The Trade the Toronto Maple Leafs Need to Make

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 04: Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Kasperi Kapanen (24) skates during the warm-up before a game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Toronto Maple Leafs on April 04, 2019, at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario Canada. (Photo by Nick Turchiaro/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 04: Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Kasperi Kapanen (24) skates during the warm-up before a game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Toronto Maple Leafs on April 04, 2019, at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario Canada. (Photo by Nick Turchiaro/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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The Toronto Maple Leafs could use an upgrade on right-defense.

If you follow the Toronto Maple Leafs, then you know this. It is – by far – the most frequently sited need that the team has.

The Leafs dressed Ron Hainsey, Nikita Zaitsev and Igor Ozhiganov as their most regular right side lineup last season.

Hainsey is a UFA and needs to retire.  Zaitsev is terrible, misused in the top four and his contract must be exiled. Ozhiganov has already gone back to the KHL.

If the Leafs are going to replacing their entire right-side, they’re going to need some new right handed players.

Complicating things is that the players most ready to step into the NHL next year – Calle Rosen, Rasmus Sandin and Andreas Borgman – are all left handed.

So what should the Leafs do? Make a trade, of course.

Toronto Maple Leafs Trade Target

The Leafs don’t just need right handed shots, they could use someone who is tough and can hit (but who can also move the puck).

Currently only Jake Muzzin provides any kind of grit on the back-end, and those internal options previously mentioned do not provide much of it either.

Now, just because I am on record saying that the Leafs should ice as highly skilled a team as possible, and that they shouldn’t target players specifically for their grit, doesn’t mean it’s not a good thing to have.

If a player can play the game, and he can do it while making it harder for the other team, I’m all for it.

Enter Josh Manson.

Manson makes $4.1 million and is signed for next season and two more after that. His salary is a bargain, much like Muzzin’s.  Manson is 27 years old, and while he can move the puck and chip in offensively, he is an excellent defender.

He would be the ideal partner for Morgan Rielly.

Since the Ducks are rebuilding, and have way too much money committed for a team with virtually no chance at making the playoffs next year, and since Manson probably won’t be able to help them much when they finally are good again, it makes sense that he would be available.

If so, the Leafs should be all over him.

I would prefer to get the deal done with prospects and future draft picks, but if necessary, I’d include Kasperi Kapanen (but not Andreas Johnsson) to make this happen.  The Leafs are deeper on the right-side and Johnsson has much higher potential. (Plus he already scores at a first line rate, and Kapanen does not).

Manson is an above average passer, a decent shot creator, and a great defender.  He is phsycial, but not at the expense of the play (like Roman Polak).  In short, he is exactly the type of “defensive” defenseman who works in today’s NHL.

Next. Leafs Top 10 Prospects 2019. dark

The salary might be prohibitive, but if the Leafs can move Marleau, Zaitsev, Brown, they’ve got a ton of options. Additionally, if Bracco and their recent KHL signing Iilya Mikhalev make Kapanen expendable, there’s even more money available.

I think adding Josh Manson to a team with Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin and Travis Dermott would be excellent, and give the Leafs one of the best top-fours in the NHL.