The Toronto Maple Leafs are struggling, to say the least. With injuries and poor goaltending being two major issues of late, the Leafs currently find themselves on the outside of the playoff picture looking in.
While general manager Kyle Dubas has shown that he’s willing to make his larger moves either in the offseason or a few weeks before the trade deadline, there’s still time for a few new faces to join the playoff push.
If the Leafs do decide to make a few more moves, here are some low-priced additions to target that could bolster the Leafs lineup.
1. Conor Sheary (Buffalo Sabres)
Stats: 53 GP, 9 G, 10 A, 19 PTS
After winning the Stanley Cup twice in his first two NHL seasons in Pittsburgh as Sidney Crosby’s linemate, it hasn’t quite worked out for Conor Sheary in Buffalo.
His $3 million cap hit could be a barrier, but if Buffalo is willing to eat some of the salary, Sheary could be a short-term reclamation project could add some experience to the Leafs’ top-nine.
2. Tyler Ennis (Ottawa Senators)
Stats: 60 GP, 14 G, 19 A, 33 PTS
On his second one-year sub-million contract in as many seasons, it would make sense that Tyler Ennis gets moved before next Monday. His 12 goals in 51 games (playing mostly in a fourth line role) in a season cut short by an ankle injury were a big boost to Toronto last year.
On pace for his first 20-goal season since 2014-15, Ennis would bring in a presence that can slot almost anywhere in the Leafs lineup.
3. Erik Gustafsson (Chicago Blackhawks)
Stats: 59 GP, 6 G, 20 A, 26 PTS
On pace to miss the playoffs for a third year in a row, Chicago has yet to fully commit to a rebuild. Defenceman Erik Gustafsson might be had for the right price, as the Blackhawks could be right up against the cap again next year with five RFAs and decisions to be made with their two UFA goalies.
Making just $1.2 million this year, Gustafsson is likely set for a long-term deal after this season. But as a 27-year-old UFA, he is likely to be coveted by many teams around the league, and might not be so willing to re-sign with Chicago.
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4. Calle Jarnkrok (Nashville Predators)
Stats: 54 GP, 12 G, 17 A, 29 PTS
Calle Jarnkrok is over halfway through a six-year, $12 million deal that’s unlike any other in the league. Nashville could get more out of trading Jarnkrok now than they likely would a year or two in the future.
Moving away depth pieces like Jarnkrok might be an unwanted, but necessary maneuver for the Predators, as his cost control could be something the Leafs would be willing to pay a steep price for.
5. Joe Thornton (San Jose Sharks)
Stats: 59 G, 2 G, 23 A, 25 PTS
Could there be one last playoff hurrah as a rental for the future Hall of Famer? “Joe Thornton to Toronto” rumours have been circulating for nearly two decades now, but they’re a little bit more believable now (and cheaper) that the Sharks forward is nearing the end of his career.
If Thornton would like to join a team on a playoff run but end up retiring in San Jose, he could easily go back after a short stint with the Leafs, with little doubt he’d be welcomed with open arms in the offseason.
6. Andreas Athanasiou (Detroit Red Wings)
Position: LW/RW, C
Stats: 45 GP, 10 G 14 A, 24 PTS
A $3 million expiring RFA, the Mississauga native Andreas Athanasiou could be trade bait for a defenceman. One of the fastest players in the league, Athanasiou could find his place as a substitute for the injured Andreas Johnsson.
If he doesn’t fit in long-term in Toronto, Athanasiou could likely be flipped again once the offseason comes.
7. Mattias Ekholm (Nashville Predators)
Stats: 58 GP, 7 G 24 A, 31 PTS
A minute-cruncher on a stacked Nashville blueline, Mattias Ekholm would not be an easy piece by any means to pry away from the Predators. However, David Poile has never been one to shy away from trading high-end defencemen, as he’s moved on from Shea Weber, PK Subban and Seth Jones to name a few.
If the Leafs are willing to pay a premium, the 29-year old Swede could be worth an inquiry as he’s signed for two more seasons after this one at just a cap hit of $3.75 million.
8. Ilya Kovalchuk (Montreal Canadiens)
Stats: 37 GP, 9 G, 12 A, 21 PTS
While the gamble of Ilya Kovalchuk has paid off nicely for the Canadiens, his contract is coming to a close after a little over half a season. If he doesn’t see a future in Montreal, what better way to showcase himself than on a team vying for a playoff spot?
Kovalchuk would likely be a pure rental, as the Leafs would have little room to sign another veteran forward past this year.
9. Sean Walker (LA Kings)
Stats: 60 GP, 5 G, 16 A, 21 PTS
The player with the least NHL experience on the list, Sean Walker is still a relatively fresh asset and not one the Kings would be willing to part with easily.
But if the Kings feel they’re still a few years off from returning to their glory days, he could join former teammates Jake Muzzin, Kyle Clifford, and Jack Campbell in Hollywood North for a reunion.