Trade Targets Toronto Maple Leafs Should Consider for a Playoff Push
If the backbone of the best NHL teams are made of size and skill down the middle, a deep defence corps and great goaltending, the Leafs need some additional pieces.
The goaltending situation is excellent. However, the team could use at least one more solid NHL defender and another quality pivot. The main issue is that the club does not have any wiggle room with the salary cap, so it would need to send some roster players the other way to make a trade possible.
Let's take a look at some players who could be targets for the Leafs as the trade deadline hits. Weigh in with your thoughts on these players and others.
All stats can be found on NHL.com unless otherwise noted.
Tom Gilbert, D, Florida Panthers
Tom Gilbert has the skills and poise to be more than a depth defender with the Leafs. He could move into the top-four and help solidify the play of one of the current puck-movers.
He could even be paired with Dion Phaneuf occasionally to ease the burden on Carl Gunnarsson, who seems stretched at times as the Leafs' No. 2 defender.
The Minnesota native has 27 points this season, and his Corsi percentage is at 53 percent on a poor team. The Leafs would have to move players to get him, but adding a quality defender would be a very good move.
Gilbert could also be more than a rental player, which could be appealing to general manager Dave Nonis.
Nick Schultz, D, Edmonton Oilers
While Nick Schultz has not been lights out in Edmonton, he could have a similar steadying influence on the Leafs blue line that veteran Tim Gleason has had. He has just four points this season, but he wouldn't be needed for his offensive output.
Schultz wouldn't be capable of playing the same number of minutes as Gilbert, but Schultz can play a defensive game that is focused on his own end. The Leafs have few issues in the offensive zone on most nights, but team defence has been an acute concern for months now.
The Leafs have some very mobile defenders, but they are young and inexperienced. Schultz could be a big help on the bottom pairing and in the dying minutes of games when the Leafs need some poise in their own end.
Matt Greene, D, Los Angeles Kings
Los Angeles Kings rearguard Matt Greene could be another solid addition for the Leafs. He's not fleet of foot, but his defence-first approach would be welcomed in Hogtown.
Greene could have a positive effect beyond his own play in that he could free up other, more mobile defenders to play their offensive games.
He is battle-hardened and has a Stanley Cup ring, which would make him very valuable in Toronto in the coming months. He has six points and 43 penalty minutes with Los Angeles this year. But he has had concussion issues, which are obviously a concern for both the player and a prospective trade partner.
There is no razzle-dazzle in Greene's game, but that is the last thing that Toronto needs on their blue line right now. He could be a key addition against heavy Eastern Conference teams like the Boston Bruins.
Paul Stastny, C, Colorado Avalanche
With David Bolland still out of the lineup, the Leafs continue to be weak at the centre-ice position. While Nazem Kadri has played well in stretches, if Tyler Bozak isn't producing, the Leafs don't receive much from their centres.
Stastny has 19 goals and 46 points thus far in 2013-14.
Bozak's chemistry with James van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel is well known; however, seeing the wingers paired with Paul Stastny would be an interesting move. Again, as with other potential trade targets, the Leafs might have to give up too much to get the American Olympian. At least inquiring does not cost GM Dave Nonis anything.
Whether or not Stastny could be both a short-term and a long-term solution at centre would be an issue given Stastny's expiring contract. He's got some limited playoff experience that could be helpful on this young Leafs squad.
Ryan Kesler, C, Vancouver Canucks
Vancouver centre Ryan Kesler could be another good fit in Toronto. He's played in some huge games at both the NHL and international levels, he's one of the better two-way centres in the game and he'd go a long way in improving the Leafs' defensive play.
As with Stastny, the asking price is likely very steep, and there is the complicating factor that he may not want to move to another Canadian team, according to Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos.
Who knows if the enticement of playing with fellow Olympians Kessel and van Riemsdyk could be a deal-maker? That trio would be a handful in the playoffs against some of the powerhouse Eastern Conference teams. Using him in a shutdown role and getting some timely goals would be a huge boost to the Leafs' chances.
This trade is a long shot at best, but it carries the most intrigue of several potential deals.