The links between Toronto and Los Angeles regarding a trade ahead of the 2019/20 season have heated up. With Patrick Marleau at the center of the trade rumors, the Leafs could sweeten the pot to return two key players.
The big, dynamic forward is exactly what the Leafs need on their third line. Adrian Kempe, who is just 22-years-old, would command a solid piece or pieces back in any deal that would bring him to Toronto, but it would be worth it for his play style.
He isn’t a scoresheet filling player but does chip in at a solid rate. Again, the player is young but is showing solid consistency over his first two full 81 game NHL seasons. 2017/18 saw him contribute 37 points from 16 goals and 31 assists. This past season, he as well as his team regressed slightly as he put up 28 points.
At 6’2″ and over 200 lbs, Kempe would add a physical dimension the Leafs have been missing. As a shutdown forward, Kempe’s physicality comes to the forefront which makes him as a center/left wing ideal for the Maple Leafs needs.
He is currently an RFA so negotiations with LA could be halted by his own contract talk. As mentioned, he would be an ideal third line player for the Leafs meaning Nazem Kadri would become expendable or even added into this trade. The Kings are high on aging stars and young prospects, lacking the in-their-prime players like Kadri is at 28-years-old.
Jake Gardiner is as good as gone in free agency, Nikita Zaitsev has demanded a move away from the team, Ron Hainsey is a UFA, and Travis Dermott is going to be out until most likely November. That leaves the Leafs with just Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin on their D-Core to start the season. Long story short, the Leafs need defensemen.
Alec Martinez would address the need for a veteran to play in the top-four despite being a left shot defender like Rielly and Muzzin are. Babcock has shown a propensity to keep his defenders on their natural sides, however, both Martinez and Muzzin have played on their offsides throughout their careers with no detriment.
Martinez’s addition would be a $4 million cap hit for this season and next. It would be solid for LA to move this money in a Marleau deal, but also doesn’t cripple the Leafs as it places dollar value where roster needs it to be.
Swapping Martinez for Zaitsev (plus) could see both teams addressing a need on their team. The Kings get younger, the Leafs save $500k and address a team need, while Zaitsev gets his move. As for add-ins, look for the likes of Andreas Borgman to be a kicker or even Justin Holl.
What would it cost the Leafs?
The Leafs can certainly send Marleau to the Kings if he doesn’t nix a deal with his NTC. The Kings are in LA which is close to where his family grew up, he has ties to coach Todd Mclellan, and the Kings have projected just over $11 million in cap space for next season. In order for Toronto to get one or both of the players mentioned above, however, it’ll take some serious negotiations.
Should any deal be pursued with Marleau and/or Zaitsev, don’t be surprised if the names Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, Andreas Borgman, Justin Holl, Connor Brown, and Nazem Kadri all come up in trade talks. These are serviceable-to-great NHL players that situational circumstance in Toronto has forced to the outskirts.
Kapanen and Johnsson would maximize your return on shipping out Marleau and Zaitsev plus their RFA status and solid NHL tenure have them owed money the Leafs just can’t pay. Brown fills a role that could be filled at a reduced rate due to his $2.1 million cap hit. Kadri, while in his prime and very talented, has wasted his chances with Toronto contributing to two playoff series losses due to the same bone-headed play. And Borgman and Holl are nothing but depth players.
I beg you, don’t overvalue players just because they are in the system or were drafted by the Leafs. If this team is going to take the next step it’ll be on the back of brash, difficult decision making that justifies the salary of Kyle Dubas. The Leafs need to change the complexion of their team, and the Kings could facilitate this makeover.