Report: Maple Leafs scouting Hurricanes' available defensemen

Gregg Forwerck / National Hockey League / Getty

It appears the Toronto Maple Leafs are looking south in an attempt to help aid their blue line.

The Maple Leafs continue to scout the Carolina Hurricanes' available defensemen, reports TSN's Darren Dreger.

Carolina is reportedly open to trading Dougie Hamilton, and teams have apparently been calling about Brett Pesce. The Hurricanes also reportedly hope to land a top-six forward in exchange for a defenseman.

The Maple Leafs and Hurricanes have often been linked as potential trade partners. Toronto possesses an abundance of forward depth, while Carolina has four NHL-caliber right-handed defensemen, which the Maple Leafs lack.

Hamilton has seen his production falter in his first season with the Hurricanes. He has seven goals and 10 assists after producing four straight 40-point campaigns. The 25-year-old Toronto native comes with a $5.75-million cap hit and won't hit free agency until the summer of 2021.

While Hamilton has gained a reputation for his offensive abilities, Pesce has developed into one of the more reliable shutdown blue-liners in the league. Among defensemen who have played 500 minutes at five-on-five this year, he's been on the ice for the 14th-fewest scoring chances against per 60 minutes, and the 16th-fewest high-danger scoring chances against per 60 minutes - all while primarily being tasked with shutting down opponents' top players. The 24-year-old is signed through the 2023-24 season and carries a $4.025-million cap hit.

The Hurricanes also employ right-handed defensemen Justin Faulk and Trevor van Riemsdyk, though their names haven't surfaced in trade rumors.

Toronto's blue line is particularly weak on the right side. Left-handed shooting veteran Ron Hainsey plays on the right side of the team's top pairing, while Nikita Zaitsev and rookie Igor Ozhiganov hold down the right side on the bottom two units with limited effectiveness.

(Advanced stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick)

Report: Maple Leafs scouting Hurricanes' available defensemen
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