The Toronto Maple Leafs failed to address their lack of experienced blueline depth at the recent NHL trade deadline. Sportsnet’s Luke Fox doubts GM Kyle Dubas will go into next season with Justin Holl and Timothy Liljegren patrolling the right side.
With the deadline passed, Fox examined some off-season options for the Leafs via the free-agent market. The St. Louis Blues’ Alex Pietrangelo topped the list, followed by second-tier rearguards such as the Carolina Hurricanes’ Sami Vatanen, Calgary Flames’ Travis Hamonic and Vancouver Canucks’ Chris Tanev. He pointed out the Leafs expressed interest in Hamonic and Tanev earlier in the season.
The Blues and Pietrangelo discussed a contract extension earlier in the season, but put those talks on hold until after the playoffs. He could command over $9 million annually on a long-term deal if he tests the open market. With more than $77 million invested in 16 players next season, the Leafs can’t afford him unless Dubas sheds some salary.
Fox speculated the Leafs’ limited cap space and the lack of quality blueline UFA depth could push Dubas into the trade market. Options could include the Minnesota Wild’s Matt Dumba, Anaheim Ducks’ Josh Manson, Canucks’ Troy Stecher and Buffalo Sabres’ Brandon Montour and Rasmus Ristolainen. Dumba, Manson and Ristolainen each carry annual average values exceeding $4 million. Montour ($3.38 million) and Stecher ($2.35 million) would be more affordable. The Leafs were linked to Stecher leading up to the trade deadline, so perhaps there’s an affordable fit there.
Leafs forwards Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson and Alexander Kerfoot carry annual average values between $3.2 million and $3.5 million. They frequently surfaced in the rumor mill this season as potential trade bait for a defenseman. One could be shopped this summer.
FLEURY OR LEHNER?
The Vegas Golden Knights usually don’t like to peddle away assets for a playoff rental. They made an exception for Robin Lehner, acquiring him from the Chicago Blackhawks on deadline day.
Golden Knights GM Kelly McCrimmon said the move was made to shore up his club’s backup goaltending. The Las Vegas Sun’s Justin Emerson wondered if the move could have long-term implications. Marc-Andre Fleury seems entrenched as the Golden Knights’ starter. The face of the franchise, he’s under contract for two more seasons with a 10-team no-trade clause. However, the 28-year-old Lehner is younger than the 35-year-old Fleury and has better stats this season.
Emerson pondered the possibility of the Golden Knights re-signing Lehner and trading Fleury, though he acknowledged that seems unlikely. But if Lehner outplays Fleury down the stretch and takes over the starter’s job in the playoffs, that scenario won’t seem so far-fetched.
ANDERSON TRADE SPECULATION CONTINUES
Last Monday’s NHL trade deadline passed with Josh Anderson still a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets. The 25-year-old winger was the subject of frequent media trade chatter leading up to deadline day.
Sidelined since December with a shoulder injury, interested clubs were unlikely to part with assets unless they were assured Anderson would return to action soon. While he wasn’t moved at the deadline, he remains fodder for off-season speculation.
TSN’s Pierre LeBrun last Thursday suggested Anderson could be dealt this summer. He’s a restricted free agent this summer with arbitration rights who’s also a year away from UFA eligibility. Since LeBrun’s report, Anderson underwent season-ending shoulder surgery with an estimated recovery period of four-to-six months. Combine that with his contract status and it could hurt his value in this summer’s trade market.
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