The Toronto Maple Leafs have reportedly put a surprising piece of their line up on the trading block.
Earlier in the 2018 - 2019 National Hockey League regular season the Maple Leafs were the subjects of rampant trade speculation due to the nature of their negotiations with unrestricted free agent William Nylander. Much of the speculation surrounded Nylander himself who was finally signed just minutes before the final deadline for a new contract but some of it also centered around other potential trade candidates on the Maple Leafs roster.
The most notable name to come out of those rumors, and perhaps the one most frequently mentioned outside of Nylander himself, was that of talented your forward Kasperi Kapanen. The 22 year old former first overall pick was constantly rumored as a potential trade target in an offense for defense swap with teams like the Carolina Hurricanes and even the Los Angeles Kings, but none of those rumors ever materialized into something concrete. In spite of that Kapanen would appear to remain the most likely trade candidate from the outside looking in, but that may no longer be the case.
In a recent report for The Athletic NHL insider Craig Custance revealed that "a few sources" had splashed cold water on the idea of a Kapanen trade indicating that the Maple Leafs viewed him as too valuable of an asset to simply give up in a trade. Reportedly one NHL executive informed Custance that the deal would come in the summer if it came at all as the Leafs very much want Kapanen on their roster so he can score goals in the upcoming 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Instead it appears that it is 19 year old former 1st round pick ( 17th overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft ) Timothy Liljegren is the newest trading chip put out on the market by Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas.
Instead, a source suggested the Maple Leafs might prefer to use Liljegren to make a significant move, in part because of the emergence of Rasmus Sandin.
“Sandin has done a good enough job to justify keeping him over Liljegren,” the source said.
The one consensus was that at some point, either now or in the summer, Toronto GM Kyle Dubas is very likely to move a young piece of the puzzle in Toronto.
“I don’t care what Kyle Dubas says, there’s no way they can keep them all,” said an executive.
The young defenseman is still only an NHL prospect but one with a relatively high upside, if Dubas is trading him now you have to believe the move would be motivated by his desire to add a player that can help the Leafs now at the NHL trade deadline in February. That is of course purely speculation on my part, although the timing of this report from Custance would certainly lead you to believe that this is the likely scenario that is at play here.
Custance did not speculate on what the Maple Leafs might look to get in return for Liljegren but you have to imagine that additional help on the blue line remains Dubas' number one priority this season.
Photo Credit: Daniel Lea/CSM/Zuma