Toronto Maple Leafs sensible to prioritise defencemen at the trade deadline
A lot of attention has been on Toronto Maple Leafs goaltending recently, but the team’s approach to the upcoming trade deadline appears to ignore that.
Recently, Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas addressed the issues facing goaltenders Jack Campbell and Petr Mrazek and appeared to dismiss concerns over their recent slump – with Dubas stating that the focus right now will be on defence ahead of the March 21st deadline.
Over their past eight games, the Leafs have a 3-4-1 record, a far cry from the dominating performances witnessed earlier in the campaign – with Sheldon Keefe’s team playing at a franchise record-setting pace prior to the All-Star Weekend.
A lot of media attention has pinpointed the struggles of Campbell and Mrazek, but both goaltenders need better support in front of them to play at their very best – with both having shown what they are capable of achieving with solid defensive efforts in front of them.
Campbell was named an All-Star this season, where he was putting up Vezina-consideration numbers earlier in the season before seeing numbers dip and results go against the team since the turn of the year.
Mrazek is a veteran in the league and can be a more than serviceable backup in the league, but his 3.22 goals against average and .890 save percentage have left much to be desired, but if the skaters playing in the defensive zone are not performing to their usual standard, things are bound to turn ugly,
Justin Holl’s performances have been regularly pinpointed as disappointing this season, and the absence of Jake Muzzin is a big loss for the Leafs’ blueline, with some changes needing to be made to ensure the team can compete at a higher level once they reach the post-season.
Dubas has identified this as the primary area for concern, and making a move or two that shakes up the defensive six and adds some legitimate top-four quality is the right way to approach the deadline.
The moves the Leafs will be able to make will largely be determined by Muzzin’s health and schedule for return, whether that is before or after the end of the regular season, and as well as any potential departures through facilitating trades.
Offloading Holl’s $2 million cap hit would allow the Leafs to make a deal even if Muzzin can return before the post-season, while the veteran remaining on LTIR beyond the regular season would open up even more opportunities for the team to explore.
Mark Giordano is a name that has begun to appear in trade rumours, but if Muzzin intends on returning early then his cap hit would need to be slashed twice for the Leafs to fit him in under the cap – meaning a three-way trade would need to be negotiated.
There are ways of approaching the trade deadline, and if the Toronto Maple Leafs are focused on improving their defensive corps, then they are doing the right thing to help the team finally overcome their first round woes.