Maple Leafs acquire Chris Tanev's rights from Dallas Stars

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Brad Treliving got his man.

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Now, he has to sign him.

The Maple Leafs general manager has coveted defenceman Chris Tanev since taking over the team last June, and on Saturday at the National Hockey League draft in Las Vegas, Treliving acquired the rights to the Toronto native.

The Leafs traded forward Max Ellis, who had 14 points in 36 games this season with the Toronto Marlies, and their seventh-round pick in 2025 to the Dallas Stars to get Tanev’s rights.

“We talked since the end of the year about trying to help ourselves on defence,” Treliving told reporters in Las Vegas. “As it got closer and it looked like potentially he’s not going to be signing in Dallas, we wanted to jump the queue here as best we could and get to him before free agency started. So that’s what we’re going to do.

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“I know the player well, we’ll get to work on it now, at least excited to have an opportunity to speak directly with him and see if we can put something together.”

The Leafs and Tanev will work at getting a contract done before NHL free agency opens on Monday at noon. Talks between Treliving and Tanev’s agent, Wade Arnott, will start in earnest.

Speculation remains that Treliving would like to add Nikita Zadorov on the blue line as well, and TSN’s Darren Dreger brought up the name of Oliver Ekman-Larsson on Saturday as another possibility. Matt Roy also could be in the Leafs’ sights.

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Treliving also has interest in signing at least one goaltender to play with Joseph Woll.

“We’ll see what the goalie market is,” Treliving said. “We’ve been poking around in it and we’ve got to shore that up and we’re confident that we can.”

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And how optimistic is Treliving about re-signing forwards Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi?

“We don’t have an agreement yet, so that’s what we’re working on,” Treliving said. “We will be in touch with them both. Our cap situation is what our cap situation is. We’ve got some holes to fill, so we’ll keep working on it until we get a positive conclusion or they hit the market.”

When asked about qualifying his restricted free agents, a group that includes defenceman Timothy Liljegren and forwards Nick Robertson, Connor Dewar and Noah Gregor, Treliving said those are being worked on, though the feeling is growing that the Leafs might part ways with Liljegren. The deadline to tender qualifying offers is on Sunday.

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And Monday, of course, is when the Leafs and Mitch Marner can start working on an extension. There has been no absolute clarity on that front, whether Marner stays or goes, and Treliving was not asked about Marner on Saturday. Marner’s intention has been to stay with the Leafs as he heads into the final year of his contract.

Treliving tried to get Tanev, 34, in a trade with the Calgary Flames this past season before the Flames dealt him to the Stars at the end of February.

Tanev is finishing a four-year contract with an average annual value of $4.5 million US, signed in October 2020 with Calgary when Treliving was the Flames GM.

The thinking has been that the right-shooting Tanev would have a similar average annual value (AAV) on his next contract, but if the Leafs can sign him to a longer deal (beyond five years), the AAV could be lowered to a degree.

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Considering Treliving has approximately $19-million to use under the cap, anywhere he can find dollars would be crucial.

“We talk about offensive players seeing things and seeing plays early, he does the same things but on the defensive side of the puck,” Treliving said. “An absolute warrior. He is a culture carrier for your room. I know the age he is at, but I think even in the last year he has shown he is one of the top shutdown defencemen and one of the top defensive players in the league.

“He embodies everything you want in a teammate. For us to have him right now, it’s exciting. Hell of a player and tremendous person. He will be a big part of our group if we can get it all put together.”

Indeed, and you can see why the Leafs know he would be an impact performer in the playoffs. But the Leafs would have to keep their fingers crossed, to an extent, that Tanev can remain healthy.

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“Phenomenal pro,” said a team staff member, via text to the Sun, who has worked with Tanev. “Leads by example. Does it right. Reliable, first pass, makes plays under pressure. Strong on the PK.”

Where Tanev would slot on the Leafs’ depth chart remains to be seen, considering he probably won’t be the only addition to the defence corps.

In 75 games last season, Tanev had two goals and 17 assists and was plus-22. He also had 24 penalty minutes, and his 207 shot blocks were tied for third in the NHL.

In 792 career games, Tanev has averaged 19 minutes 59 seconds of ice time a game. Last season, he was between 19 and 20 minutes with both the Flames and the Stars.

At the end of the Stars’ playoff run this spring, it was reported that Tanev was recovering from a tendon injury suffered in the Western Conference final.

New Leafs coach Craig Berube has been getting to know the Leafs players, and would love a chance to coach Tanev.

“Heart and soul guy,” Berube told reporters on Saturday. “Gives you everything he’s got. Team guy, lays it on the line every night. Hopefully, we get something done.”

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