As the Toronto Maple Leafs continue rebuilding with young talent, their defensive depth remains an area of concern. Entering Saturday's game against the Montreal Canadiens, they're giving up nearly 34 shot-against per game. That puts them among the league's worst, placing an unnecessary burden upon their goaltending.
During Wednesday's Leafs Lunch segment on TSN Radio, analyst Pierre LeBrun was asked about the possibility of the Leafs trading someone like left winger James van Riemsdyk for a defenseman. He feels at some point they'll want to bolster their blueline. If moving someone like the 27-year-old van Riemsdyk was the price to be paid, LeBrun doesn't dismiss the possibility.
LeBrun notes he has heard van Riemsdyk's name mentioned in the trade chatter. However, he speculates it could be something that's brought up when the March 1 trade deadline approaches.
Shopping van Riemsdyk would be a big move for the Leafs. With 17 points in as many games, he's their leading scorer and on pace for a career-best 82 points. As a big-bodied scoring winger (6-foot-3, 209 pounds) with a cap-friendly $4.25-million annual average salary, van Riemsdyk would certainly attract interest in the trade market.
If the Leafs were to consider that option, it's more likely to occur next summer, when teams have more cap room and the willingness to make significant deals. Should van Riemsdyk hit the trade block, the Anaheim Ducks could be a destination. They're loaded with skilled young defensemen and could use someone like van Riemsdyk on their top line.
LATEST ON BRANDON SAAD
Since being dealt from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Columbus Blue Jackets on June 30, 2015, left winger Brandon Saad has been playing well with his new club. In 2015-16, he tallied career highs in goals (31) and points (53). This season, the 24 year old has 12 points in 14 games and ranks among their top-five scorers.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman, however, wonders where things could go with Saad and the Jackets, noting the young winger was nearly a healthy scratch last week. He also points out the club's need to shed salary. Friedman also said the Blackhawks looked at reacquiring Saad last season but couldn't make it work.
Friedman follows up by saying he doesn't think there should be a “Saad trade watch.” He claims there's “zero evidence” Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen is shopping the winger and was merely curious about his status.
The Jackets gave up a lot to acquire Saad (four players, including center Artem Anisimov) and to sign (six years, $36 million). It would be most unusual to give up so quickly on such a skilled player.
ISLANDERS TRYING TO MAKE A DEAL?
The New York Islanders' ongoing struggles continue to generate trade chatter. On Wednesday, Newsday's Arthur Staple took to Twitter saying they're “trying hard to make a deal for a forward.”
Staple notes the Isles and Colorado Avalanche were recently scouting each other. However, he considers a roster-changing move for someone like Avs center Matt Duchene a long shot.
The Islanders have some promising players in Anthony Beauvillier, Mathew Barzal and Joshua Ho-Sang. Claiming other clubs covet those prospects, Staple wonders if Isles GM Garth Snow might part with one as part of a deal for a high-end forward.
Snow doesn't have much else to part with from his roster. Injuries have depleted their blueline depth, forwards Ryan Strome and Brock Nelson are struggling to score and there's little interest in veteran goalie Jaroslav Halak.
Finding sufficient cap room is also an issue, as the Isles are squeezed for cap space. Placing sidelined center Mikhail Grabovski ($5-million cap hit) on long-term injury reserve could help, but Snow will have to clear cap space should Grabovski return to action later this season.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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