In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I want to explore two rumours about possible offseason targets. Adam Larsson from the Edmonton Oilers and Radko Gudas from the Washington Capitals are reportedly players of interest for Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas. Might they be?
Maple Leafs Trade Target One: Edmonton Oilers’ Adam Larsson
The Maple Leafs and the Oilers have something in common – they both need something. Toronto needs a steady right-shot defenseman and Edmonton needs forward help for their two stars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Could these teams make good trade partners? There’s a rumour to that effect.
It’s not as if the Oilers have a ton of defensemen hanging around, but they have a need the Maple Leafs can fill – and, vice versa. Either Kasperi Kapanen or Andreas Johnsson would add instant offense to the Oilers’ top-six, and with the emergence of 19-year-old Philip Broberg and with 20-year-old Evan Bouchard in the system, the Oilers might consider freeing up one of their blue line incumbents.
Last week, former general manager and now hockey insider Brian Burke spoke with Bob Stauffer about a possible trade. Burke’s take is that the Oilers have some good defensemen, but they didn’t play that well during their play-in series loss to the underdog Chicago Blackhawks. He noted that a change of scenery might be in order, (from “Trade Darnell Nurse, Oscar Klefbom or Adam Larsson? NHL insider suggests it might be time, David Staples, Edmonton Journal, 08/14/20).
When Stauffer asked Burke about whether Larsson, Darnell Nurse, or Oscar Klefbom might be traded, Burke answered, “Any one of the three above, I like all of them, so I’m not picking on any one of them. I think Darnell Nurse gives a component that really makes their team different, I think, in terms of the mobility and hostility. But, yes, something (needs to happen). It’s so hard to make trades when you’re in cap trouble but it might be time for a change of scenery.”
When Stauffer suggested the Maple Leafs as a trading partner, maybe Larsson for Kapanen or Johnsson, Burke replied, “Those might be fits. Those guys are both good players that you mentioned from here (Toronto). I think Larsson is a really good player. He didn’t have a great year, but I think he’s a really good shut down guy. There could be a fit there.”
Burke isn’t alone in thinking Larsson will be moved. In the same Edmonton Journal article, Mark Spector of Sportsnet noted that, with so many teams looking for good defensemen and with Larsson on an affordable contract, he believes Larsson will be leaving. Spector also mentioned the Maple Leafs as a possible landing place: “In that Top 4 (of the Oilers defense), I think they will move Adam Larsson because I think there’s a huge ask around the league.”
Spector added, “Look at the Toronto Maple Leafs? Do they need Adam Larsson. You bet they need Adam Larsson. And there’s other teams that would say the same thing.”
Speaking of Maple Leafs trade bait, both Kapanen and Johnsson are rumoured to be on the market. If there’s any truth to the rumours, the Oilers’ Larsson is a likely target. Will the Maple Leafs make that deal?
Maple Leafs Trade Target Two: Washington Capitals’ Radko Gudas
In a recent 31 Thoughts post, Elliotte Friedman noted that some “non-stereotypical” Dubas moves might be unfolding. He named Gudas as a player Maple Leafs fans might want to watch out for. In fact, Friedman noted specifically, “I have one guy in the league who is already calling him, “future Leaf Radko Gudas.” Friedman went on to suggest that this “guy is in the playoffs for the Capitals.”
In his post, Friedman noted that after the Maple Leafs’ Game 5 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets he heard that when Dubas traded for backup goalie Jack Campbell he was also looking for some bite to add to the lineup which is why he also brought in Kyle Clifford.
Friedman added that “someone” (it’s all so secretive isn’t it?) told him that, at the time, Dubas was trying to bring in more than Clifford. Although he didn’t know who else might be on Dubas’ radar, he was “wondering if he (Dubas) adds some bite on his blue line.”
Friedman noted that the Maple Leafs have some good players coming to the team next year from the KHL, including 26-year-old forward Alexander Barabanov and 26-year-old left-shot defenseman Mikko Lehtonen, but he believes the team needs more ‘bite’ and Dubas would like to add it.
He threw two names “against the wall”: Ottawa Senators’ Mark Borowiecki (31) and right-shot Czech defenseman Radko Gudas (30). Both are experienced defensemen on expiring contracts and, as Friedman noted, bring that bite Dubas is looking for.
The well-liked Borowiecki may re-sign with the Senators. However, Gudas might be a different story.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
Changes are coming. Given the Maple Leafs’ need for help on defense, it will be interesting to watch how Dubas plays it. Will he trade a forward (or two) for an experienced quality right-shot defenseman, or will he try to find a defenseman with “bite” who’s on an expiring contract?
It will be an interesting offseason for Maple Leafs fans.