NHL trade, free agent rumors: Five defensemen on Maple Leafs’ radar

Kyle Dubas made his big splash already this summer, signing free agent center John Tavares to a seven-year, $77 million contract. What he does next to bolster his team’s defense corps may be just as important for the Maple Leafs.

Dubas indicated last week in an interview on TSN Radio that he has confidence in the group currently on hand, but that does not mean the Leafs are not looking to improve a defensive corps that was considered the main cause of their first round loss to Boston.

“I’m probably more bullish on our defense than others,” Dubas said. “This year with Nikita Zaitsev being healthy, Ron Hainsey going into his second year with the team, Travis Dermott ascending from the Marlies and obviously we have Morgan (Rielly) and Jake (Gardiner) here. I like our defense.”

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The pursuit of a blueline upgrade is nothing new for the Leafs, who in Lou Lamoriello’s final year as GM lost the bidding war for Travis Hamonic to the Calgary Flames and was not willing to surrender a package of prospects and draft picks to match Tampa Bay’s offer for Ryan McDonagh.

With John Carlson re-signing in Washington, Mike Green re-signing in Detroit, Calgary and Carolina swapping Noah Hanifin for Dougie Hamilton and the Ottawa Senators likely unwillingness to trade Erik Karlsson to their greatest rival, Toronto’s options have been cut down to size, but with most of the summer left and nearly $16 Million in cap space for next season, here are five blueliners that the Leafs could be pursuing.  

Justin Faulk – Carolina Hurricanes

After averaging 16 goals the last three seasons, the former US Olympian had his lowest offensive production with 31 points (8 goals, 23 assists) in 2017-18. With the acquisition of Hamilton and signing of Calvin de Haan to go along with extensions for Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce last season, the Hurricanes invested nearly $20 Million in their top-two defensive pairings and also have blueline depth and prospects in Trevor van Riemsdyk, Haydn Fleury and 2016 first round pick Jake Bean.

Faulk who is a coveted right-hand shot, is under contract until 2020 at $4.833 Million and is being shopped as part of the Hurricanes roster reorganization under new owner Thomas Dundon.     

Jared Spurgeon – Minnesota Wild

The speedy and diminutive 28-year-old had 37 points (9 goals and 28 assists) in 61 games for the Wild last season and averaged more than 24 minutes per game.

Minnesota GM Paul Fenton has just under $10 Million in cap space to work with this summer and has to get restricted free agents Matt Dumba (who scored a career-best 50 points) and Jason Zucker (who led the Wild with 33 goals) re-signed, which may have him looking to jettison Spurgeon’s $5.187 Million cap hit.  

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One factor that could prevent a trade this summer is the status of veteran defenseman Ryan Suter, who suffered a severe ankle injury at the end of last season. Suter may start next year on long-term injured reserve and that would alleviate any cap crunch — and leave a big hole on the defense corps —  until he returns to the lineup.

In addition, Spurgeon has a limited no-trade clause, with ten teams on his list.

Chris Tanev – Vancouver Canucks

Tanev’s name has long been connected to Toronto’s quest for blueline help. The GTA native is 28 and under contract for another two seasons at a $4.45 Million cap hit and checks off a number of boxes for the Leafs.  

The nine-year NHL veteran is a right hand shot, he played well with Morgan Rielly as a defense partner for Canada at the 2016 World Championships and the cost for him may be more reasonable than other options since Tanev is not a high scorer and he has missed 69 games due to injury the last two seasons.

Dan Hamhuis – Free agent

With plenty of cap space available for next season, the Leafs are in position to attract veteran players looking at a chance to win a Stanley Cup and pay them more on a short term deal than they can get elsewhere.

Hamhuis is the only legitimate top-four defenseman left in free agent market. The 35-year-old played for Leafs head coach Mike Babcock on Team Canada at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi and averaged over 20 minutes per game with Dallas last season, scoring 24 points (3 goals, 21 assists) in 80 games.

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The 14-year NHL veteran is a left-hand shot, but signing him as a stop gap for a year would buy the Leafs more time to develop 2017 top pick Timothy Liljegren, who played as an 18-year-old for the Calder Cup champion Toronto Marlies last season.  

Slava Voynov – rights owned by Los Angeles Kings

While many of the Leafs options come with consequences of how much they will cost in a trade or against the salary cap, the possible acquisition of Voynov would create different challenges and hurdles.

The 28-year-old won two Stanley Cups with the Kings in 2012 and 2014, but had his contract terminated by Los Angeles and was suspended by the NHL following a plea of no contest on a domestic abuse charge in 2015.

Voynov returned to Russia, where he played three seasons for SKA St. Petersburg and won an Olympic gold medal in Pyeongchang and last week had misdemeanor spousal abuse charges dismissed, which leaves him free to apply for reinstatement to return to the NHL.

The Kings still hold the blueliner’s rights, which would require a team interested in him to acquire them before signing him, but the unknown is whether any team (including the Leafs) would be willing to endure the media firestorm and recriminations for giving a player with a dark history another chance.

Article source: http://www.sportingnews.com/ca/nhl/news/nhl-rumors-trades-free-agents-toronto-maple-leafs-defensemen-justin-faulk-slava-voynov/1hw52f23asby11wa3stynrxc9n

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