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Pending UFA Defenceman For The Maple Leafs To Target

NHL Rumours

The Toronto Maple Leafs are looking to make some changes this summer. One thing they’ll look at is the pending UFA defencemen.

For several years, Morgan Rielly has been the number one defenceman of the Maple Leafs, as well as the longest-tenured member of the team. Throughout those seasons, Rielly has had multiple d-partners, however, none of them could solidify a top pairing role.

In recent years, Rielly spent a lot of ice time with Ilya Lyubushkin and T. J. Brodie. But, those two are pending UFA’s this summer, and it seems like Brodie will be seeking the open market.

In addition to that, Joel Edmundson and Mark Giordano are also pending UFA defencemen.

Although, there are some discussions that a member of the Leafs core could be moved this off-season and Rielly could very well be an asset. Until then, here are some defencemen that the Leafs could target in free agency.

Defenceman Free Agent Targets for Maple Leafs

Brandon Montour

One thing the Toronto Maple Leafs could use in their roster is players who can perform in the playoffs, and Brandon Montour is certainly that. In 47 playoff games for the Florida Panthers, Montour has put up 24 points as a defenceman. In the current playoff campaign, he has eight points in 10 games, including five in their series against the Boston Bruins.

The 30-year-old is known for his puck-moving ability and offensive instincts. With that, he’s solid defensively, plays a respectable physical game and made an appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals last season.

During last off-season, Leafs General Manager, Brad Treliving, signed offensive defenceman, John Klingberg to a one-year deal. After being appointed as GM, he noticed that there wasn’t much scoring coming from the blue line and he wanted to bolster that. Unfortunately, Klingberg suffered a hip injury early in the season that kept him on LTIR for the remainder of the season.

If Treliving still feels like some offensive production should be added to the back end, Montour will be a candidate.

However, the Brantford native will be looking at a great potential pay raise. He makes $3.5 million per year under his current contract and with the way he’s been playing recently, he could be making between $7-9 million a year in his next contract. The Maple Leafs will have to look for some room to make that signing happen.

Brett Pesce

With Brodie potentially not getting re-signed, the Leafs could use a shutdown defenceman to fill his skates. Brett Pesce has all the tools that could best fit a top pairing role on the Maple Leafs. He blocks shots, eats a ton of minutes and is a great penalty killer for the Carolina Hurricanes.

As a right-handed defenceman, and all these defensive qualities included, Pesce would be able to complement Rielly very well. In the 2018-2019 season, Rielly put up a career-best 20 goals and 72 points. This is an example of what Rielly can do when put in a position to succeed and with a new coach coming in and potentially a new partner, the outcomes are endless. If Rielly gets paired up with Pesce, he’ll be able to flap his wings on the offensive side.

Brady Skjei

Similar to Montour, Brady Skjei is another great offensively gifted player who is a pending UFA defenceman. He is currently the quarterback of the top powerplay unit on the Hurricanes. Like Montour, Skjei has been putting up great numbers these playoffs, he has nine points in 11 games.

Along with Pesce, it is a good idea to pursue Skjei in free agency because it is unlikely that the Hurricanes will be able to re-sign them. The Canes have many talented players who become UFAs in the summer. Jake Guentzel and Teuvo Teravainen as well as RFA’s Martin Necas, Seth Jarvis and Jack Drury will need attention on July 1st.

Nikita Zadorov

At 6’6 and 248 lbs, Nikita Zadorov could be a monstrous addition to Toronto’s blue line. The pending UFA defenceman has been a force for the majority of his career. However, since his trade to the Vancouver Canucks, he’s been stellar.

The talk amongst Leafs fans about the team is usually about how they’re not tough enough. Well, acquiring Zadorov will change that narrative in a second.

This potential deal would not be unrealistic by any means. GM Treliving and Zadorov have a history as they were both a part of the Calgary Flames organization just one season ago. Also, Treliving showed interest and pursued Zadorov after there was news about him filing a trade request. Therefore, there should be no surprise if there are Zadorov to Toronto rumours this off-season.

In addition to what he brings on the ice, his off-ice behaviour should not be ignored. Zadorov is a leader, unfazed by playing in Canadian markets. Previously in Calgary and now in Vancouver, he faces the media and is not afraid to speak the truth. He’s a player that wants to win above everything else, a great quality to have if you want to win the Stanley Cup.

Main Photo:  James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports


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