Toronto Maple Leafs 2024 Trade Deadline Needs

2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Round One
2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Round One / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages
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Toronto Maple Leafs 2024 Trade Dealine Needs: Defence

As evidenced by the names the club is rumoured to be in on and Treliving's comments, the blueline is something that must be addressed.

The season-ending injury to John Klingberg made this situation all the more dire after Treliving allocated north of $4 million to the Swedish blueliner in the off-season. Although other free agent acquisitions, Simon Benoit and William Lagesson have stepped up admirably in his place, they aren't the players that a team wants to enter a deep playoff run with in their top-four. This is especially true with the well-documented decline in play of T.J. Brodie this season.

There are a few options that the team has in order to address the blueline. One option would be to promote Timothy Liljegren to the top-four, at this stage he is more than deserving. This of course has already happened, as Liljegren has excelled at the top of the lineup during Rielly's suspension, but is it permanent?

The two best pairings that have played over 100 minutes at 5-on-5 according to moneypuck's xG model feature Liljegren. Both the Giordano-Liljegren and McCabe-Liljegren pairings are the only ones that produce positive xG% results.

Also of note, in Rielly's absence due to his suspension he has been paired with Brodie and they have seen positive results in their relatively limited minutes. It is about time Liljegren becomes a top-four staple. This will not only help the team on the ice but it will help to lower the acquisition cost of adding a defender at the deadline as they won't be forced to find a defenceman to play in the top two pairs.

One wrinkle that would make this all moot is if Treliving and Co. decide to move on from Brodie before his contract expires at the end of this season. This could make sense if the Leafs don't plan to re-sign Brodie, as a way to reallocate his $5 million caphit to upgrade the team. This deal would only make sense in specific circumstances and the team would have to be willing to not only absorb the caphit but also the remainder of his $7.5 million salary he is paid this season.

Regardless of the level of defender the Leafs are looking to acquire, they will definitely need to find an upgrade. At this point, the handedness does not matter as they could find fits on either the left or right side, however it will likely be the right given their current roster construction.