With the NHL trade deadline rapidly approaching, the Toronto Maple Leafs are caught with arguably one of the weaker defensive cores in the National Hockey League.
Yes, you read that correctly. Look, if we are being honest, I feel that this is something fans of the team have noticed is an area that needs considerable improvement compared to the other aspects of this Frankenstien esque line-up. Throughout this article, I will highlight some key defensive additions the Toronto Maple Leafs could (and should) make that will help strengthen the back end come playoffs.
The Leafs defensive unit has been inconsistent from the beginning of the season (and some may even argue earlier than this). With injuries plaging the lineup, defensive pairings that make you question the sanity of Sheldon Keefe, and the noticeable lack of skill on the defensive side of the puck. Toronto is in desperate need of a defensive makeover.
Here are some options the Maple Leafs could explore to help either support the current top pairing or add more depth to the lineup.
How the Toronto Maple Leafs Can Fix Their Blue-Line
Noah Hanifin. Hanifin, who has been a cornerstone for the Calgary Flames defensive core the past few seasons is currently being paid $4.95 million.
In addition to this, Hanifin’s contract does include a modified no-trade clause therefore meaning he would indeed have to waive this before a trade even materializes. Despite the Flames below average season, Hanifin does she glimpses of elite defensive skills. The 6'3" defenceman's exceptional skating ability, hockey IQ, and precise stickwork make him a reasonable addition to the Toronto blue line that would add more NHL experience.
Christopher Tanev. Another flame that makes just south of $5 Million, ($4.5 million with a modified no-trade clause) Tanev is a seasoned defenseman for the Flames with some formidable defensive statistics. Tanev's defensive capabilities are showcased through his shot-blocking expertise, physicality, and disciplined positioning. The veteran's leadership and calm demeanor under pressure could help bolster Toronto's defensive core. Tanev (in my opinion) would be a perfect fit for the Maple Leafs.
Sean Walker. Signed at $2.65 million, is a Philadelphia Flyers defenseman celebrated for his tenacious defensive skills. Walker's agile skating, shot-blocking proficiency, and strong positional play make him a reliable force on the blue line. His defensive acumen, coupled with a burgeoning offensive game, positions him as a key contributor to the Flyers' defensive stability.
With Philadelphia being so close to making the playoffs, I highly doubt they would consider trading Walker, however, everyone has a price.
Overall, these defensive options (whether they are fully realistic or not) could help the Leafs make their final push for the playoffs and still (somewhat) allow them to make other moves within their budget. If you have not yet read my goaltending trade deadline article, you can find that here. If you have suggestions about who you think should be playing for the Leafs as they enter into the final stretch, tweet me (@ShowtimeWagon) and let me know!