The potential for a Toronto Maple Leafs trade is looming, and while the team missed out on acquiring Nikita Zadorov, it seems they are redirecting their focus towards another NHL defenseman. The Maple Leafs’ defensive lineup is currently grappling with injuries to key players such as John Klingberg, Mark Giordano, and Timothy Liljegren, exacerbating the existing challenges faced by their struggling blue line.
The evident weakness in the Leafs’ defensive unit has highlighted the urgent need for an upgrade, prompting discussions of a potential trade on the horizon. Despite initial speculation that the Calgary Flames might offer the needed assets, recent reports suggest that Toronto is eyeing a specific player: Philadelphia defenseman Sean Walker.
According to insights from TSN’s Insider Trading, the Maple Leafs have honed in on Walker as a potential solution to fortify their defensive capabilities. Walker, a 29-year-old NHL veteran hailing from the Greater Toronto Area, has an unconventional journey to the league. Having grown up in Keswick, Ontario, he played AAA hockey for the York Simcoe Express before navigating through second-tier junior hockey and eventually joining NCAA’s Bowling Green State University.
Last season, Walker’s performance with the Los Angeles Kings saw him record three goals and 10 assists in 70 games. While he faced occasional healthy scratches, his standout 24-point campaign in 2020 earned him a four-year deal with the Kings, boasting an average annual value of $2.65 million. In a surprising turn of events, Walker became part of the Philadelphia Flyers during a three-team deal that transpired in last year’s Stanley Cup finals.
Undergoing a larger role with the Flyers as they continue their rebuilding phase, Walker has emerged as a valuable asset, capable of fetching draft picks or prospects in a potential trade. In the current season, he has contributed four goals and seven assists in 23 games, playing a crucial role on the second pairing in Philadelphia and participating in special teams, particularly the second penalty-killing unit.
With impressive possession metrics, including a 53.6 Corsi rating at even strength, a +4.7 relative to his team, the Maple Leafs view Walker as a trustworthy option to enhance their defensive depth. However, accommodating Walker’s final year of a $2.65 million deal would require the Leafs to address their cap space, potentially incorporating this aspect into the trade negotiations with the Flyers. The outcome of this potential trade could reshape the Maple Leafs’ defensive lineup and elevate their overall performance on the ice.