Maple Leafs acquire negotiation rights to Tanev

The Toronto Maple Leafs acquired the signing rights to defenseman Chris Tanev in a trade with the Dallas Stars on Saturday, in exchange for a 2026 seventh-round draft pick and prospect Max Ellis.

Tanev, 34, is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, and by grabbing his rights now from Dallas, the Maple Leafs have an exclusive opportunity to sign Tanev before he hits the open market.

Toronto rightly anticipated Tanev would have several suitors as a free agent. The veteran is a coveted right-shot defender who would instantly take on a top-pairing role for the Maple Leafs. Toronto has been desperate to match Morgan Rielly with a new partner and Tanev could be the right there as a one-two punch with Rielly on the Maple Leafs’ back end.

The Maple Leafs had interest in getting Tanev at the March trade deadline as well but we’re able to get a deal done. Tanev was instead traded from Calgary to Dallas, where he collected one goal and five points in 19 regular season games while averaging nearly 20 minutes per game.

Toronto general manager Brad Treliving has a history with Tanev already from their time together with the Flames from 2020 to when Treliving left Calgary’s general manager post in 2023. Treliving spoke about his team’s acquisition from the NHL draft in Las Vegas on Saturday, saying the Leafs wanted to “jump the queue” when it looked like Tanev wouldn’t be re-signing with the Stars.

“He’s an elite defensive player,” Treliving said. “He’s an absolute warrior. He’s a culture-carrier for your room. I know the player well. We’ll get to work on (a contract) now and I’m at least excited to have an opportunity to speak directly with him.”

The Maple Leafs would be able to sign Tanev — who hails from the Toronto area — to a maximum seven-year deal.

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