The Toronto Maple Leafs always are a team to watch in the offseason because of their willingness to make bold moves in the free-agent and trade markets.
The summer of 2014 should be no different, and according to TSN’s Darren Dreger, the Original Six club is “eager to talk” with teams about potential trades. [tweet https://twitter.com/DarrenDreger/statuses/464779261686345730 align=”center”]
Out of the four players Dreger mentions in the above tweet, Nazem Kadri and Jake Gardiner are the most intriguing.
Kadri has the talent of a top-six center and tallied 50 points (20 goals, 30 assists) in 81 regular-season games. He needs to improve defensively and on faceoffs, but the young forward has impressive potential with his playmaking skill, good speed and excellent shot. At 23 years old, Kadri isn’t the kind of player a team should trade away without receiving a substantial return.
Gardiner is a wonderful offensive talent who posted 31 points (10 goals, 21 assists) in 80 games this season, including nine points in his final 10 games. He makes too many mistakes in his own end, and his turnovers are frustrating, but the 23-year-old defenseman is one of the team’s best young players. Gardiner and Morgan Rielly, who was selected No. 5 overall in the 2012 NHL draft, have the potential to be a solid 1-2 punch on the Toronto blue line in the near future. Giving up on a talented young D-man rarely is a risk worth taking.
The Leafs ended their playoff drought last season but couldn’t make back-to-back appearances with a 11th-place finish in the Eastern Conference during the 2013-14 campaign. Many people believed head coach Randy Carlyle would lose his job as a result of the team’s failure, but he was signed to a contract extension Thursday.