Defenders With Term THat Might INterest The Maple Leafs

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It’s always tough to peg down what teams may be interested in moving players with term on their contract. More often than not players are on the move due to their team struggling and their contract’s being due to run out. But with Kyle Dubas saying that they’d be more interested in acquiring players with a few years of team control remaining on their deals, it raises the question of who he may be interested in.

I’ll start with a couple of players that have been talked about ad nauseam:

Jakob Chychrun

Jakob Chychrun’s time in Arizona will soon end, that much seems certain. The question now is where does he end up? He’s young, at 23 years old and has 3 more years on a contract that brings a $4.6M cap hit. If the Coyotes are willing to take back some salary this is a contract that the Leafs could fit onto their roster.

The downside here is that nobody knows if Chychrun can play the right side. While adding talent is always a good idea, the Leafs already have Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin and Rasmus Sandin on the left side, with none of those players having proven their own ability to play their off side effectively. Ideally the Leafs want to add a player that can play with Jake Muzzin in the top 4, which leaves questions about the fit. If the price is right this would be a solid move for Dubas to make, regardless of the risk, but it could definitely backfire.

Scott Mayfield

Unlike Chychrun, nobody is even certain that Mayfield is available right now. In fact, I would bet that he isn’t and won’t be for quite a while. With that said, Mayfield is talked about a lot among Leafs fans because he is almost perfect for the role that he’d be given here.

A right shot defender that stands at 6’5″, 225lbs, Mayfield plays a physical and defensive brand of hockey. On top of that, he makes $1.45M towards the cap through the rest of this season and next. He can play in the Leafs top 4 defensive group and will contribute heavily to the penalty killing unit. It’s also worth noting that his actual salary continuously jumped throughout his contract and will top out at $2M next season. For a team that doesn’t always make a ton of money like the Islanders, that could mean something.

The other side of the coin is exactly the same but you have to look at it from a different perspective. The Islanders are definitely having a bad season, but they aren’t a rebuilding team. The right side of their defense is solid at the moment, with Ryan Pulock, Noah Dobson and Scott Mayfield all logging over 20 minutes a night and filling various roles. However, after Adam Pelech, their left side starts to get pretty thin.

Also, with Kyle Palmieri (1G, 7pts, 29GP), Anders Lee (12G, 17pts, 37GP), Jean-Gabriel Pageau (6G, 14pts, 40GP) and Josh Bailey (3G, 21pts, 37GP) all making $5M or more and not exactly living up to their contracts, it’s lack of scoring that is truly holding the Islanders back. Lou Lamoriello has really made a mess of things on the Island, but I digress. The Islanders may want to hold on to what is still working, which is their right side defense and goaltending, while using other assets to attempt to fix what isn’t working, which is literally everything else on their roster.

Connor Murphy

Throughout this article you’ll see a trend, which is me talking about players like Murphy. He’s big (6’4″, 212lbs), he’s defensive minded (nearly 3 minutes per night on the PK), and his contract has term (4 years after this season with a $4.4M cap hit).

The Blackhawks came out publicly with their list of untouchable players and Murphy wasn’t on it. In fact, there were very few that were. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Seth Jones are the only players that the Hawks aren’t willing to take calls on, everybody else is fair game.

That doesn’t mean that they’re actively shopping players like Alex DeBrincat or Connor Murphy, but it does mean they’ll listen if you call.

You better make sure you’re there to talk business though and that’s what would keep me from picking up the phone. I truly believe the price to acquire this player will be far above his actual worth on the ice.

Philippe Myers

This is Myers’ first year with the Predators, after being acquired from Philadelphia in the Ryan Ellis trade along with Nolan Patrick. The Predators immediately flipped Patrick to the Vegas Golden Knights for Cody Glass, which may have been the entire point of it all, but landing Myers as well was good business.

The undrafted Myers is a big man at 6’5″, 210lbs, and would mainly factor in on your penalty kill. He’s 25 years old so there are questions about how much room is left for his game to grow, but defenders often come into their own in their mid to late 20’s. For now, Myers is being used on the 3rd pair in Nashville when he’s dressed and is logging just over 15 minutes a game, down from the almost 19 minutes a game he logged in Philadelphia the season prior.

What’s more is that Dante Fabbro and Alex Carrier, also young right shot defenders, are logging more minutes than Myers is, while both are paid less. Matt Benning, another right shot defender, is also logging more minutes per night than Myers. Being the highest paid right shot defender on your team, while logging the least amount of minutes would make you a movable commoddity in my opinion.

I’ll end this with a little bit of good though. Myers is signed through next season at $2.55M and fills some needs for the Leafs. He has a big shot from the point, which is something that has been missing from the Leafs blueline since……. well, it’s been that long that I can’t remember. He’d add size to a small blueline and he would lead the Leafs defense in Hits/60. His game can be described as a 2-way style, which is likely what Kyle Dubas is looking for anyway. This could be an acquisition that has a ton of upside and could be relatively cheap to acquire.

Zach Whitecloud

I could probably put “any Vegas defender” in this spot, but I like Whitecloud for the Leafs.

A large part of what I like is the fact that he is currently on a contract that pays just $725K, but has a 6 year extension attached that will pay him $2.75M starting next season.

If you’re asking for term, this is your guy.

As for the nitty gritty details, Whitecloud is a penalty killing defender that isn’t afraid to block shots. He’s 6’2″, 210lbs and would really help to shut down the oppositions top forwards. The only reason he may be available is because Vegas acquired Jack Eichel and his $10M contract shortly after Whitecloud’s extension was signed. While there are talks about their having to move on from players such as Reilly Smith in order to fit Eichel onto the roster and under the cap once he returns from injury, it’s conveniently being overlooked that Alec Martinez ($5.25M cap hit) is also on LTIR and will eventually become a problem once he’s ready to return. Again, Whitecloud only makes $725K towards the cap this year, so this isn’t exactly solving their problems, but the potential to acquire Whitecloud at some point down the road is there.

Nicholas Hague

As I said, I could put “any Vegas defender” and just name names, but Hague deserves his own paragraph. At 6’6″, 220lbs, Hague is a physical presence on the ice. The problem is that questions about his fit in Vegas moving forward could arise. With Alex Pietrangelo, Shea Theodore, Alex Martinez, Zach Whitecloud and Brayden McNabb all under contract for at least another 2 seasons, where does Hague fit in?

He’s played in parts of 3 seasons in the NHL now, so he’ll be guaranteed a raise as he’s coming off his ELC, which will also leave people to wonder if Vegas can even afford to have him on their blueline. By acquiring players such as Jack Eichel, Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty and Alex Pietrangelo over the past couple of years, the Knights are starting to look like every other contending NHL team out there. Top heavy and up against the cap, they may start losing players they would rather have kept otherwise.

Jeff Petry

I’ll keep this one short.

Petry might be a great addition to the top 4. He has size and plays a 2-way game. He’s obviously not capable of leading a defensive group on his own, but he wouldn’t have to in Toronto. He has a good shot and all the things you want from a partner for Muzzin, but acquiring him would mean giving up solid assets and asking for salary retention, due to his $6.25M contract. He’s aging quickly as well, which is a major concern, but one that would be quickly forgotten if the Leafs were able to win a Stanley Cup.

Damon Severson

I’ll keep this one short as well.

Severson is a good player that looks like trash at times. Particularly the last time the Devils played the Leafs. Severson logged nearly 30 minutes that night and was visibly exhausted. A night of missed assignments and poor defensive play turned most of those that believed in him into doubters.

Regardless, a night doesn’t make or break a player’s career. Severson has a long track record of solid play and could be a very good addition to the Leafs….. as long as they never ask him to play over 25 minutes a night.

Dylan Demelo

Demelo was the Advanced Stat’s Prince Charming not too long ago. Fast forward a season and a half and he’s playing under 17 minutes a night with the Winnipeg Jets team that appears poised to miss the post season, with almost 3 minutes of that being on the penalty kill. He’s never been considered a big minute munching defender on a top team, but he does know how to defend and for some that might be enough. He has 2 years left on his contract at $3M per season and wouldn’t cost a big package to acquire, so the only real question would be if he is the right fit next to Jake Muzzin.


The question at the end of the day is who would you want the Leafs to acquire and what would be the most you’d be willing to give to get that player?

For my money, if you’re going to throw caution to the wind and get the guy you want, regardless of the cost, it would have to be Connor Murphy. He fits the profile of what (we assume) the Leafs want to a “T” and has a reasonable contract with a few years of control left. If you’re willing to pay but also feel like taking a risk is worth it, then Jakob Chychrun may be your guy. If he can play the right side he has the highest ceiling of any available defender in the NHL today.

If you’re feeling a little more “plan for the future” then Nicholas Hague would be tremendous. He’s primed to have a solid NHL career and, again, if he can play his off side he’d certainly fit the mold of what the team should be looking for.

With all of that said I really do think I’d take a long look at Philippe Myers. The potential is there for him to be a steal. His cap cost is in the range the Leafs would want, while the price to acquire his services could be very reasonable. His shot could be a boost to the second powerplay unit, while his size and defensive play could help the penalty kill as well. I reserve the right to change my opinion at any time, but adding Myers might be the best course of action at the moment for the team to add depth for now and the future.