The Toronto Maple Leafs didn’t land Nikita Zadorov but it appears that could be because they have their eyes on a different NHL defenseman.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are battered and bruised on the blueline, seeing injuries to John Klingberg, Mark Giordano, and Timothy Liljegren all at the same time.
It’s become very clear that the Leafs weakness is their defense.
It’s a group that desperately needs an upgrade.
A Toronto Maple Leafs Trade Appears to be on the Horizon
While many believed that the Calgary Flames had the pieces the Toronto Maple Leafs needed to bail them out, it seems as though Toronto has set its sights elsewhere. There is one specific player that the team is rumored to be targeting.
On TSN’s Insider Trading, Darren Dreger has reported that the Maple Leafs have been zeroing in on the Philadelphia defenseman Sean Walker. It seems as though this is who Toronto believes they need to help transform their team.
Sean Walker is a 29-year-old NHL veteran from the Greater Toronto Area. Currently in his sixth year in the league, Walker grew up just north of Toronto in Keswick, Ontario.
He played his AAA hockey for the York Simcoe Express before playing second-tier junior hockey. That allowed him to remain eligible to for his next career move of playing in the NCAA for Bowling Green State University. It has been an unusual route to the NHL.
According to Hockey Reference, in 70 games last season, Walker recorded three goals and 10 assists with the Los Angeles Kings.
He wasn’t considered an essential player last year with the Kings making him a healthy scratch multiple times.
There was a time where that was not the case. After Walker put together a 24 point campaign in 2020 (his first full year in the NHL), he was the second leading scorer behind only Drew Doughty on the Kings’ blue line. With high expectations for their talent, Los Angeles signed Walker to a four-year deal with an average annual value of $2.65 million.
Walker ended up on the Flyers as part of the three-team deal that sent Ivan Provorov to the Columbus Blue Jackets during last year’s Stanley Cup finals. With the Flyers continuing to rebuild, Walker has played a larger role than he had with the Kings and has helped turn himself into an asset that can net the organization draft picks or a prospect in a trade.
This season, Walker has so far played in 23 games, where he has registered four goals and seven assists. Walker plays on the second pairing in Philadelphia. He gets time on special teams, joining the second penalty killing unit. His coach, John Tortorella, has deployed Walker mostly on the defensive end, as 52.5 – per cent of his starts have been at the defensive end.
With strong possession metrics, a 53.6 Corsi rating at even strength, which is +4.7 relative to his team, the Maple Leafs can trust Walker to help add depth to their defensive unit.
According to Cap Friendly, this is Walker’s final year of his $2.65 million deal. That will see him become an unrestricted free agent unless an extension is signed. The Leafs would need to find a way to clear cap space to fit Walker, which could potentially worked into the trade with the Flyers.
Walker may not be the answer to all of the Leafs defensive deficiencies, but it could at least be a step in the right direction.