Leafs ‘In the Mix’ for 3 Top Defensemen if Mitch Marner Gets Traded

The Toronto Maple Leafs might explore the defenseman market if they trade Mitch Marner away.

Getty The Toronto Maple Leafs might explore the defenseman market if they trade Mitch Marner away.

With the Toronto Maple Leafs out of the playoffs in the first round for the seventh time in the last eight years, it’s time to get ready for an endless stream of rumors and information regarding (yet another) roster retool taking place in Canada’s biggest market.

On Monday, May 6, right after the Leafs conducted their end-of-season media availability, NHL insider Elliott Friedman released the latest episode of his 32 Thoughts podcast and discussed the situation in Toronto.

One of the topics Friedman discussed was related to the rumors about a potential departure of Mitch Marner via trade as he enters the final season under contract with the Leafs.

The Maple Leafs would like to bring some defensive reinforcements ahead of next season, and Friedman mentioned three potential top-pair defensemen that Toronto might pursue in a trade next summer.

Toronto is “going to be in the mix for them,” Friedman said about Chicago Blackhawks’ Seth Jones, Carolina Hurricanes’ Brett Pesce, and Florida Panthers Brandon Montour, all of whom might become available from July 1 on.

Will the Leafs Trade Mitch Marner For a Defenseman?

Not even hours after the Leafs crashed out of the 2024 playoffs at the hands of the Boston Bruins in a Game 7 2-1 overtime loss, NHL analysts were already thinking about where Mitch Marner could land this summer if Toronto decides to pursue a trade.

Marner talked to reporters on Monday, May 6, during the Leafs’ end-of-season media availability and made clear his intentions to sign a long-term extension with the Leafs if it’s up to him. “That would be the goal,” Marner said.

If the Leafs don’t want Marner back, and assuming he waves his no-move clause to facilitate a trade, it’s fair to assume the Leafs would prefer to add a top-level defenseman instead of replacing a forward with another similar player given their overloaded roster on that front.

That’s why Friedman mentioned three top-pair defensemen that Toronto could try to get in exchange for Marner next summer: Seth Jones, Brett Pesce, and Brandon Montour.

“Jones has indicated that losing is not very easy on him,” Friedman reported. “If Chicago is going to keep losing, I wonder how Jones feels. I wonder how Jones would feel about [the Leafs] and how [Toronto] would feel about him.”

Friedman mentioned Jones’ cap hit ($9.5 million AAV) as a potential reason for the Blackhawks to try and move on from him while they complete their rebuild as both things might not align entirely.

Elliotte Friedman Thinks Maple Leafs Will Try to Land A Defenseman

Expanding on his thoughts about a potential trade involving Marner, Friedman noted that “if the Leafs make a Mitch Marner trade, maybe they don’t, quote-on-quote, win the trade and get a stud defenseman in return, but I would think a defenseman would be part of that package.”

With that consideration, the pool of available players that Toronto might entertain and pursue in a trade widens.

“Someone they think that could play for them… you have to think if players like Brett Pesce or Brandon Montour hit the market,” Friedman reasoned, “those kinds of players, Toronto is going to be in the mix for them.”

Hurricanes’ Pesce and Panthers’ Montour will enter the free-agent market on July 1 as unrestricted free agents. They earned $4 million and $3.5 million respectively this season with their teams, according to CapFriendly.

With both the Panthers and the Canes playing postseason hockey and making it to the second round of the playoffs in the past few days, Pesce and Montour won’t enter negotiations at this point of the season instead focusing on what’s happening on the ice.

Pesce is coming off a 13-point season in Carolina appearing in 70 games for the Hurricanes in 2023-24. Montour scored a much-bulkier 33 points in 66 games played with Florida this past regular season.

The Leafs allowed the 21st-most goals per game this season to their opponents, exactly 3.18, while they also surrendered the 16th-most shots allowed to rivals throughout the 82-game regular season.

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