Give the Toronto Maple Leafs some credit, despite the playoff results, every year since 2016 the team has found ways to improve and come back a better, more complete team. This season, Kyle Dubas surrounded his Big Four with a cast forward that would piss Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl; Michael Bunting was a revelation (which a lot of smart people saw coming) and Alex Kerfoot was a great winger for the team. Ondřej Kaše was excellent on the third row, and Ilya Mikheyev was hotter than the Sun to start 2022. Not much to add there, and certainly not Taylor Hall who could have been chosen for a second-round pick. Not mad about it yet.
The team got some great goalkeepers (for the most part), and the defense eventually brought Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren into permanent roles giving the team real depth. Unfortunately, Jake Muzzin hasn’t had the best year possible so far. He suffered an injury, COVID, and now a concussion that keeps him out indefinitely. Justin Holl has also not had the best of seasons, often supplanted by rookie Liljegren. Despite what Muzzin’s long-term future looks like, he’s still a defender you can believe in as the best defender.
That said, this season he would need some help. A partner who can do a little more than Holl, and who isn’t as green as Lil-green. As a top-five team in the league, the pick the Leafs acquire at the trade deadline should be a defenseman. Someone to help right now, and maybe someone who can be brought into the fold and be another weapon in the team’s arsenal.
So if the consensus is on a defender, who should he have? There have been a lot of names in the rumor mill over the past few months, but I’ve compiled a list of four players who meet the following criteria:
- Right-handed defender
- An upgrade in the top four
- In a team ready to trade
- Affordable on the cap
- Affordable with Leafs business assets
Damon Severson (27) — 2 times $4.16 million
Severson is probably the best player to do what the Leafs want, he’s on a bad team and his contract is coming to an end. Severson is also the youngest of the group at 27 and has a second year on his contract, which could please Kyle Dubas as he did with Muzzin when acquired. As a limit first pair defender, Severson would solidify the front four into a very strong group and provide Muzzin with a perfect partner. And hey, if Muzzin declines next year, Severson would fit like a glove in that role with Sandin probably next to him.
As a good shot, he covers his side of the ice very well. Penalty isolations aren’t great (AATJ disagrees this season), but at least he doesn’t need to be played on the power play, especially on the Leafs. I think Severson is a perfect fit for the Leafs, and Many people I think so since he was 23 years old in the FRG. In Toronto, he’ll come from being the No. 1 guy to becoming the No. 4 guy. Easy to see his results improving further.
Severson probably won’t come cheap, but the Leafs have some upside and it’s better to burn it on a good player who offers short-to-medium term value than on Nick Foligno. Severson won’t cost what Chicago was willing to give up for Seth Jones, but Rasmus Ristolainen (stop laughing) cost a first and second (seriously, stop laughing), Brady Skjei cost a first-round pick, and Muzzin was a first and two B prospects. If the Leafs were to give up their first round pick, Topi Niemala, another prospect or pick, and a contract to make it work (Ritchie, Dermott), would you be okay with it?
Damon Severson for Topi Niemala + Semyon Der-Arguchintsev + 2022 1st
I don’t see the adjustment
678 votes in total
Mark Pysyk (30) – 1 x $900,000
Totally Offside has been asking for this article for a while and it’s finally here. Mark Pysyk, sometimes a forward, mostly a defenseman, could be the cheap and cheerful addition to the Leafs fullback. Currently on the Buffalo Sabres, Pysyk plays second pair after spending a lot of time in the lower half of the defense corps in Florida for many years.
He had some really good isolated impacts from HockeyViz before this season, and this year he had to take on a big defensive role for the Sabers, who are bad, and the team seems to be better when he’s on the ice. He won’t make a big difference for the Leafs, but I’m relatively confident he’s better than the fourth player the Leafs have now, and he should be cheap. I don’t think any higher than a fourth-round pick. But you never know with Dubas, he could still pull a Foligno. Again, not mad about that yet.
Josh Manson (30) — 1x $4.1M
The Anaheim Ducks are currently in the divisional playoffs (thanks, Oilers) so there’s a very good chance they’ll keep Manson on loan to keep the spirits of this young group alive. At the moment, the Ducks would face the Los Angeles Kings in the first round, so it’s very possible that they could make it a round or two.
If things go south for the Ducks (which is highly unlikely), Manson could be a cheaper option for Severson as he’s not as good and is on the final year of his contract. I think the Ducks love their young defensemen, including Jamie Drysdale who is already in the NHL. If they feel they can afford to sell for the future while still pursuing a playoff run, that’s the best of both worlds for them.
Don’t worry, the Leafs won’t give up on William Nylander this time. The request would probably be a second-round pick and a decent prospect so they could get a contract back (maybe they want Nick Ritchie back?).
Scott Mayfield (29) — 2 times $1.45 million
I’m going to be completely honest, I don’t think Scott Mayfield is good when he’s not playing next to Adam Pelech, who is very good on merit. Mayfield is having his first positive impact season and I think it’s all down to Pelech being his defensive partner. It’s as comparable to Justin Holl as possible, which might work if you want to trade in for a cheaper model, but I want to focus on upgrades and Mayfield wouldn’t be that. The grass isn’t any greener on Long Island.
You might be wondering why I don’t have any of the big defensive names in the trading block on my roster. Where are Ben Chiarot, Cody Ceci and Tyson Barrie? Just kidding, but we might as well talk about some of the most famous defenders out there.
John Klingberg is a great offensive defenseman if you need a puck engine on the power play and at 5-on-5. While he would help the Leafs focus on what they’re good at, he’s going to cost a lot of money. The Leafs could make an offer, but they would be giving up a lot for a few months of a guy they kind of already have in Morgan Rielly and Rasmus Sandin. These assets would be best used within the organization or finding someone to specifically help Muzzin defensively.
Marc Giordano Still has him at the ripe old age of 38 (still young by human standards!), but he’s a southpaw and I’m still a little worried about what the Leafs would get, especially if he were the only addition what the team could do from a salary cap perspective. If I was Dubas, I would do my due diligence, talk to him, people in Seattle I know, and my own staff before I was sure. If there is a crisis, and he has the fire and the body to go for it, then I would consider it. His shooting, his penalty kill and his experience would be very valuable for this team. He won the Norris three years ago for shouting out loud!
Jakob Chychrun is a very good defender and is only 23 years old. This is undoubtedly a first pairing, which is why the demand for him will be so high that the Leafs won’t have the assets to pay for him. I’m sure the Leafs will make an offer, but he’ll get something much more competitive from a growing team, not an established team like the Leafs. Detroit, New Jersey, Los Angeles, Anaheim and Seattle. All of these teams have the business assets and space in Chychrun’s roster.
Or Florida, which has a package the Leafs simply can’t match.
Marek on what Florida might have to offer Arizona for Jakob Chychrun:
You’re probably looking for a Spencer Knight, Anton Lundell, 1st pick RD. That sounds like a lot, and it is, but that will be the price for Chychrun.
— NHL Watcher (@NHL_Watcher) January 19, 2022
If they acquired him, the Leafs would have to juggle Rielly, Muzzin and Chychrun on the left side, all of whom are No. 1 or No. 3. I just don’t think the Leafs need to make such a swing. Give up a few assets, but they’re going to need their top prospects (Robertson, Amirov, Knies, etc.) to fill the front lines with ELCs. I think the Leafs should trade two of those guys and maybe Sandin on top of them to make the deal work (and one of them will absolutely be Arizona native Matthew
s Knies). As much as I would love Chychrun on the Leafs, they just don’t have the depth of assets. Unfortunately, this is not the right moment for them in their victory curve.
Like everyone else, Chiarot is bad, Rasmus Ristolainen is LOL, we’ve recycled Ceci and Barrie once before, and I don’t see the appeal of Connor Murphy at all. If you have any suggestions for other defenders who might be available, I’d love to hear their names in the comments. Remember, this team needs someone who has been in the top four, not someone who has “top four potential” but has never passed a third pair.
Do anything to get Severson. His contract situation would give the Leafs two playoffs, his age fits the Leafs window, there are both ways and an opportunity to extend him beyond his current contract to be the top-four right-handed defenseman than the team has been looking for Bryan McCabe, and he’s good defensively without scoring those pesky salary-blowing points.
If the Devils balk, believing they want his 30 when the team isn’t ready to compete or give him up for less, then it’s a matter of finding a fit with someone like Giordano, or to add below average defenders who could potentially be a fit for Muzzin systems-wise or be available at depth.
Who should be next to Jake Muzzin at the start of the playoffs?
I think the Leafs should just trade Muzzin
564 votes in total