One pending unrestricted free agent the Maple Leafs can steal from their Atlantic Division rivals

The Toronto Maple Leafs could still use another player or two that will improve their defense for 2024-25, and they may not need to look far to improve their lineup.
Detroit Red Wings v Toronto Maple Leafs
Detroit Red Wings v Toronto Maple Leafs / Claus Andersen/GettyImages
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Dmitry Kulikov, Florida Panthers/Defenseman

Sometimes, rolling with a journeyman is the way to go, and Dmitry Kulikov has been a fixture for several NHL franchises since his first stint with the Florida Panthers between 2009 and 2016. Kulikov is an older player who has yet to hoist the Cup - though that could happen during his current stint with the Panthers. But if he doesn’t return to Sunrise next year, Kulikov would add more value than just as a hard-hitter to Toronto’s defense than Joel Edmundson or Ilya Lyubushkin. 

He won’t contribute a ton of offense, but his 54.0 Corsi For rating at 5-on-5 is something neither Lyubushkin nor Edmundson will ever attain. Like a few other players on this list, Kulikov will also help Toronto’s short-handed units. 

Tanner Pearson, Montreal Canadiens/Forward

Tanner Pearson hasn’t enjoyed anything close to an outstanding season with the Montreal Canadiens since he was acquired from the Vancouver Canucks. Overall, he’s not someone the Maple Leafs would want on their top-nine, but he would make for a serviceable bottom-three player or even a 13th or 14th forward. 

He’s more of a Tyson Jost type of player these days, perhaps a step down from the Sabres forward if this year holds any indication. That said, there have been times when Pearson has been a productive forward, logging between 40 and 45 points per season on three different occasions.