The Leafs and Flames have been linked in trade talks all season for a couple of reasons, namely because Calgary has the type of defencemen who could help the Leafs blueline, and all of them used to play for Toronto GM Brad Treliving when he ran that club up until last spring.
The Leafs reportedly had interest in Nikita Zadorov — the D-man Calgary GM Craig Conroy traded to the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday — but the player Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman really thinks the Buds could target in Cowtown is Chris Tanev.
Like Zadorov — and Flames defenceman Noah Hanifin, for that matter — Tanev is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent in July. And Friedman noted he’s not sure how hard Toronto will pursue pure rentals, given the team has just five regulation-time wins this season. That said, Tanev’s pending-UFA status might carry a bit of an asterisk in the eyes of Treliving.
“He’s a Toronto guy, Treliving signed him (in Calgary), I bet you he’ll have a good idea of what it will take to keep him (in Toronto),” Friedman said on the 32 Thoughts podcast. “That’s the one guy I think Toronto goes hard to get, because even if he’s acquired as a rental, I think they’re going to be pretty confident they can keep him. But we’ll see.”
Tanev, who turns 34 on Dec. 20, is a right-shot defenceman who counts for $4.5 million against the cap before any potential salary retention. The Leafs blueline is ailing, with Mark Giordano, Timothy Liljegren and John Klingberg all sidelined with injuries.
Tanev, meanwhile, demonstrated just this week why numerous teams could be interested in his services. On Monday, he took a puck to the face in a game versus Vegas and seemed as though he could be sidelined for a bit. Yet, there was No. 8 on Thursday, not only back in the lineup versus the Dallas Stars, but scoring his first goal of the season.
The Flames just happened to win both of those games against Vegas and Dallas in overtime. After a horrible start to the season, Calgary has come around and is nudging back into the playoff race.
That might prompt some to wonder if the Flames — who also have a big pending UFA up front in centre Elias Lindholm — will pump the brakes on any trade talk. However, Friedman believes the Zadorov deal indicates Calgary is still ready to field strong offers — offers that could be made all the better because the Flames still have all three salary-retention slots open after sending Zadorov to Vancouver with his full ticket.
“They’re in the race, they’ve played very well, they’re right around the wild-card spots and I think some teams thought that meant [maybe] the Flames are going to wait,” Friedman said. “This is a signal, no, they’re ready to talk, they’re ready to listen, if you want to do some business with them you better get on the phone and call.”
Maybe the next conversation is with the blue and white about a local boy.