The Toronto Maple Leafs find themselves in a very tough situation this season. There are questions regarding where their season should go. If the team should see where the talent takes them and add some depth, or if they should go out and try and add key pieces to help win the Stanley Cup. Many in Leafs Nation are wondering what the Maple Leafs would be willing to trade if they had a deal in place. Would they be willing to part with their first-round pick?
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According to Elliotte Freidman of the 32 Thoughts Podcast, he talked about the likelihood of the Maple Leafs trading their first-round pick this season. He said, “Ultimately, I think they are prepared to do it, but what they are trying to figure out is if they can use it to pack a bit more of a punch than just a first pick for a rental.” He then went on to talk about Nikita Zadorov and Chris Tanev and how the Maple Leafs had an interest in both players. He stated, “For example, when they were trying to get both Zadorov and Tanev from Calgary, I believe their first-round pick was there. They were prepared to do it to get two players and see if they could sign them.” He ends the segment by speculating who he thinks they could look at alongside Tanev; he says, “Is it Hanifin, or Markstrom, or is it someone else?”
Friedman had some good insight about where Maple Leafs general manager (GM) Brad Treliving is in his process of looking to acquire players to help his team. It’s no surprise that he is interested in players from the Calgary Flames, more specifically defencemen from that organization. It also tells us that he is going to exercise caution when looking to trade his first-round pick this season. Knowing this now, let’s look at a trade package where he should move his most prized draft pick.
Tanev Trade Package Makes Sense
Tanev has been linked to the Maple Leafs quite a few times this season. It makes sense on paper; he is a right-handed shot and plays extremely physically. That is exactly what the blue line needs. They have Jake McCabe and Simon Benoit, who are deemed their most physical defencemen at the moment. However, they would benefit from bringing in someone who can play regularly in their top four. Tanev would be ideal, but he can’t be the only addition if the club thinks they will make a run for the Cup. If the Maple Leafs are willing to sell off their first-round pick, the return package will need to include more than just Tanev. A few names that interest the fan base of the Maple Leafs are Noah Hanifin and Blake Coleman.
The Maple Leafs don’t have any second-round draft choices for the next three seasons, which means they would most likely need to up the price to a first-rounder to get a deal done. However, this would leave the club with only one pick in the first two rounds over the next three seasons. Due to this, the Maple Leafs would be smart to target Hanifin alongside Tanev. Adding two defencemen on the blue line would be extremely helpful to a team that struggles this much at protecting their net.
Although it would cost a lot to get this deal done, it would give the Maple Leafs a reason to add in their first-round pick. The other pieces in the deal going to the Flames could include Nick Robertson, Nick Abruzesse, or Alex Steeves, among others. In terms of the cap being moved to make the deal work, it could include T.J. Brodie, David Kampf, or even Ilya Samsonov, all of whose cap hits are over $2.5 million per season. This deal would have a lot of moving parts and could end up being the biggest trade of the 2024 NHL Trade Deadline. It could also be the next biggest trade between the Flames and Maple Leafs since the Dion Phaneuf trade in 2010.
Overall, the Maple Leafs do have options as to who they could acquire for their first-round pick. However, they need to weigh their options to see which team they can get the most from. There are a few other teams that could acquire a defenceman and forward or two defencemen, such as the Arizona Coyotes and San Jose Sharks. I do believe that Treliving would prefer to target some of his former Flames blueliners to help his current club make a run for the Stanley Cup.