Toronto Maple Leafs get the left-sided defenseman that they desperately needed
The Toronto Maple Leafs have pulled off a huge trade to land defenceman Jake Muzzin.
General manager Kyle Dubas made good on a promise to his Toronto Maple Leafs players. He acknowledged that it was now up to him to give them extra support in their run-up to and into the playoffs.
In exchange for Jake Muzzin, who is a big upgrade on the Leafs’ blueline. The team gave away their first round pick in 2019. As well as forward prospect Carl Grundstrom and defensive prospect Sean Durzi.
The deal has cost the Leafs a lot. But not as much as some had initially feared. With plenty of rumours suggesting it would take a Timothy Liljegren, Rasmus Sandin or Jeremy Bracco to get what the team needed.
This has not happened and the Leafs have managed to retain their two best prospects. Both of whom will eventually step up to play on the team’s blueline themselves.
This will see a shake-up of the defensive pairings that head coach Mike Babcock will be able to roll out. Muzzin will be given extra time to settle into his new team. Since the trade has been completed with a full month to spare.
The Toronto Maple Leafs’ top defensive pairing will most likely see immediate and noticeable changes now that Muzzin is on board.
The pairing of Morgan Rielly and Ron Hainsey will finally be separated.
With Muzzin joining as a left-hander, the top pairing will likely see Rielly move to the right side. To allow the Leafs’ new, physical presence to slot in smoothly.
Rielly has played on the right before, despite also being a left-handed shot. The top pairing of Muzzin and Rielly should give the team an immediate upgrade.
Muzzin’s physicality and defensive strengths will greatly compliment Rielly. Who is having arguably the best season of his career and has already broken the 50-point mark this season.
With the Leafs often being seen as possessing less physicality than teams such as Boston. Having Muzzin involved in the top pair will be a big statement from the team and should pay off nicely.
One constant on the Leafs’ second pairings isn’t going anywhere. At least not this season.
Jake Gardiner, who often receives mixed reactions from fans, will remain planted in his regular left-sided position.
Gardiner has been glued regularly to Russian blueliner Nikita Zaitsev. It has been an ever-present since the day he stepped into the NHL. With the partnership having mixed results.
Zaitsev’s production has dropped dramatically across his three seasons in the league and Babcock could be ready to push the Russian down the line-up. Especially as it would keep a wily veteran that the long-time head coach seems to be enamoured with.
Hainsey is more than likely going to see himself drop onto the second pairing. Keeping his minutes up but also reducing them enough to ensure he is not gassed heading into the playoffs.
Considering everything Muzzin brings to the table, the Leafs are getting an immediate upgrade. While considering the depth on the wing, losing a prospect like Grundstrom for a player that can help now is worth the price.
Whether this is the last deal for the Leafs remains to be seen but, seeing Dubas make a trade like this shows he is willing to make a push to contend now and still have the option for next season. It will also be interesting to see whether the Leafs GM will make another deal down the road.