Toronto Maple Leafs: Under the Radar Free Agent Targets

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 4: Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas during interview with Bruce Arthur (Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 4: Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas during interview with Bruce Arthur (Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /
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Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto Maple Leafs – Kyle Dubas and Brendan Shanahan at the draft (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Chris Tanev

Joining the recent pattern of Toronto natives returning home, Chris Tanev could soon be added to that list.

The 6-foot-2, 197-pound defensemen, is one of the most underrated defensive defensemen in the NHL.

A veteran of 10 seasons in the NHL, Tanev has been a steady force, dominating on the Vancouver Canucks blueline. Consistently playing over 20 minutes a night, Tanev is an elite shot blocker, being credited with over 100 blocked shots in five different NHL seasons (stats courtesy of hockey-reference).

Many point to the fact Tanev is playing on a defense pair with Quinn Hughes, a highly talented, offensive defensemen, as to why he is enjoying a rejuvenated season this year. On his defense pairing, Tanev is allowed to play his preferred stay-at-home style of defense.

In Toronto, Tanev would surely be playing with the same highly talented, offensive defensemen in Morgan Rielly. The hope is the same success he has enjoyed with Hughes, Tanev would be able to replicate it with Rielly.

Willing to put his body on the line each and every night, Tanev is a fantastic teammate and perfect locker room veteran.

Unlike the players previously mentioned, Tanev has some offensive capabilities as well.

While never much of a point-producer, Tanev has above-average skating, decent puck-moving skills, and a powerful shot. Ranking in the upper end of the league in stick checking, defensive awareness, and body checking, Tanev might be the most prominent and skillful defensemen on this list.

Evolving Hockey Contract Projection: $3,286,000 x 3 years

Wild Card: Mark Pysyk

What a story this would be – the defensemen who played forward for the Florida Panthers against the Leafs, putting up a hattrick, later signs with that same team in free agency.

That positional versatility is what makes Mark Pysyk such an intriguing free agent option. He has the unique ability of playing both sides of the blueline and the adequate skills to be an effective fourth-line forward.

Often referred to as the “Toyota Prius” by his teammates, Pysyk was never out of place, mostly playing in the bottom 6, putting up 18 points, all at 5-on-5. The Panthers actually outscored their opponents at 5-on-5 with Pysyk on the ice (source; The Athletic).

At 6-foot-1 and 196 pounds, Pysyk would bring size to Toronto’s blueline.

Pysyk’s game is dull and lacks a certain level of flash the other players above him play with. He plays a more low-event style of defense and his game often leaves spectators a bit underwhelmed, but he is quite adept as a gap-control specialist.

In the minutes he has been used exclusively as a defensemen, Pysyk consistently posted strong 5-on-5 possession percentages and shot-suppression numbers. Plus, Kyle Dubas knows firsthand the struggles of a team when they take significant injury hits to depth players. With Pysyk, Toronto would be getting an effective defenseman and an insurance policy should their forward corps be decimated by injury.

Evolving Hockey Contract Projection: $2,718,000 x 3 years

dark. Next. Leafs Top 10 Prospects

While many Toronto Maple Leafs fans will call on Dubas to add a higher profile defender, it is more likely he opts for the under-the-radar options, prioritizing keeping the “Big Four” intact.