Everyone assumed with his two-year contract expiring on July 1 that the Ron Hainsey era in Toronto was going to be over. But is it?
Bob McKenzie was talking about some Leafs-related stuff on his podcast and one of the things that came up was the possibility of the veteran defender re-joining the team on a one-year deal.
Oh my god he also said the Leafs will probably try to bring back Hainsey on a one year and run him with Rielly again.
— Ryan (@ryanfancey) May 17, 2019
Hainsey, of course, spent the majority of the season as the stay-at-home defender alongside the more offensively-oriented Morgan Rielly. The two played 1066:45 together at even strength and produced a 49.6 Corsi For percentage and a 58.8 Goals For percentage. In the 293:31 even strength minutes the two didn’t play together, Rielly put up superior numbers both in terms of shot attempt and goal differential while Hainsey’s numbers diminished substantially.
As of right now, the Leafs are rolling into 2019-20 with Rielly, Jake Muzzin, and Nikita Zaitsev as the three veterans on the blueline. Travis Dermott is having off-season surgery and won’t be ready for the beginning of the season. Calle Rosen, Rasmus Sandin, and Timothy Liljegren will be in the mix to crack the Leafs’ blueline in Dermott’s place.
There’s a lot that can happen between now and October. The Leafs could re-sign Jake Gardiner to a hometown deal. They could add some other out-of-the-blue veteran defender. They could trade Zaitsev as a cap dump. They could let Mitch Marner take an offer sheet and sign Erik Karlsson. Who knows! It’s difficult to predict exactly what the blueline will look like, but there’s merit to suggesting Hainsey return on a cheap deal to add some veteran depth.
I mean, the idea of him continuing to play 20 minutes a game with Rielly is kind of disturbing, but Hainsey could probably be a solid player in a bottom-pairing role. Given how quickly Toronto’s blueline deteriorated with injuries to Gardiner and Dermott late in the season, having veteran depth isn’t the worst idea.