Maple Leafs actively searching for right-shot defenceman

The Hockey Night in Canada panel looks at the biggest news around the league, with the Ottawa Senators apparently offering a contract to Matt Duchene and the Maple Leafs on the hunt for another defenceman.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are on the hunt for help on the blue line.

More specifically, they’re looking for a right-shot rearguard — a position that, as Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos says, comes “at a premium.”

“Certainly the Leafs are looking for one,” Kypreos said during Saturday’s Headlines segment on Hockey Night in Canada. “In terms of what they’re looking for, the problem is if you’re going to go after a top four — and we mentioned [Blues’ defenceman Alex] Pietrangelo months ago, and it’s debatable whether he’s still available but they are perhaps, the St. Louis Blues, two or three or four-game losing streaks away from making him available — they’re expensive. Extremely expensive.”

As Kypreos references, Pietrangelo’s name has been floated around Leafs Nation as a potential target for the team. The 29-year-old Blues captain and native of King City, Ont., is under contract for one more full season at a relatively affordable $6.5-million cap hit and would bring a significant boost to any blue line as well as some veteran expertise. The struggling Blues, currently four points outside of the second wild card spot in the west, are looking like they’re in a position to sell.

It’s unclear who, exactly, the Maple Leafs might be able to offer in exchange for a defenceman, but Kypreos floated a few possible trade chips the club could potentially play with as the Feb. 25 trade deadline looms on the horizon.

“I think if the Leafs could put a package together without upsetting their current roster, they would do that,” he said. “So what does that mean? We’ve mentioned their first-rounder available, perhaps 2017 they drafted Timothy Liljegren, he would be available.

“Could they package some of the prospects on the Marlies?” Kypreos continued, naming Jeremy Bracco as an example. “Their best defenceman that a lot of teams think is ready, is Calle Rosen.”

Kapanen’s not for sale

“They don’t want to part with their [2018] first-rounder in Rasmus Sandin or Kasperi Kapanen,” Kypreos said. “Everybody’s asking for Kapanen, and right now I don’t think the Leafs feel like they can give him up.”

Kapanen, 22, figured more prominently in the Maple Leafs’ lineup this season thanks in part to William Nylander’s absence during his contract talks in the fall, and he took full advantage of the opportunity. The speedy forward has 15 goals and 30 points to his name in 47 games this year.

“I think as a matter of fact, there were a couple of teams that said that they did ask about Kapanen and they were told ‘no sale,'” said Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

So, who else might the Maple Leafs target? As mentioned above, right-handed rearguards can be tough to find — and pricey once you do. Friedman suggested an alternative route:

“I think the other thing is, if they do decide they don’t like right-handed options or what the cost is, I do think they will look at at least one left-handed option — and that is Jake Muzzin,” he said.

Muzzin, 29, is under contract with the Los Angeles Kings through 2019-20 with a team-friendly cap hit of $4 million.

“Another name I keep hearing is Radko Gudas from the Philadelphia Flyers,” said Kypreos. “A lot of teams telling me, arguably, he might have been their most consistent defenceman up until this point. He could replace a guy like Roman Polak who last year offered [Toronto] a lot of grit.”


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