a few seasons now. If you ask a general Leaf fan, he checks all the boxes. A right-handed shot, Hometown boy, good penalty killer. Tanev has the tools to be a solid top-4 defence option to play in Toronto. Tanev’s been a defender that the Canucks value a lot in their system and will be aggressive in resigning him, but don’t count Toronto out of this equation yet. Kyle Dubas has proven he is full of surprises as GM of the Leafs, could this be another one?
Tanev has stated that resigning with the Canucks will be his top priority, however Toronto has stated how they want to be tougher to play against. A veteren right shot defender may be exactly what the doctor ordered for one of Muzzin or Rielly to play with.
It’s not for certain the Leafs are going to sign one, if not more of these players. Given the necessity of retooling the defence, it is crucial to make a splash. 16 seasons without advancing past the first round shows that big changes need to be made, despite the elite core this team has up front on offence.
Kyle Dubas has a lot of work to do in the coming weeks. Free agency opens this Friday October 9th at 12 pm EST. Hold onto your caps folks, its going to get extra bumpy!