Jun 29, 2014, 9:40 AM EST
While that deal netted the Leafs a physical blue liner, it also sent Dion Phaneuf‘s top-pairing partner out of town. That means there’s a spot next to the Leafs captain and a chance to play a lot more minutes open and Leafs GM Dave Nonis said it creates a big opportunity for young defensemen Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly as TSN’s Jonas Siegel shared.
“Those guys are going to have to take steps forward,” Nonis said of the promising duo. “It might be a lot to ask for Morgan a little bit in his second year, but he made some pretty big strides last year and we would expect that he’ll take some more next [year]. And I think Jake is a good possibility [of doing the same] as well.”
Both players are very young but have tremendous skill.
Gardiner, 23, saw big minutes playing on the second pairing with Cody Franson and averaged 21:05 of ice time per game last season. Rielly, 20, had an impressive rookie season last year with 27 points and averaged 17:11 time on ice per game while paired with Tim Gleason on the third pairing.
Gardiner seems like the logical candidate to take Gunnarsson’s spot unless coach Randy Carlyle is reticent to break up that pairing with Franson. Either way, Phaneuf is going to have a skilled, speedy new partner to keep up with.
- NHL on NBC: Rangers look for a fourth straight win against the Flyers 4
- Ducks score four third-period goals, come back to beat rival Kings 6
- Blackhawks aren’t done talking trades, will look to add another forward 10
- Breaking: Flyers trade Kimmo Timonen to Blackhawks 26
- Video: Couture fined $5K for slew-footing Smith 22
- Time to start winning — Bruins’ next four games are against non-playoff teams 17
- Burgled: Sens’ Hammond shuts out Kings 14
- Wild get important win vs. Preds (and some luck, too) 41
- Trading baggage: Blue Jackets grab Clarkson, send Horton’s contract to Leafs 66
- Panthers acquire Jagr from Devils 29
- Petrovic: Chicago will ‘probably seek revenge’ for Kane injury tonight (82)
- ‘I don’t know why we’re so comfortable,’ says Toews after loss to Avalanche (69)
- Report: Alex Petrovic avoids discipline after injuring Patrick Kane (69)
- Trading baggage: Blue Jackets grab Clarkson, send Horton’s contract to Leafs (66)
- Lindros files $3M defamation lawsuit against ex-referee Stewart (Updated: Now $250K) (65)