The Toronto Maple Leafs Want 2 Top UFA Defensemen - Which 2 Should They Sign?

Toronto Maple Leafs Interested In Signing 2 UFA Defensemen In Free Agency
Toronto Maple Leafs Interested In Signing 2 UFA Defensemen In Free Agency / Claus Andersen/GettyImages
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The Two Defensemen The Maple Leafs Should Target In Free Agency

Brett Pesce

While there may be better or more skilled defencemen on the market, Pesce would be the perfect guy to pair with Morgan Reilly on the top pairing.

If you have spent any time watching the Maple Leafs over the last few years, you would see Reilly consistently jump up in a rush and roam a lot on the offensive end, looking to create offence. While this is a valuable asset in defencemen, it has hurt the Leafs over the years as they have never had a shutdown defensive defencemen.

Pesce is a perfect fit, ranking in the top five percent of defensemen in defensive zone entry denial rate, possession entry prevention rate, and defensive zone retrieval success rate (via JFreshHockey).

While he may not be an elite puck mover, he can consistently clear the puck from his end and contribute to the offence once in the offensive zone. His style of play aligns well with the Leafs' needs, making him a strong contender for the team.

The concern with Pesce is the terms of the contract. Friedman suggested that Pesce had turned down a five-year, five-million-dollar extension and said he thinks Pecse is looking for a deal closer to six years at six million dollars per year.

I do not have an issue with Pesce's asking price. Overpaying unrestricted free agents is just the nature of free agency in the NHL if you go after a highly touted player. But the Maple Leafs must be careful with the six years Pesce seeks.

Pesce will turn 30 about a month into this upcoming season; a six-year contract would take him into his age 36/37 season.

The Leafs have to be careful not to get into another T.J. Brodie situation, who made five million dollars and was one of the worst defensemen in the NHL. Pesce may not like it, but three to four years is the sweet spot for this contract.