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Six trade packages for Maple Leafs star Mitch Marner

Aug 07, 2023Aug 07, 2023

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Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas mused that Florida's path to the Eastern Conference final started a year ago, when Panthers GM Bill Zito traded a core player (Jonathan Huberdeau) to Calgary in a package for Matthew Tkachuk.

It helped, of course, that Tkachuk had told the Flames he wouldn't sign an extension and wanted out. Florida jumped, adding that physicality and grit — to go along with offence — that helps so much in the playoffs.

The Leafs look to be going down a similar path, willing to move a core piece for a Tkachuk-like player. Unless the Ottawa Senators are suddenly willing to part with Brady Tkachuk — don't count on it — the Leafs are going to have to look elsewhere.

Which core piece would get moved? Probably Mitch Marner.

That the 26-year-old has two years remaining on his contract at $10.9 million (U.S.) annually makes him the most valuable to an acquiring team. John Tavares has a no-movement clause. Auston Matthews and William Nylander are a year away from unrestricted free agency. Both are eligible for extensions starting July 1. Matthews is the more likely of the two to sign one; Nylander, history suggests, will wait. That makes him a little less palatable on the trade market.

Here's a look at some targets and why the other team might be interested.

Trading within the division is always a risk, but McAvoy is a rugged, physical defenceman with an offensive touch. He shoots right-handed, too. This could almost be a one-for-one.

McAvoy has five seasons left on his deal at $9.5 million a year and he's just 25, hitting his prime. The key Bruins forwards are in their 30s, some in their late 30s, so the team needs to get younger. The Bruins, meanwhile, are strong on defence with Hampus Lindholm surpassing McAvoy as the first offensive option with a Norris-type season.

Hellebuyck is a Vezina-worthy goalie who could teach Joseph Woll a lot, while Dubois — a restricted free agent with arbitration rights — is the closest player to Matthew Tkachuk on the trade market.

The risk for the Leafs is extensive. Hellebuyck ($6.166 million) has one year left on his deal and Dubois is an RFA hoping for a trade to the Montreal Canadiens. If not, he’ll sign there as an unrestricted free agent in 2024-25. So they’d be loading up for one year only, although Ehlers — drafted one spot behind Nylander — is the long-term play.

The Jets are looking not so much to rebuild but to recalibrate.

Samsonov is a restricted free agent who can be a No. 1 goalie. Getting him to sign an extension with the Jets would be the only way this works. The Jets might also look for one or two NHL-quality young players who are far from unrestricted free agency. Think Timothy Liljegren or Pontus Holmberg.

Both had off years, but Boeser is a decent scorer with some grit to his game and comes at a decent price ($6.65 million for two more years) and Demko can be a No. 1 goalie for a long time (three more years at $5 million).

With Elias Pettersson on one line (102 points) and Marner (99 points) on the other, the Canucks would have formidable top six. It would be a downgrade offensively for the Leafs, but there would be cost certainty in net, with salary-cap savings among the forward group to be spent elsewhere.

Between a hand injury and the death of his father, Boeser could use a new start somewhere else.

The Avalanche need to bolster their top six and have a plethora of defencemen to move to do so. The left-handed Byram is just 21, with tremendous upside. He is a restricted free agent who stepped up big-time when Cale Makar was injured. Devon Toews, a 28-year-old right-handed shot, would be another target if Byram is unavailable. The Leafs might need more than just a defenceman, and a first-round pick could do. Or perhaps Artturi Lehkonen, a relentless forechecker who can score 20 goals.

The Blue Jackets don't want really to be in this rebuilding thing, but injuries and circumstances foisted it upon them. Marner could help ignite Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine. Sillinger, Kent Johnson, Liam Foudy, Kirill Marchenko, David Jiricek — the Blue Jackets prospect pool is incredibly deep with high-end and still-cheap talent.

Centre Byfield, 20, took steps toward fulfilling the promise that made him the second overall pick in 2020. He's six-foot-four with good hands and a physical side. Defenceman Clarke, an eighth overall pick in 2021, has superstar potential and shoots right.

The Kings are a young team on the rise, but Anže Kopitar will be 35 next year. Marner could bring out even more from Kevin Fiala and Adrian Kempe.

The Leafs would add two high-end young players and offer up some churn to a group that doesn't have a lot of depth among players ages 20 to 22, where big contributions typically come with a low cap hit.

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