There was an early Toronto Maple Leafs trade last season when Kyle Dubas moved Carl Grundstorm, Sean Durzi, and a first-round pick to the Los Angeles Kings for Jake Muzzin on January 28. That was 27 days before the deadline. Dubas still made a couple of minor deals closer to the deadline in 2019, but he may decide to make his big splash well ahead of the deadline again this year. Here’s a look at what bigger pieces Dubas could be looking to add in January.
Early Look At Toronto Maple Leafs Trade Deadline
It’s no secret that the Maple Leafs are in the hunt for a new backup goaltender. Michael Hutchinson has played well at times, but he’s been terrible more often than not. Rumours have been swirling that Dubas is interested in Alexandar Georgiev of the New York Rangers.
Georgiev is on the block mostly because he’s the third goaltender on the depth chart. The Rangers have Henrik Lundqvist for this season and next. While they may prefer to trade Lundqvist, his contract of $8.5 per year, may make that hard, and it’s difficult to trade away the face of the franchise. The Rangers also have promising young goaltender Igor Shesterkin waiting to take the crown from Lundqvist at some point next year. All that makes Georgiev expendable.
At What Cost?
The trouble with trading for Georgiev is the Rangers want a young roster player. Someone like a Kasperi Kapanen or Andreas Johnsson. Dubas is probably more than willing to trade one or even both of those players, but not for a backup goaltender. He’s likely saving those pieces to improve the defence, which is in dire need of help these days.
If Dubas can talk Jeff Gorton down to a player like Jeremy Bracco, and something else not off the roster, we may yet see Georgiev in a Toronto uniform.
What really makes acquiring Georgiev a great move for the Maple Leafs is he could be good enough to replace Frederik Andersen when his deal is up at the end of next season. Andersen is making $5 million per season now and as a UFA will be looking for a hefty raise. If the Maple Leafs are still tight against the cap by then, and Andersen has failed to bring them past the first round, a change may be desired by both sides. Georgiev may be able to take over the starting role by then.
Apparently, the Maple Leafs are talking extension with Muzzin. Chances are, Dubas has given Muzzin a number he feels the team can live with and now it’s up to Muzzin to decide to stay or go. The money Dubas is willing to offer can’t be what Muzzin is worth on the open market. If Muzzin likes Toronto enough, he may stay, but the key to talking extension with Muzzin now is so Dubas knows what he has to play with prior to the deadline.
If Muzzin does stay, and that is the less likely scenario, Dubas may be looking at a rental on the blue line. With Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren both looking to make the jump to the NHL this year or next, the Maple Leafs will be fairly set next season. Even if Tyson Barrie leaves, Toronto will still have Muzzin, Sandin, Liljegren, Morgan Rielly, Justin Holl, and presumably Travis Dermott, who is an RFA at the end of this season.
If Muzzin is leaving, Dubas may look for someone a little younger at the deadline. Someone with a couple of years left on his contract.
The two players most likely to be traded are of course Kapanen and Johnsson. Either of them should fetch their equivalent on the blue line. If the Maple Leafs are willing to take a player that’s set to be a UFA this summer, the Calgary Flames are an interesting trade partner.
Either of T.J. Brodie or Travis Hamonic would fit will in Toronto. The problem is Dubas may not be able to re-sign either of them. Without that guarantee, will he be willing to part with a player like Kapanen?
Dubas would surly prefer someone along the lines of Mathew Dumba of the Minnesota Wild for Kapanen. The Wild haven’t been having a great season so far. They’re currently sitting last in the Central Division so they may be looking to shake things up, but Dubma is only 25. It may take more than just Kapanen to pry him out of Minnesota.
Depth Depth Depth
With both Muzzin and Rielly out with broken feet, Dubas may have to settle for just adding depth to the blue line. Rather than add someone to play top-four minutes, he may need to simply add players that can play minutes.
Brenden Dillon of the San Jose Sharks is a UFA this summer and may be available without Dubas needing to give up a roster player. For Dubas to add a player like Dillon, who has a $3.27 million cap hit, he might need to find a way to move salary out. The first player that comes to mind here is Cody Ceci with a $4.5 million, but Ceci is a player that can eat minutes in a bottom pairing. The exact sort of player the team needs at the moment. The knock against Ceci is really just his salary at this point.
The good news when it comes to the salary cap for the Maple Leafs is that with all the injuries they’ve sustained, and with two salary cap experts in Laurence Gilman and Brandon Pridham (both Assistant General Managers), they may be able to find creative ways to add to the roster without needing to significantly subtract from it.
Get Ready For A Toronto Maple Leafs Trade
Whatever ends up happening, know that Dubas is looking to make a trade now. Prices can go up at the trade deadline as teams get desperate. Bidding wars can inflate the value of anything artificially. That includes hockey players. If the Toronto Maple Leafs trade for a defenseman, or a back-up goaltender, well ahead of the trade deadline, they’re likely to pay less. That means the trade watch starts now.
NEW YORK, NY – FEBRUARY 10: New York Rangers Goalie Alexandar Georgiev (40) in action during the third period of a regular season NHL game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New York Rangers on February 10, 2019, at Madison Square Garden in New York, NY. (Photo by David Hahn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)