Matt Hunwick might be a lesson that even really great
coaches have blind spots. Actually Luke
Glendening already taught us about Babcock’s blind spots, but on a Leafs roster
with few standout pieces, Hunwick, Spaling, Froese, and others have seen
excessive usage that many of us don’t particularly agree with.
That’s part of what makes Hunwick an interesting case. He’s
by no means terrible; he just shouldn’t be used as a top pairing defender, and
especially at the cost of keeping Morgan Rielly on his weak side. Instead when
you look at Hunwick, you can see a guy on a cheap $1.2M deal (through next
season) who has been playing on average over 22 minutes a night.
The knocks on Hunwick are evident. His 46.6 CF% is well
below other defensemen, but so are his offensive zone starts. Clearly he’s
incapable of doing the heavy lifting asked of him, but it is some heavy
So when you have teams lining up to take runs at players
like Roman Polak, Kris Russell, and Justin Schultz, it seems reasonable that
someone might have some interest in a guy like Hunwick as well.
Here are a handful of potential destinations
Dallas and defensive need are easy dots to connect. Dallas
also isn’t a team that is going need depth defense any less next season. The
cheap nature of Hunwick’s deal make him an easy addition in a time when most of
their cap space is about to be eaten up by the return of Jason Spezza.
Arguably Hunwick is a decent asset, and with the Stars
potentially having the opportunity to shed some salary in the deal as well,
could improve a return for someone like Hunwick. If you buy into the rhetoric
that teams aren’t looking to make deals for rentals this year, Hunwick could
bring in a premium despite the fact that teams should know better.
Potential Trade Pieces: D Stephen Johns; F Brett
Ritchie; F Brett Pollock; F Remi Elie
Potential Salary Dumps: Ales Hemsky (2yr,$4M);
Travis Moen (1yr,$1.8M)
The idea of making a trade with Boston makes me somewhat
nauseous. I’ll do my best to forget the Rask, and Kessel trades and focus on
the Kaberle one in order to believe this could be a good idea.
Boston is once again looking to be playoff bound and one of
the things they seem to be desperately lacking is a solid blueline. Hunwick isn’t the big fish they are probably
looking for, but he’s familiar and he’s cheap.
There’s no really need for the Leafs to take back any salary
here, which is nice since you can’t really do that on every deal. With the
Bruins owning two 1st round picks this year, they may be open to the
idea of moving their second round pick and they have a number of decent older prospects
that may be on the move since they haven’t yet cracked the Bruins lineup.
Pieces: 2016 2nd Round Pick; F Seth Griffin; F Alex Khokhlachev
Dumps: Matt Irwin (1yr, $800k); Max Talbot (1yr,$900k)
The Jets are not exactly a team that is desperate to stock
up for a big playoff push, but they are a team that is thin on left side
defense, and has difficulty attracting players to their city via free agency.
Add in the fact that they have a risk adverse GM, Hunwick might be a safe move
for the immediate future.
The nice thing about offering up the Jets as a destination
is the fact that they have many nice things that the Leafs should want to take
from them. The Jets are on a very similar building cycle as the Leafs, but are
probably a year or two ahead at this point.
Pieces: F Alex Burmistrov; F Chase de Leo; 2016 2nd Round Pick
Dumps: Chris Thorburn (1yr, $1.2M)
The Preds are one of the few teams currently holding a
playoff spot that have a negative goal differential and while that should be
put on goaltending to a degree, it is unlikely there will be a move away from
Pekka Rinne at this point in the season, so additional defensive help may make
the most sense.
The Leafs have done well when they’ve hooked up with
Nashville in the past, and now would be a great time to carry on that proud
tradition. The interesting piece that provides some salary relief for
Nashville, and gives the Leafs a good look at a hard on his luck player is Cody
Hodgson. The Leafs bringing in Hodgson as a salary dump may also give them
better access to the Preds “B level” prospects.
Pieces: F Yakov Trenin; F Vladislav Kamenev; D Alexandre Carrier
Dumps: Cody Hodgson (1yr, $1.05M); Paul Gaustad (1yr, $3.25M); Barret
Jackman (2yr, $2M)
ST. LOUIS BLUES
The injury to Alex Pietrangelo proves the point that even if
your team looks pretty well set on defense, it doesn’t hurt to add more so you
don’t need to play Peter Harrold. Matt Hunwick is a nice insurance policy and
allows players like Pietrangelo, Bouwmeester, Shattenkirk, and Parayko to get
some rest down the stretch.
Hunwick is also a solid replacement to bring in for the next
season with Gunnarsson’s departure being somewhat likely.
Pieces: G Luke Opilka; F Ivan Barbashev;
Dumps: Steve Ott (IR 1yr, $2.6M);