The overriding conclusion is that Jake Muzzin will join Morgan Rielly in the top two, but is it the right move by the Toronto Maple Leafs?
With this out the way, let’s delve more into the potential questions which remain. More specifically, in respect of where Muzzin will play.
However, what really stood out was Reeve’s decision to move Rielly over to the right side, to allow Muzzin to make a smooth transition into the lineup. Both players are left-shot defencemen.
More from Toronto Maple Leafs
- Maple Leafs Rumours: Half of NHL teams interested in Ilya Mikheyev
- Toronto Maple Leafs: How to address the goaltender position
- Leafs reward Timothy Liljegren with extension after breakout season
- Maple Leafs: Jack Campbell situation becoming increasingly uncertain
- Jason Spezza retires, joins Toronto Maple Leafs front office
The thinking is the two blue-liners will compliment each other well. However, the saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” comes to mind.
Yes, Rielly has played on the right before, but moving him over to the other side comes with some risk. He’s currently embarking on the best season of his career; one which has him in realistic contention for the Norris Trophy.
Is it not possible that moving the 24-year-old from his preferred position will ruin his momentum and compromise his ability to continue producing at his current level? He remains the Leafs’ best defenceman, and nothing should be done to potentially sabotage this.
Of course, if the Leafs are intent on pairing Muzzin with Rielly, why not move the former over to the right side? Well, this brings even more potential challenges for the team.
Consider that Muzzin is not used to lining up on the right side. But don’t just take our word for it.
"“Anybody who says (Muzzin’s) played the right side isn’t watching the games. He’s played zero times on the right side in L.A. I know they’re looking for the perfect guy to pair with Rielly. He might be that guy, but maybe Rielly has to switch to the other side.”"
Certainly, Sutter’s opinion should be respected. Apart from winning two Stanley Cups as head coach of the Los Angeles Kings he was — as Simmons pointed out — the man most responsible for Muzzin’s development into a top talent.
Talking of which, it is worth noting the 29-year-old was part of the Kings’ second pairing rather than their first, prior to his trade to Toronto; is he good enough to contribute consistently as part of a top pairing? In this respect, nothing is set in stone at this stage.
The reality is that Muzzin will likely be slotted in on the right side at some point, to see how he performs. Further, he will be placed with partners other than Rielly, to give the Leafs a wider scope on how to use him and who he works best with.
Giving all this, it makes even more sense now why the Leafs made their move essentially a month before the trade deadline. They wanted to give themselves as much time as possible to see what they have in Muzzin.
This doesn’t mean the Leafs would consider making another trade for a top four defenceman by Feb. 25, but it is a possibility. (The team still has other/better prospects they can still move.) In addition, trading for Muzzin at this stage gives them an extra four weeks to come up with the best pairings — and their positions — for the start of the playoffs.
Overall, the fact remains trading for the Woodstock, Ontario native was an excellent piece of business which it’s tough to criticise. However, Leafs fans should remain cautious — at least for now — before declaring him the final piece of the puzzle for a team with genuine Stanley Cup aspirations
Are you confident about Muzzin being paired with Rielly? Who do you believe the Toronto Maple Leafs should place on the right side? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.