Trading for Pysyk would be a fine fallback for the Leafs

The dream this summer is for the Leafs to address their weakness on defence in a big way. Writers and fans have been fawning over the idea of trading for Josh Manson of the Ducks ahead of the expansion draft, Shattenkirk will be out there as a free agent, and if we want to get really creative, we can probably still talk ourselves into Toronto blowing the doors off for a younger elite option like Trouba.

But those are all major targets that would require franchise-altering trades or contracts to get into a blue-and-white sweater, and as we’re likely all aware, it’s extremely difficult to pull off those types of moves. What we’re more likely to see is the Leafs address their needs with names in a tier or two below those already mentioned.

Tanev, Dumba, Vatanen, I’m not saying these three guys are on an equal field. They aren’t. They’re just the sort of slight upgrade options Toronto has a better chance of acquiring.

But then we turn our attention to Florida, a team that has its own expansion problems on the blue line, somewhat like the well-documented situations in Minnesota and Anaheim. Two players the Leafs could focus in on from the Panthers are Jason Demers and Mark Pysyk, both solid right-handed options.

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We’ve heard a bit about Demers over the last few weeks as his name’s started to pop up more as a potential mover. It makes sense – Demers has a $4.5-million cap hit for four more seasons while Pysyk is a 25-year-old RFA. While both would instantly improve the Leafs’ top four, for Toronto, trying to pry Pysyk from the Panthers might be the better play.

According to DTM’s GAR (Goals-Above-Replacement) Model, he was the most effective overall blue-liner of that entire group in 2016-17.

(via Garret Hohl on Twitter) 

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From a few standpoints – money, age, and overall impact – Pysyk has the edge over Demers, who just turned 29. Toronto could acquire Pysyk’s rights as a restricted free agent, and have more control over their price point. In terms of what’s going the other way, over at Sportsnet, the Nation Network’s own Jonathan Willis floated a potential Leafs deal for Pysyk involving Connor Carrick, a pick, and Kerby Rychel. That’s probably a fair hypothetical, but I think that’s at the high end of what it would take.

Considering he has modest boxcar numbers (17 points this past season) and is coming off a bridge deal worth 1.125-million AAV, I’d like to think Pridham and company could lock him in for a few seasons at a much better hit than Demers. Did I mention he’s four years younger?

(via Dominic Galamini’s OwnThePuck)

There are a couple different ways the Leafs can address their weak back-end. Mainly, they can try to directly improve their shaky shot-suppression game, or they can embrace fire-wagon hockey even further and bring in another offensive-minded player (ex. Vatanen). Pysyk obviously represents the former route, and that’s where I think they should lean unless they can get an overall offensive juggernaut like Shattenkirk. He brings precisely what Toronto lacks in their top four aside from Gardiner. As you can see above, he’s almost an inverse of Zaitsev in terms of defensive ability – essentially a Josh Manson Lite.

Lamoriello is going to do something in the next couple weeks to attempt to bolster that Toronto defence corps. And that could come in the form of a blockbuster trade or, in the case of Shattenkirk, a 50-million dollar contract. But if those options aren’t presenting themselves, Pysyk is one of the best targets he could hone in on to make the Leafs instantly stronger, likely without giving up much in assets or dollars.

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    RHD Colin Miller (BOS) is the defenceman the Leafs should target.

    He basically does everything Pysyk does but at a higher level, and when you look at his HERO chart, it’s better than Pysyk’s as well.

    Their HERO charts side by side: http://i.imgur.com/kEUuacf.png

    Colin Miller was also the captain of the Soo Greyhounds in 2012 when Kyle Dubas was still their GM, so he knows this player well.

    Boston has defencemen like McAvoy coming in next year and they already have Carlo, McQuaid, and Kevan Miller. They’re loaded on the right side.

    Boston played Colin Miller on their third pair this past season, and he DOMINATED the competition, which suggests to me that he most likely has top-4 upside.

    It’s worth a look, IMO. Florida have an analytics team who must value what Pysyk brings (they traded for him), so getting him for cheap is not likely.

    But for Colin Miller? Boston is still run by old school dudes who are probably undervaluing this guy and leaving him exposed for the Expansion Draft.

    The Leafs should try to pick him up through Vegas. A few prospects and a pick. A Grabner-esque deal could work for an expansion team who needs players.

  • JB#1

    As VHSRVHS says below, I think the smart play by Lou will be trying to pick up a solid 2nd pairing RHD from Vegas.

    Any trades, especially if non-exempt players are going back the other way, doesn’t really solve the problem that a Florida or Minny have protecting all the players they would like – it just switches the player(s) they have to expose. For example, if Carrick goes back to Florida in a trade, then Florida would still need to protect him or potentially lose him to Vegas in the Expansion Draft.

  • Kevin

    I like the idea of acquiring someone like Pysyk if the Leafs aren’t able to make a deal for a higher impact defender (like a Brodin or Manson). However, that potential deal seems like a lot for someone with only one year prior to free agency. Sure, the Leafs may end up losing Rychel to expansion or waivers but you’re also giving up Carrick and a 2nd. In my opinion, you include Carrick or a 2nd, not both. However, I am no GM and this is a hypothetical trade anyways.

    • Skill2Envy

      Agreed, Carrick plus the 2nd and Rychel is too much in my opinion. If be more inclined of we swapped seconds and at least moved up our draft spot.

      Pysyk just doesn’t have the track record, or maybe I just didn’t pay attention because he was Buffalo property prior to this season.

      I don’t think Florida is the team to look to though because they would still lose a top 4 defencemen (Pysyk or Demers) with Yandle and Ekblad protected.

      I’d rather go after Anaheim or Minnesota.

  • Glen

    In my humble opinion there is nothing wrong with the Leafs second and third defensive pairings. The problem is that the top pairing has a hard time defending and getting the puck out of their own end versus a heavy fore check. unless they can make a trade for a number one or a potential number one a trade is useless.

  • STAN

    Not sure the Bruins would trade a guy like Miller within their division. Could come back to haunt them big time. I’d be working the phones with the Ducks for one of their guys.


      I mentioned that they should make a deal with Vegas through the Expansion Draft at the end of my post, Stan.

      A Grabner type of deal could work. Leivo, Leipsic, and Rychel are very unlikely to ever make the Leafs full-time so why not ship them out while their perceived value is still somewhat decent. That’s why I think it would be smarter to package them all together like this in a multi-player trade with Vegas.

      They need young assets and we have plenty that are losing their waiver exempt status.

      I’m fine with not having a true #1 this off-season. They’re too expensive. Just pick up an undervalued (at worst) second-pairing guy in Colin Miller. I think we can get by with that for now.

      And who knows? Maybe Miller turns it up when given the opportunity in Babcock’s system and shows that he can play on a top-pair. It’s rare but it happens and he has the numbers that would suggest it’s possible.