One team that is among those heavily mentioned in recent NHL trade rumors is the Toronto Maple Leafs. There is speculation that the team could be trying to address several glaring needs ahead of the NHL trade deadline. In particular, they need help defensively, and also help to keep leads late in their games, one report suggests. That could mean adding a key player such as Ryan McDonagh of the New York Rangers, Mike Green from the Detroit Red Wings, or one of several other available players. There's also Jack Johnson who is wanting out of his current situation and that could play into the Leafs' hands nicely.
This past Friday, TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger indicated that a player the Maple Leafs may have inquired about already is Jack Johnson. The Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman recently was reported to have requested a trade and also has had his share of financial issues, which could lead to a trade to the Leafs. Dredger said he'd be "shocked" if the Leafs hadn't already called about Johnson, but added "what Toronto needs is a solid No. 5" player in terms of defense. Dreger said that player could pop up on the Maple Leafs' radar between now and the deadline.
The Sporting News' Lyle Richardson recently presented a number of players being speculated about that the Toronto Maple Leafs might want to add to their lineup. They include New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh, Colorado Avalanche player Tyson Barrie, Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson, Mike Green of the Red Wings, or Vancouver Canucks' defenseman Erik Gudbranson. Some of those players bring with them better skills, although some have unique situations in terms of what Toronto would need to give up to acquire them. There's also the cost factor, with some teams looking to keep things lighter on the pocketbook going forward, if possible.
Since their younger players like Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner are set to sign new contracts in a year, that could limit what Toronto does in terms of acquiring a pricier player from the trade list. Both Matthews and Marner will be getting paid for their contributions. That could cross Barrie off the list, while McDonagh may not be a player that the Leafs go after due to the fact he'll also want a raise as an unrestricted free agent soon.It's mentioned that the Red Wings' Mike Green could be ideal, but he's probably on a few team's wish list right now who have more to offer. The Canucks' Erik Gudbranson may present the best deal in terms of cost efficiency. He's been listed by many reports including Fansided's The Canuck Way as one of the team's top trade candidates along with Thomas Vanek. The 6-foot-5 Gubranson has spent seven seasons in the league, with his first five as a member of the Florida Panthers.
While he's not known for scoring or playmaking, his ability to play "shutdown defense" could be just what Toronto needs to make a push into the playoffs, and they could get him at a good price to help their cause.
As of this report, the Toronto Maple Leafs are 28-18-5 in the Atlantic Division standings, which has them five points behind the Boston Bruins for second place and 10 points behind division leaders, Tampa Bay. With just under a month until the February 28th trade deadline, there's a lot of decisions for Toronto to weigh in terms of their playoff chances this season and their outlook for the future.