Should the Maple Leafs have interest in Panthers Aaron Ekblad?

Miami Herald Ekblad sparks Panthers to comeback win in return from injury | Miami Herald Visit

After recently winning the Stanley Cup, the Florida Panthers are looking to make some moves in order to re-sign some of their important free-agents. Late last night David Pagnotta from the Fourth Period stated in his latest article that veteran defenseman Aaron Ekblad is available for trade, despite the 28-year-old preferring to stay in Florida.  

Aaron Ekblad has been a key piece to the Florida Panthers blueline ever since he was drafted first overall in the 2014 NHL Entry-Draft. However, with players like Gustav Forsling and Brandon Montour playing so well, they’ve earned more opportunities and have strived with it, leading up to a raise in salary for both players. 

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Gustav Forsling recently signed an eight-year deal with an annual average value of $5.75 million back in March, while Brandon Montour is projected to get quite the raise in Free-Agency which opens up next week. Aaron Ekblad’s entering the last year of his current contract with the Florida Panthers which has an annual average value of $7.5 million. 

It’s an interesting situation because Aaron Ekblad is still a useful player and one of the most important reasons the Panthers went on to win the Stanley Cup, however with players mentioned above taking advantage of more opportunities in the lineup, Aaron Ekblad no longer plays as a big a role as he once did with the Cats.

Brandon Montour has made himself a legit threat on the Florida Panthers top power-play unit, which gave the Panthers the opportunity to use Ekblad’s minutes more efficiently. The 28-year-old right-handed defenseman still plays on the top pairing and on the Florida Panthers first penalty-kill unit. It’s not exactly shocking the Florida Panthers would look at this scenario but I do think they’d be better off keeping the veteran around despite his cap hit. 

A Good Fit for the Maple Leafs?

Now for the Maple Leafs, if Aaron Ekblad wasn’t on a divisional opponent I would immediately be interested, however with that being the unfortunate case, a trade like this could be quite complicated. 

Aaron Ekblad isn’t the player he once was in his best year’s, despite being only 28-years-old. However, he’s still a very capable top pairing defenseman who would bring something this team has lacked for a long-time, a prominent right-handed defenseman who can play in all situations.

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Now, Aaron Ekblad’s situation is interesting because I still believe you can get some extremely high-level hockey out of the 28-year-old, but with some serious injuries over recent seasons, I do wonder if that has slightly caught up to him. Despite the health concerns, the veteran defenseman has only one-year remaining on his current contract, so with that I’m willing to look past prior injuries and swing for the upside.

The Maple Leafs clearly need a top pairing partner for Morgan Rielly, adding one of the best defenseman in the league would be a serious step forward. I think Aaron Ekblad would be a fantastic fit with the Maple Leafs, especially on the penalty-kill and strengthening the overall defensive core at even strength. 

Adding a 6 ‘4” right-handed defenseman who can play in both ends of the ice is an opportunity that doesn’t come around often, however it’ll come down to what the Florida Panthers are asking for and how the Maple Leafs orginzation can make the money fit. All together though, I don’t see how you can’t at least be tempted by this addition and take advantage.

Thanks for reading! For more hockey content, follow me on Twitter/X @ITR_ANSELMO

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Joshua Anselmo

A hockey mind that's always looking at new and insightful ways to bring different perspectives of the game we all love.

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