With the NHL trade deadline just over a week away, the rumour mill has been in full swing with the latest predictions on which players will be moved and to where. The Maple Leafs got off to an early start by trading for Jake Muzzin over two weeks ago, and the early returns have been all that Leafs fans could have hoped for. It has vaulted the Leafs back into 2nd place in the NHL at the time of writing this article, but they are still 15 POINTS behind the league (and division) leader Tampa Bay Lightning, who are having a historic season. If the Leafs want to reach the Stanley Cup Final, the road will go through Tampa. So, what else do they need to add to take on this seemingly unstoppable Lightning team? I provide a few suggestions and mock trades below.
Michael Ferland & Brett Pesce
It’s hard to really gauge at this point if the Hurricanes will be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline. They currently sit three points out of a playoff spot and could realistically challenge for it. They could also look to move off some players to shake things up and provide the team with a boost. Two names really stand out to me on the Hurricanes: Micheal Ferland and Brett Pesce. I like Ferland a lot more than a guy like Wayne Simmonds. Ferland is still relatively young at 26 years of age (Simmonds is 30), provides some physicality for the forward group and produces with points. In 48 games played, Ferland has 31 points (15 goals, 16 assists), is +11 and has 38 penalty minutes. Pesce has attributes that I find appealing as a Leafs fan. He’s a right-handed shot, kills penalties and makes smart decisions with the puck, as evidenced by having more takeaways then giveaways (30 takeaways to 20 giveaways). As a reference, Jake Gardiner has lacked in this department this year, with 24 takeaways to 49 giveaways, and last year posted 39 takeaways compared to 105 giveaways. Granted, they both play different style of defence, but its nice to have that extra comfort with another defenseman. Pesce also sports a +18 and is currently carrying his highest shooting percentage of his career at 7.5%. Oh, and he’s also under contract until 2024 at $4.025 million.
These two players would both solve needs for the Maple Leafs, and if you can get them together it’s worth exploring. I have no doubt that the Hurricanes would ask for Andreas Johnsson in return, but if you could entice them with other options, it would be an avenue worth exploring.
Here is my mock trade:
TOR receives: Micheal Ferland and Brett Pesce
CAR receives: Nikita Zaitsev, Connor Brown, Jeremy Bracco, 2019 third-round pick, 2020 second-round pick
Just look at this picture. Does this look like the kind of guy you want to piss off? Probably not. The addition of Muzzin has been a welcome one because of the physicality that he brings, on top of the quality defence and steady offense. The Leafs could benefit from another physically imposing defenseman patrolling their blue line, and the name that often gets brought up is Gudas. Gudas doesn’t give you much offensively but is one of the more solid pure defensive defensemen in the entire league. In 55 games this year, he already has 182 hits, the most in the NHL by a defenseman. This would be a welcome bonus to a Leafs team who ranks 29th in the NHL in hits per game. I don’t think it will take much to pry Gudas out of Philly, who would be looking to recoup value for their assets.
Here is my mock trade:
TOR receives: Radko Gudas
PHI receives: Andreas Borgman, 2019 Blues fourth-round pick
Normally I would have one or two more trade packages to present, but with the Leafs current (and future) roster, cap restrictions as well as team needs, I don’t see any other trade package that would benefit the Leafs at this current time. Have a trade proposal that you want to present, or want to tweak one that I proposed? Let me know in the comments or follow me on Twitter or Instagram @TO_SportsViews to engage with me there.