4. Chris Tanev
For the record, this list isn’t meant to be a ranking. I don’t think you can compare Tanev to getting an elite player, so keep in mind this is just a list and it’s written out in the order I wrote the players down.
Tanev may not be elite overall, but he has been an elite defensive player for years.
He’s 33, but apparently he’s still doing well.
He is winning his minutes and posting great numbers on the Calgary Flames, even though they are a terrible hockey team.
He is old though.
And he makes almost $4 million.
He would be a great upgrade over what most of what the Leafs are dressing, but they are also in need for an elite number-one (or at least number-two) top-pairing defenseman.
Tanev is most definitely not that.
But he would help the Leafs. He shoots right, and he would be an improvement over both Klingberg and the guy he replaced, the criminally underrated Justin Holl.
In fact, you could probably pair him with Morgan Rielly on the top pairing and he’d likely be better than TJ Brodie at this point. It’s not, however, a long-term solution, and it would likely cost too much.
The weird thing about the NHL is that you can often get star players on a discount because they have bad contracts. In a cap-league a non-star player would is very good and who is a pending UFA is, in some ways, more desirable and thus prohibitively expensive.
Smart teams look for deals and value, but at the same time, they must keep an eye out for any way to improve their team.
Tanev might be fairly expensive for a single year of a non-elite player, but he’d also let you move Brodie to the third pairing, and run Tanev-Liljegren-Brodie down the right side.
It’s not beautiful, but it’s way better than what the Leafs have currently, and since they already have to replace McCabe, Klingberg and Giordano, keeping Brodie in a lesser role while improving the top line might make the cost worthwhile.