NHL rumors: Leafs linked to 3 top-pairing defensemen by insider

Should the Maple Leafs go after Seth Jones, others?

The Spice Adams meme wearing a Maple Leafs beanie

It is going to be a long summer for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Expected to go on a deep run in the 2024 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, Toronto is instead left to think about what went wrong for the team, as got bounced out of title contention in the first round by the Boston Bruins.

Despite a star-laden roster, the Maple Leafs’ offense fizzled in the series, but that doesn’t automatically mean that it’s an area they will focus on in retooling in the offseason. The blueline could be a point of emphasis in the offseason for Toronto, with NHL insider Elliotte Friedman, during Monday’s episode of the 32 Thoughts Podcast, floating three names the Maple Leafs might be interested in bringing over.

Maple Leafs to go after Seth Jones?

Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe talks to the media following a loss to the Boston Bruins in game three of the first round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
One name Friedman mentioned (h/t NHL Trade Rumors)  was Seth Jones, who has spent the last three seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks. Success has been hard to come by for the Blackhawks in Jones’ tenure in Windy City and it could take a few years before the franchise turns into a legitimate Stanley Cup contender that the Maple Leafs are, notwithstanding the heartbreaks in the playoffs. It is also important to note that Jones, the son of former NBA power forward Popeye Jones, has a No Movement Clause, though, he might waive that privilege if it meant going to a contender.

“Jones has indicated that losing is not very easy on him… If Chicago is going to keep losing, I wonder how Jones feels,” opined Friedman. While admitting that his analytics numbers “haven’t been great” he wonders how the Blackhawks feel about him, and his $9.5 million cap hit on a rebuilding team, and how, in turn, Jones feels about sticking around. He still has six more years left on his massive contract.

Jones was traded to the Blackhawks by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2021 when he also signed an eight-year deal worth $76 million with Chicago. He carries a cap hit of $9.5 million until the 2029-30 campaign when he’s 35 years old.

Another name Friedman brought up was Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Brett Pesce. The Canes are still playing and in the middle of the second-round series versus the New York Rangers, but Pesce’s future with the team will soon be a key topic for the franchise’s front office, as he is on an expiring contract and a pending unrestricted free agent. Pesce, who has played his entire NHL career so far in Hurricanes uniform, has 39 goals and 159 assists in the league with a career plus/minus of +92.

Lastly, Friedman talked about the possibility of Florida Panthers blueliner Brandon Montour as a target for the Maple Leafs.

Friedman also mentioned Brandon Montour as a defenseman that the Leafs would be in the mix for, should the Florida Panthers allow him to enter the UFA market. His three-year, $3.5 million cap hit deal is coming to a close, and he’ll be in for a nice raise on the open market if Florida doesn’t sign him first.

Back in the 2023-24 NHL regular season, the Maple Leafs were ranked just 21st in the league with 3.18 goals allowed per game and 16th in total shots allowed (2,446). As deadly as their offense was, the Maple Leafs seemed to have some issues with preventing opponents from taking premium shot attempts, as evidenced by the fact that they have allowed 67 high-danger goals on 5-on-5 situations.

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