2 Pending Free Agents the Toronto Maple Leafs Have To Sign

Two Defensemen The Toronto Maple Leafs Need To Sign
Two Defensemen The Toronto Maple Leafs Need To Sign / Claus Andersen/GettyImages

Well, the decision was made… Sheldon Keefe has been fired, and the Toronto Maple Leafs will be looking for a new head coach for the 2024-2025 NHL season.

After an entertaining Friday Morning Press Conference, it looks like Brendan Shanahan and Brad Treliving will likely be around to run the Toronto Maple Leafs for at least one more season. 

While we continue speculating who the Maple Leafs new coach will be, it is a moot point.

The coach was never the issue with this team; their rosters have always been fatally flawed, and last year was the same. 

2 Pending Free Agents the Toronto Maple Leafs Have To Sign

This past season, that fatal flaw was horrible puck movement from their defensemen, as they had the fourth-most defensive zone giveaways in the NHL (via MoneyPuck). So, with all the corporate dust settling, let's talk about players.

Here are two pending free-agent NHL defensemen that would solve all of the Maple Leafs' defensive issues:

Brandon Montour

Now, I'll be the first to admit, this one may be a bit of a fantasy. Montour has been the Panthers' best defenseman over the last two seasons, and I find it hard to believe that they will let him walk away at the end of the season. 

Regardless of what I think, Montour has not signed an extension with the team, and there has been little talk regarding negotiations between the Panthers and Montour. Maybe that is because Montour, who was born in Brantford, Ontario, has been watching what a disaster the Maple Leafs blueline has been and is holding out on the Panthers to see if he can work out a deal to come back home and play in front of friends and family. 

While Montour may come at a steeper price, he has been one of the better offensive defensemen in recent years, ranking inside the top 20 in points and fifth in individual expected goals by defensemen over the last three years (via NaturalStatTrick). Despite his offensive production taking a hit this past season from his point total in the 2022-23 season, Montour still ranked in the top two per cent of defensemen in on-ice scoring chances and in the top 13 per cent in offensive chance contributions (via JFreshHockey). 

In addition, Montour made some significant strides forward on the defensive end this season, improving his defensive wins-above-replacement (WAR) percentile by 25 percent. But the biggest reason the Leafs need to look at Montour is his puck retrieval skills. 

Last year, Montour ranked among the top one percent of defensemen in retrieval success percentage. He reads the forecheck pressure exceptionally well and knows when to make a quick outlet pass or take a minute and skate with the puck. Montour would also bring some much-welcomed speed to this blue line. Although he doesn't fit the Brad Trelving mould for a defenseman, Montour would be a massive difference-maker for this defensive core. 

Brett Pesce

Pesce is not as dynamic offensively as Montour. However, they still ranked in the top 26 percent of defensemen in offensive WAR this season. But Pesce's offensive game isn't really what I want to discuss here because I see him as the perfect fit to play alongside Morgan Reilly. 

Over the last three seasons, Pesce has improved his defensive WAR every year. He'll pair well with Reilly because Pesce ranked among the top defensemen in the entry denial rate and the top four percent of defensemen in possession entry prevention. Pesce would be a fantastic safety blanket alongside Morgan Reilly, who likes to jump up and roam on the offensive end to help create scoring chances. 

In addition to being a great safety blanket for Reilly, Pesce is phenomenal on his own end. He has the 15th most takeaways among defensemen over the last three years. He has taken the puck away almost twice as often as he has given it away.  Plus he can move the puck too.


Pesce also ranked among the top seven percent of defensemen in retrieval success and the top 17 per cent in exit success rate. Pesce will likely come with a price tag north of five million annually. Still, he would be worth every penny to get a reliable, defensive-minded puck mover to play beside Reilly.