With the second half of the season underway, how can the Maple Leafs assess arguably their biggest issue: Defense.
It’s been a topic that the media has been on for a long time. How can the Toronto Maple Leafs fix their defense core? While there are some really great options internally that we have seen such as Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Lilijgren, but not much else has given them the stability they need. With less than a month until the trade deadline, here are a few names who I think the Leafs should inquire about acquiring:
Here is the name of a player who I feel the Leafs could have a good chance of getting. This Saturday on Hockey Night in Canada we heard Elliotte Friedman say that the Anaheim Ducks are interested in taking on salaries from teams looking to clear cap space.
Josh Manson, 28, is currently sitting on just 3 points this season in 27 games and has battled injuries this season. In seasons past he has had great success scoring 37 points in 80 games back in the 2017-18 season. Manson is a key penalty-killing member of the team and has been for multiple seasons.
Given that the Ducks record currently sits 30th overall in the league with a record of 17-24-5 in 46 games. Clearly not a playoff team already, they are also the second-worst in goals for on the season with only 116 total goals. The team needs some goal scoring and I believe the Leafs can help.
When assessing what the Leafs need to give up, many agree that Cody Ceci would be a name to give up. Ceci, 26, has 7 points in 46 games this season and currently is making $4.5 million for the remainder of the season. A contract that many would like to be removed from the team sooner rather than later.
I envision Ceci going to Anaheim as he is only under contract for the remainder of the year, as well I see a prospect such as Jeremy Bracco going the other way.
Bracco has been a great scorer at the AHL level with 29 points in 37 games this season (79 points in 75 games last year.) He would be a great player to help kick start the abysmal offense the Ducks have been icing this year.
A little over a month ago, Zach Bogosian requested a trade out of Buffalo. It was a shock considering Buffalo’s record, but as of late it has not been so hot. The Buffalo Sabres may not be out of the playoff hunt yet, but their inconsistencies may end up costing them. Bogosian is interesting, a former 3rd overall pick in 2008, 2 picks after Steven Stamkos and Drew Doughty.
With only 16 games under his belt this season, Bogosian has only played a total of 99 games over the last 3 seasons due to injuries. Now, of course, the Sabres may be hesitant to trade with their divisional rivals, however, it could benefit Buffalo who really needs to stock up on future assets. Secondary scoring is crucial for the team, so we could see them inquire about Leaf forwards Kasperi Kapanen or Andreas Johnsson, both of whom are on affordable deals with the term.
Bogosian plays solid in his own zone and in addition, has some size and toughness. A pairing with Jake Muzzin could be a step up from Muzzins defense partners of Tyson Barrie and Justin Holl. If acquired, it could turn into a very effective shutdown pairing for Toronto. Of course, there is the possibility of Collin Miller as well who Leaf fans do desire, but the asking price may be more given the term he has left on his deal (2 more years at $3.88 million)
I know what many of you are thinking. Why Alex Biega? Well, why not? Biega is a cheap effective defenceman in the right role and I believe could be a decent contributor to this team. Of course, the name is not as flashy as saying Alex Pietrangelo but based on what is doable this is more than likely to pull off. With only a point in 24 games with the dead last Detroit Red Wings this season, he did pull off a solid 25 points in 85 games over 2 seasons in Vancouver.
Why Biega exactly? Well in the playoffs you always want to add cheap depth, at just $850,000 Biega can fit on a cap-strapped Leaf team. This may not also be likely, but he can be a sleeper to have a longer role with this Leafs team. For example, the Washington Capitals added Michal Kempny in 2018 for their run to the Stanley Cup and he played over 30 minutes a night in an extended role. Although the Leafs have people who can play well in their own end, having a body like Biega in their bottom 6 will help them in a bigger way than many think. Ideally, if the team is at 100% come playoff time, I could see him in a role alongside Travis Dermott on the bottom pair and seeing some penalty kill time along with Jake Muzzin.
In short, there are a ton of defencemen that the Leafs can look at adding over the course of the next month before the trade deadline hits. Is there a name that I may have missed that is likely of happening? Perhaps. However, the days are still young and in the NHL, we know that anyone can be traded. It’s just a matter of when.
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