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Are the Maple Leafs trying to trade Patrick Marleau to the Kings?

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Pierre LeBrun says they’ve talked, so who do you want back, Phaneuf or Kovalchuk?

NHL All Star Game Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images

The NHL Scouting Combine is on in Buffalo right now, and that means all the GMs are in a Buffalo hotel with nothing to do but take tea together and chat. Apparently Kyle Dubas and Rob Blake chatted about a Patrick Marleau trade.

The Kings, who were desperately bad last year, are in a fix. They have a much worse set of old, overpaid players on long-term deals than even Detroit. They don’t have young prospects to speak of, and they don’t have cap room to pay for any if they could get them. So naturally, they want the second oldest man in the NHL who is paid over $6 million.

If they could convince the Leafs to take one of their longer-term, but slightly more useful, old, overpaid players back, they might enjoy only having Marleau for one season. The trick is, how do you find someone the Leafs will actually take? I assume that’s what LeBrun means by fit.

If your eyes lit up at the thought of Jake Muzzin’s old D partner, Alec Martinez, well, that’s natural, but the guy the Kings will want to move is Dion Phaneuf. You might consider Jeff Carter, and wonder if on the wing, he’s still got it (somewhat is my opinion on that), but the man they want to lose is Ilya Kovalchuk who would just become a very expensive fourth liner for two years instead of one year with Marleau. If the Kings retained to the maximum on his salary, it spreads the cap hit of $6.250 million over two years, which might help the Leafs sign their RFAs, but they’d have a grumpy Russian fourth liner who can only score on the power play. But that salary retention would have to be paid for.

I don’t think the Kings moving Drew Doughty is in the cards, because while that would be amusing if the Leafs ended up with three $11 million contracts without Mitch Marner’s being one of them, it’s not very plausible cap-wise, even if they do manage the impossible and move Marleau and Zaitsev this summer.

The weird thing is, Los Angeles is actually a fit for Zaitsev. They don’t need help with shot differential, so they can offset his difficulties there, but they do need an NHL-capable defender who isn’t a minimum contract AHLer on call-up. But taking back one of their albatrosses doesn’t seem to be a good idea for the Leafs just to get rid of either player. For both... Now that’s a thought.

But unless the Earl Grey just got to Dubas’s head and he was talking trades for fun, this news might mean the Leafs have at least broached the idea of a move with Marleau.

We’ll see where this goes too.

UPDATE: Pierre LeBrun and Bob McKenzie were on Insider Trading tonight, and expanded on this story.

The gist is that the Leafs and the Kings are still talking, but aren’t close to figuring out a deal. They believe (the Insiders, that is) that Marleau will waive for a trade to the Kings. The Leafs would have to take back someone with term (not defined) to help the Kings in the future.

UPDATE: Elliott is a long-time Kings reporter and would be in the know, so this conflicts a little with LeBrun’s “they’re still talking”.

And another bit from last night’s game: