The Toronto Maple Leafs would undoubtedly like to improve their blue line ahead of the March 21 trade deadline, with John Klingberg being an ideal candidate.
It is often said that perception is reality. Take a look at the Toronto Maple Leafs’ recent play for an example of this.
In one respect the Leafs have looked shaky and inconsistent, giving up leads and allowing a total of 15 goals in their previous four contests. However, they’ve still managed to so far take five points from eight on their current road trip, despite facing some of the Western Conference’s top teams. (Ironically, the only team they failed to pick up any points against was the lowly Arizona Coyotes.)
Regardless of your perception, it is clear Toronto needs to upgrade their blue line. No matter how well James Campbell continues to play between the pipes, the recent games have shown more than ever he needs some help, especially with a worrying drop in form from Jake Muzzin.
In this respect, the Leafs will have no doubt taken note of the growing speculation surrounding John Klingberg. While he recently denied rumours he asked the Dallas Stars for a trade, the indication is he is unhappy with contract negotiations.
Klingberg is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of the 2021-22 season. While he appreciates the bottom line is that the NHL is a business, he is frustrated by negotiations seemingly stalling.
While the 29-year-old has expressed his preference to remain in Dallas, the Stars apparently have a different mindset. On Sportsnet‘s Saturday edition of 32 Thoughts, Jeff Marek said:
"“We can report the Dallas Stars have stepped up their efforts to trade John Klingberg. We believe very much he is getting dealt. Hard to say exactly when, but Dallas does seem aggressive in wanting to get something done soon-ish.”"
The situation becomes more intriguing, when considering the Stars moved Klingberg down to the third pairing for Saturday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. One other thing to factor in is he apparently has no trade protection, meaning he would have no control over where he is moved to.
Pending how untenable the situation is, it stands to reason there will be plenty of interest in the 2018 All-Star. He is excellent on the puck, has a good hockey IQ and decent size.
Klingberg is also a right-shot defenceman who provides plenty of offence and is highly effective on the power play. Even his salary of $4.25 million is team-friendly; extremely important when considering the Leafs’ tight salary cap situation.
Undoubtedly the Stars would like to create a bidding war, in order to secure as much as possible in return for their blue-liner. You imagine any such package would include a first round draft pick.
In this respect, the Leafs would theoretically have no issue with such a request. Especially when you consider they moved their first round picks in 2019 and 2021.
However, it’s going to take more – out of necessity if nothing else — when considering Toronto’s aforementioned salary cap situation. It’s been previously speculated the likes of Alexander Kerfoot and/or Ilya Mikheyev could be prime candidates to be moved.
As previously written, everything is in play as the Toronto Maple Leafs are fully invested in winning now. As such, you would expect them to offer an enticing trade package to the Stars.
Ultimately though, we once again have to refer to Toronto’s salary cap situation being the potential deal-breaker. And we’re talking about after this season.
Would the Leafs be prepared to make a significant offer for Klingberg and then see him walk away for nothing at the end of the 2021-22 campaign? We say this, because the reality is they will more than likely not be in a position to offer him the type of contract extension he is looking for.
Consider that as things stand, as per Spotrac, Toronto has around $6.2 million cap space available for next season.* However, this is before you consider a significant number of players on the roster will become unrestricted or restricted free agents following the current season.
Chief among these is Jason Campbell, who will become a UFA and undoubtedly fetch a considerable pay rise on his current $1.65 million salary. Toronto will already be struggling to fill out the rest of their roster once they — presumably — agree a deal with Campbell, never mind attempting to negotiate a contract extension with Klingberg.
Overall, the Leafs should definitely pursue Klingberg ahead of the Mar. 21 trade deadline. However, it’s tough to see them being successful, although there would be no issue with being proved wrong.
* As things stand there will be an additional $1 million, with the salary cap for the 2022-23 campaign set to increase to $82.5 million. However, the ongoing issue with COVID-19 and game postponements could potentially impact this.
What would you do in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ position? Would you pursue Klingberg and if so, what would you be prepared to offer? Let us know in the comments section below.