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Countdown to Tradecentre: Leafs 'trying to go with volume' for defenceman


The NHL's March 8 Trade Deadline is approaching, and teams are making decisions on whether to buy or sell, and on which players can make the biggest difference and hold the greatest value. Check out today's trade rumours and speculation from around the NHL beat.

Leafs offering quantity over quality

The Toronto Maple Leafs continue to pursue help on the blueline ahead of the deadline, but their limited draft stock is causing issues on the trade market.

TSN Hockey Insider Chris Johnston reports that the Maple Leafs, who are without a second-round pick in each of the next three drafts, are looking to avoid moving their 2024 first rounder.

"The pursuit of a defenceman has been a long one for Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brad Treliving," he said Thursday on TSN's Insider Trading. "[Calgary Flames defenceman] Chris Tanev likely still remains his No. 1 target, but there are a whole bunch of others that we can link the Leafs into inquiring about their availability. 

"They include [Philadelphia Flyers defenceman] Sean Walker and [Nashville Predators defenceman] Alexandre Carrier, who are both pending unrestricted free agents like Tanev.

"I think the biggest impediment so far into the Leafs making that deal is they don’t want to move their first-round pick and they don’t have a second-round pick in the next three drafts. So, they have been trying to go with volume, offering multiple lower-round draft picks. So far, the teams involved in those discussions have no interest in doing that."

Tanev has long been reported as a potential target for the Maple Leafs in a potential reunion for with Treliving. The 34-year-old blueliner has one goal and 12 points in 51 games this season with Calgary. Signed at an expiring cap hit of $4.5 million, Tanev is listed at No. 2 on the TSN Trade Bait board.

Walker, who logged 20 minutes of ice time in Philadelphia's 4-3 overtime loss to the Maple Leafs on Thursday, has five goals and 19 points in 55 games this season. Listed at No. 7 on the Trade Bait board, the 29-year-old carries a cap hit of $2.65 million this season.

Carrier is listed at No. 10 on the Trade Bait board and has four goals and 15 points in 49 games this season with the Predators. The 27-year-old carries the lowest cap hit of the group at $2.5 million.

According to CapFriendly, the Maple Leafs currently have $2.06 million in cap space with three weeks left before the deadline. 

While adding defence appears to be the top priority for Treliving, the Maple Leafs also came up as potential destination of interest for goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, as TSN Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun discussed his future Thursday.

"What we’re hearing is Fleury had a four-hour meeting with his agent, Allan Walsh, this week where they went over March 8 and what could happen," LeBrun said on Insider Trading. "No. 1 [thing] is Fleury doesn’t want to go anywhere right now. He believes in the playoff chances of the Wild, who by the way, are on a bit of run. So, he doesn’t want to bail on the Wild while they’re still in the race.

"But as they get closer to March 8, if it’s clear that the Wild are out of the playoff hunt Fleury could potentially look at two or three teams. Among those options I’m told are the likes of the Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche, and the Maple Leafs. These may be obvious but, again, Fleury wants to stay loyal to the Wild if they can stay in the race."

Fleury, 39, has a 10-9-3 record this season with a .903 save percentage and a 2.83 goals-against average. He's signed at an expiring cap hit of $3.5 million.

Devils' goalie search continues

The New Jersey Devils continue to look to upgrade their goaltending after holding trade talks with the Calgary Flames on Jacob Markstrom earlier this week.

LeBrun reports a Markstrom deal is not off the table in New Jersey, but notes the team is also exploring other options, including the potentially available Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros.

"What we understand is that the Devils are still interested in trying to make a trade work with Calgary for Markstrom," LeBrun said Thursday. "It doesn’t mean they’ll be able to do it, but what we heard today is that they’ll continue their effort with the Flames to find a way. Part of the reason talks broke down is because the Devils want the Flames to retain some of Markstrom’s salary on two-and-a-half years left. If Calgary does that, what’s the asset that goes the other way? There was some disagreement on all that. The Devils are still hoping to find a way.

"In the meantime, they’re still kicking the tires on [Predators goalie] Juuse Saros, [Anaheim Ducks netminder] John Gibson, and [Canadiens goaltender] Jake Allen because the Devils want a goalie.

"Having said all that, Saros, to me, would be the No. 1 guy on the market and the Predators have put him out there. However, they’re not committed to trading him because they’re asking a lot for him. They want a good young NHL player as part of any package, and I’m told that no one has jumped up and made Nashville blink. That is fine because they’re happy to keep him."

Markstrom backed up Dustin Wolf in Calgary's 6-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Thursday - the latest blow to the team's playoff pursuit. The 34-year-old has a 17-14-2 record with a .916 save percentage and a 2.50 goals-against average. Signed at a cap hit of $6 million through 2025-26, he has rebounded significantly this season, after posting a .892 save percentage last year. 

Gibson has a an 11-19-1 record with the Ducks this season with a .903 save percentage and 2.98 GAA. The 30-year-old is under contract through the 2026-27 season at a cap hit of $6.4 million.

Saros, 28, has a 20-21-2 record this season and is on track to post the worst statistical marks of his career with a 3.05 GAA and a .901 save percentage. He carries a cap hit of $5 million with unrestricted free agency on the horizon in 2025. 

Rumours surfaced Thursday that Allen could be on his way to the Colorado Avalanche before those shut down by TSN Hockey Insiders Darren Dreger and Chris Johnston.

"There is no Jake Allen deal to Colorado. The two clubs haven’t spoken in days but there has been previous discussions. Nothing close at this stage," Dreger wrote on X.

"Told the reports of #habs Jake Allen being traded to the #Avs are inaccurate," Johnston added. "Nothing happening there ... at least right now."

Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes confirmed earlier this week that the Canadiens are looking to move either Allen or Cayden Primeau before next season to avoid carrying three goaltenders again in 2024-25.

The 33-year-old Allen has a 5-10-3 this season with a .895 save percentage and a 3.63 GAA. He is signed through next season at a cap hit of $3.85 million.

According to CapFriendly, the Devils currently have more than $10 million in cap space with Dougie Hamilton on long-term injured reserve. Hamilton is expected to remain sidelined until the playoffs, allowing the Devils to eat into his $9 million salary at the trade deadline. 

What about Guentzel?

The Pittsburgh Penguins announced Thursday that winger Jake Guentzel will miss up to four weeks with an upper-body injury.

The deadline is exactly three weeks away and Guentzel, pending unrestricted free agent, has been drawing interest from potential suitors.

The 29-year-old forward is currently listed at No. 4 on the TSN Trade Bait board, as the Penguins weigh whether to move the winger. Guentzel has 22 goals and a team-high 52 points in 50 games this season. A two-time 40-goal scorer, he posted 36 goals and 73 points in 78 games last season.