3 Maple Leafs most likely to be traded before the 2023 deadline

3 Maple Leafs most likely to be traded before the 2023 deadline
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Toronto Maple Leafs general manager (GM) Kyle Dubas will be a busy man ahead of the 2023 trade deadline on March 3. The team is in the middle of the Stanley Cup Playoff race and will certainly be buyers before the deadline this season. Dubas is doing whatever it takes to upgrade the roster because he wants to be loyal to his players and give them the best chance for postseason success.

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The Maple Leafs, like every year, have been rumored to be interested in nearly every available big forward and defenseman. Hockey insider Pierre LeBrun mentioned earlier this week via TSN Radio that he knows Dubas and the Leafs will likely add two forwards and a back for their play-offs in 2022-23.

Instead of focusing on who can get in, let’s turn our attention to who can get out. These are the three Maple Leafs most likely to be traded before the 2023 deadline:

Joseph Woll

After a stellar showing during a short stint with the Maple Leafs in 2021-22, where he managed to go 3-1-0 with a 2.76 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage, goaltender Joseph Woll has been absolutely dominant in the American Hockey League (AHL) this season.

Joseph Woll Toronto Maple Leafs
Joseph Woll, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Woll is off to a historic 11-0-0 start this season with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL and has certainly made his way up the trade candidate list for Dubas. He is 24 years old and at an age where he will be looking for some more playing time in the NHL to showcase his skills before it is too late. The thing is, Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov have been lights out for most of this season and don’t seem to be going anywhere. Murray is signed for next season and Samsonov is a restricted free agent who appears to be headed for a contract extension with the club. This leaves Woll on the outside looking in and Dubas would be wise to dangle him on the trade market.

One of the things that makes Woll so attractive as a trade candidate to other teams is his contract. He’s signed for two more seasons with an NHL cap hit of $766,667. A very reasonable figure for a goaltender who has shown potential to be a solid 1-B option.

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Of the teams linked to Toronto at the moment, Woll might make the most sense for the Arizona Coyotes, as there is the potential for a Jakob Chychrun trade to come to fruition. If so, look for Woll to be included in the trade package heading to the desert.

The Maple Leafs have been linked to some big names this season, the likes of Ryan O’Reilly of the St. Louis Blues, Bo Horvat of the Vancouver Canucks and even Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks. All of these players have big ticket contracts of at least $5 million against the cap. Since Dubas doesn’t have much cap space to work with, look for a roster player to be included in any trade, and the most likely to go is Alexander Kerfoot and his $3.5 million cap hit.

Alex Kerfoot Toronto Maple Leafs
Alex Kerfoot, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

With the recent demotion of Pontus Holmberg to the AHL, Kerfoot has taken over the fourth-line center duties. For a forward making $3.5 million, that’s not exactly where he wants him placed in the Leafs’ lineup. Kerfoot is versatile and brings some Swiss Army-like skills to the team, but at this point he’s become very replaceable.

The 28-year-old forward is a pending unrestricted free agent and is likely only seen as a throw-in for other teams. He has recorded 21 points in 46 games this season and could use a trade to show he’s worth a contract extension for 2023-24 and beyond.

If Dubas makes a big splash and lands a player like Chychrun or O’Reilly, or even Sam Bennett of the Florida Panthers, a team Dubas scouted earlier this weekthere’s a very good chance Kerfoot is packed with a draft pick and two opportunities to help facilitate the trade financially.

Topi Niemela

Speaking of prospects, the Maple Leafs’ top defensive prospect is Topi Niemela, who was a former third-round pick from the 2020 Entry Draft. He is 20 years old and plays in Finland, and next season he may attend an NHL training camp with another team.

Topi Niemelä Team Finland
Topi Niemelä, Team Finland (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Niemela has tons of potential and is just barely scratching the surface. He’s still a bit raw and will likely be ready for full-time NHL minutes in 2024-25. In fact, Dubas has no time to waste. He is out of contract for next season and the win window in Toronto is now. Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews and William Nylander aren’t signed for much longer and the Maple Leafs GM has to be all in, which likely means moving Niemela.

The Finnish prospect has the potential to one day run a power play and his skating ability is very impressive as he is strong on his skates and a very fluid skater. He’s good enough that Toronto will have a competitive offer that will appeal to other teams if he’s packaged with a first-round pick. It’s time to cash in on a solid third-round pick from two years ago.

Make no mistake about it Leafs Nation, Dubas and his management team will make some moves before the 2023 trade deadline. This Maple Leafs team looks like a group that has figured it out and found ways to win hockey games other than just trying to put five on the board and see what happens. The goaltending tandem looks strong, their defensive structure looks tight, and with a couple of additions up front and another top four defenseman, this Maple Leafs team could do some serious damage and become one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup. If Dubas is going to make a splash before the deadline, a deal involving Woll, Niemela, Kerfoot and a first-round pick could bring in some serious talent that would move the needle in Toronto. There’s no point in shopping for anyone who doesn’t.

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