The Toronto Maple Leafs fanbase, Leafs Nation, was abuzz yesterday with the news that the team’s management group was making a push to acquire Pittsburgh Penguins defenceman Ian Cole. While nothing appears imminent, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Jason Mackey confirmed that indeed the Leafs are in on Cole discussions, along with the Colorado Avalanche and the Vegas Golden Knights. Speculation is that the Leafs would move Tyler Bozak as part of the trade, but details are holding up any potential deal.
Assuming the Leafs DON’T trade for Cole and are forced to fill their need for a quality blue liner elsewhere, where do they go shopping? Well there are two obvious options.
Option 1: Go cheap. Vancouver Canucks defensive defenseman Erik Gudbranson’s name has popped up in trade rumors for weeks now. The big, tough, rugged defender is a right-shooting defensive defenseman with physical tools that are sorely lacking on the Leafs’ blue line right now. This may not be a ringing endorsement, but consider him an upgraded version of current Leafs’ defenceman Roman Polak.
Option 2: Go huge. How about Arizona Coyotes star Oliver Ekman-Larsson? Coyotes GM John Chayka has steadfastly denied any trade speculation around the 26-year-old Swedish defenceman. But, with the Coyotes once again a bottom-feeder team and with Ekman-Larsson’s contract expiring next offseason, Chayka would be smart to listen to all offers.
So, assuming Cole is off the table, and really who knows? Which deals makes the most sense for the Leafs both in the long-term and the short term?