March 28, 2023

Following news that Jake Muzzin will be out indefinitely, the Toronto Maple Leafs say they’re going to give opportunities to defensemen already on the roster. Not everyone is buying into the idea that Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren can effectively step up and fill the minutes left by Muzzin’s absence, but for now, that’s the plan.

It might be that Toronto figures out a way to compete with the blue line they have, but insiders like Frank Seravalli believe GM Kyle Dubas will be looking for a solution long-term. In fact, he says that Dubas may steer away from his tradition of not going after rentals because players without term might be the most realistic option.

With that in mind, Seravalli wrote about six potential options the Maple Leafs might look at, with a seventh player he suggests is someone worth keeping an eye on. The one thing he noted was that all of these players would likely cost a premium to acquire. He writes, “Teams that have steady defensemen are in the business of hanging onto them, unless there is a significant premium paid.”

John Klingberg (Anaheim Ducks)

A defenseman most knew was likely not to stick in Anaheim for the duration of the one-year contract he signed, John Klingberg will be an interesting player to watch because he’s an offensively-gifted d-man who can run a power play, produce offensively, and play big minutes. He’s averaging over 23 minutes per night on a Ducks’ roster that isn’t very good and he’s got eight points in 16 games.

John Klingberg Anaheim Ducks
John Klingberg, Anaheim Ducks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

There was chatter that both the Ducks and Klingberg might be open to an extension, but he is likely to be a trade deadline sell for the team in an attempt to pick up prospects or picks. Most believed he was signed to be a flippable asset and if the Ducks retain 50% of his $7 million salary, this is something the Maple Leafs can manage if they’re looking for an offensive driver and top-pairing player.

Vladislav Gavrikov (Columbus Blue Jackets)

Vladislav Gavrikov is a well-rounded defensive defenseman playing bigger minutes in Columbus due to the loss of Zach Werenski. He’s got size and reach and can be a shut-down guy who can penalty kill, and block shots. He’s a lot less expensive than Klingberg and a different type of player.

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His $2.8 million cap hit is affordable for the Leafs, especially if Blue Jackets are open to retaining salary in the deal. If things keep going south for Columbus when it comes to injuries, it is likely they will start dumping assets and Gavrikov is a pending UFA that hasn’t signed with the Blue Jackets despite talk they’d like to keep him. This is player that makes some sense for Toronto and if Muzzin is out longer than this season, Toronto might be open to an extension with this player.

Matt Roy (Los Angeles Kings)

Seravalli suggests Matt Roy might be less likely than some of the other players on his list because he still has some term on his contract. The Kings are also competitive and trying to make the postseason and there are other players they’d prefer to move. That said, they have extra bodies on their blue line, can afford to move someone, and Roy might have value around the NHL.

Related: Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors: Tavares, Murray, Rielly & Matthews

The biggest concern is the decrease in minutes from last season to this. Seravalli writes, “After averaging 20:18 over the last two seasons, he has only cracked 20 minutes twice this season, averaging 17:50.” That shouldn’t be a big concern for the Leafs who can still use him in a top-four role and the cost isn’t unworkable at $3.15 million for the next two seasons.

Carson Soucy (Seattle Kraken)

Carson Soucy is a player that has attracted some trade interest over the past year. There were teams that looked at him at the previous NHL Trade Deadline but, for whatever reason, he wasn’t moved. He may not be available out of Seattle, but if the Kraken drop out of contention for the playoffs, he could be moved as he’s a pending UFA.

Carson Soucy, Seattle Kraken
Carson Soucy, Seattle Kraken (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Again, at $2.75 million, he’s affordable for the Maple Leafs without Muzzin’s salary on the books and Soucy has the size the Maple Leafs might want, along with some skill. He’s averaging only 16:48 per game so he doesn’t play as often as some of the other defensemen on this list, but he would be a good depth add. He can play both sides.

Dmitry Orlov or Nick Jensen (Washington Capitals)

It’s not clear who the Maple Leafs would prefer if either Dmitry Orlov or Nick Jensen were made available, but should the Capitals miss the playoffs, both could be. It would be a different story if Washington was in it, but there are so many big names out of the lineup for that team, the organization could shift focus and direction before the trade deadline.

Orlov is currently on IR and Seravalli suggests Jensen might be a stylistic fit for Toronto. Both players handle forechecking pressure well, which is something the Maple Leafs could use, especially as the playoffs roll around; the Maple Leafs need players who are built for playoff hockey. Unless there’s salary retention on Orlov, there’s a big cost difference between the two players. Jensen is a $2.5 million cap hit and Orlov comes in at $5.1 million.

Honorable Mention

Seravalli doesn’t go into detail on Matt Dumba, but his story is fairly well-known. He’s been a highly-touted defenseman for years with the Wild, but his name often seems to be out there in trade discussions. He’s a pending UFA making $6 million, so his salary is a bit of an issue unless the Wild retain money in any deal. He’s not produced much offensively, but he is playing over 20 minutes per night.

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