The Hurricanes and Leafs have similar issues; Toronto has a lot of wingers, while Carolina has a lot of defenceman.
Both teams have been linked throughout the William Nylander saga and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they have been scouting each other well after the Leafs got Nylander signed to a new deal.
Out of all the defencemen the Hurricanes had to offer, Pesce’s name was the one everybody was bringing up, but it seemed unlikely that the Leafs would give up one of their best winger for him. One thing that works in Carolina’s favour is that Pesce is signed for another five seasons at $4.025 million, which is great value for a top-four defenceman.
The 24-year-old native has a decent frame at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds and has great puck moving capabilities, but doesn’t have as much of a high ceiling since he doesn’t put up a lot of offence. Regardless, he would be an ideal fit on the Leafs’ blue line, whether it’s pushing Hainsey or Nikita Zaitsev down the lineup.
Andrew Berkshire had a great breakdown on Pesce for Sportsnet, talking about why he is a highly regarded defensive defenceman that teams want.
"“Pesce has had among the best impact on shot quality of any player in the NHL this season. He’s one of only six defencemen with a high-danger scoring chance differential above 60 percent at 5-vs-5, with only he and Ryan McDonagh playing top-four minutes.”"
Obviously, if the Leafs want to do this deal they would have to include a winger in return and it would probably either be Kasperi Kapanen or Andreas Johnsson. Now, we know Dubas has held preliminary discussions with Kapanen on a new deal and it could end up being a bridge deal; the Leafs’ GM has been a big fan of the Finnish winger since he was acquired in the Phil Kessel trade.
So it could end up being Johnsson going to Carolina which wouldn’t a popular move, but in order to acquire talent, someone has to go the other way.