God, this season seems weird, doesn’t it? Looking at the Leafs sitting outside of a playoff spot going into the all-star break when it feels like they were reeling off win after win just a couple weeks ago really makes it difficult to get a handle on what this team is doing, or more importantly, should do for the next three months.
I made an argument that Toronto was one of the most boring teams going into the trade deadline from a rumours perspective, and I still believe that. But with the way things have been good to bad to worse to good again and finally mediocre, it’s understandable that teams are starting to circle and see who might shake loose in the next month.
According to Elliotte Friedman from 31 Thoughts, there have been calls about the Leafs’ much-talked-about defence corps specifically.
I also think the Maple Leafs have been asked about their UFA-to-be defenders — Tyson Barrie, Cody Ceci, and Jake Muzzin. I don’t see Toronto falling out of the race, so the only way anything happens here is if they are convinced one of the younger defencemen needs a permanent big-minutes spot. (The three all play 20 minutes per night.) No confirmation from either side, but it sounds like there is engagement in contract conversations with Muzzin. There’s no debate about his value and unique skillset on this roster. Term is as big as the salary, as Muzzin will be 31 next month.
I’m on board with Friedman’s prediction here that the Leafs won’t fall off hard enough to become classic “sellers”, and further to that I can’t see Dubas feeling that way even if things continue to be somewhat up-and-down. Things are tight in the east, and that’s just the way it’s going to be.
But the second point makes a bit sense as well. We’ve been all over the Sandin (and to a lesser extent Liljegren) story since the beginning of the season, and if the Leafs feel like he needs room to make a bigger jump, they could unload one of those three named above and roll the dice a little, either moving one of Sandin or Dermott to the right side and/or promoting Liljegren up the lineup. Chances are slim it would be Muzzin moved out given the contract talks at least exist right now, and Barrie’s actually been a solid performer recently by the numbers despite the fan outrage over some of his blunders. But Ceci would make a lot of sense to move on from if there really is a suitor out there and Dubas feels that money could be used on another deadline move, whether that’s at forward or in goal. I’m not even down on Ceci like most are, but that would still be a tidy piece of business.
Either way, while it’s unlikely Dubas makes a substantial move to ship out any of these players, it’s nice to see some speculation, if not just to break up the boredom of this part of the schedule. And given where Toronto sits in the standings, it’s hard to fully discount anything right now.