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2 Canucks Free Agents the Toronto Maple Leafs Could Pursue

Dakota Joshua and Nikita Zadorov are reportedly on the Toronto Maple Leafs’ radar. Either player could significantly impact the Leafs’ lineup, aligning with the collective vision of Craig Berube and Brad Treliving.

Rick Dhaliwal of the Donnie and Dhali Show recently discussed the possibility of the Toronto Maple Leafs pursuing two Vancouver Canucks free agents: Dakota Joshua and Nikita Zadorov. Here’s a closer look at why each player could be a good fit for the Leafs this upcoming season.

Dakota Joshua

Dakota Joshua embodies the physicality and scoring touch that fits well with Craig Berube and Brad Treliving’s shared vision. Likely to slot into a bottom-six role, Joshua has the potential to grow into a middle-six option.

Joshua could replace Tyler Bertuzzi or Max Domi, though he may offer more value than Bertuzzi at a lower cost. His versatility might even allow him to fill roles previously held by players like Zach Hyman or Michael Bunting on the Auston Matthews line. While this might be optimistic, Joshua’s potential makes him worth considering.

Despite these positives, Joshua’s 20% shooting rate from last season, leading to 18 goals in 68 games, is likely unsustainable. Investing in a player coming off a career season carries risk, but his connection to Berube makes Joshua a suitable fit for the Leafs. He could thrive alongside John Tavares and William Nylander, similar to Bobby McMann’s role.

Nikita Zadorov

Nikita Zadorov is expected to draw significant interest on the open market. However, the Leafs might have an edge due to Zadorov’s familiarity with Brad Treliving from their Calgary days.

Zadorov excels at defending the rush and brings significant size to the team. Although he appears to be on the cusp of a late-career breakout as a top-pairing defender, he has yet to consistently perform at that level. The risk of overpaying is considerable, but the potential rewards are equally high.

Zadorov could form a formidable shutdown pair with Jake McCabe, allowing Simon Benoit to settle into a third-pairing role. This defensive setup could make the Leafs one of the toughest teams to play against in the Eastern Conference. While Zadorov has his critics, the prospect of a true shutdown pair is enticing for a team that has lacked such a defensive presence since the early 2000s.

Two Vancouver Canucks free agents could transform the Toronto Maple Leafs lineup

Financial Considerations

Joshua, coming off a two-year deal with an $825K cap hit according to PuckPedia, will likely command a higher salary this summer. Assuming the Leafs sign him for $2 to $2.5 million, it would be half of Bertuzzi’s salary from last season.

As for Zadorov, he had a $3.75 million cap hit last season. If he receives a $2 million pay bump, his salary would be in the $5.5 to $6 million range. This is within the Leafs’ budget, considering they paid John Klingberg $5 million last season. With the right term, Zadorov might agree to this salary, fitting into the Leafs’ financial plans.

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