As the midway point of the NHL season approaches, so too does the build-up of trade rumblings as we inch closer to the March 21st deadline day. The talk in Leafs Nation has been on the need to bolster up the defensive unit, and we will take a look at three names that have been connected to the team and see if a move is feasible.
Colin Miller has been a dream target for fans over the past few years, and it looks like he will indeed be up for grabs. According to Pierre LeBrun, it turns out that the asking price is going to be a hefty one.
— John Vogl (@BuffaloVogl) January 17, 2022
Aside from the fact that he is a right-shot defenceman, this might be a reach if the Sabres think they will be able to net a first-round pick for Miller.
His point totals have not lit the league on fire (12 points in 32 games played) and his underlying metrics have been mediocre since getting traded to Buffalo in June 2019. More concerning is that Miller has run into injury trouble over the past few weeks dating back to December 28th. Last Thursday, the Sabres announced he would be out week-to-week after getting surgery done on an undisclosed ailment and will miss at least six weeks of action. It remains to be seen when exactly he will come back and how he will fare once he returns in early March.
The amount of uncertainty Miller for the remainder of the 2021-22 campaign should be enough of a deterrent that it won’t be worth it for teams to surrender a first-round pick for his services. Even still, the chances of the Leafs and Sabres making a trade with each other is low as there have only been five transactions between the clubs all time, the most recent of which coming from March 2009.
While it would be hilarious to see Kyle Dubas acquire another former Greyhound, it seems unlikely that the reunion will be happening this year.
Scott Mayfield and Luke Schenn
On Monday, Luke Fox was asked if Scott Mayfield makes sense as a trade target for the Leafs and this is what he said on the matter:
Mayfield is a cap-friendly, 29-year-old right shot logging more than 20 minutes per night for the first time in his career. He makes less than Justin Holl ($2 million) and plays with more edge.
That means he throws more hits, blocks more rubber but also spends more time in the penalty box.
Dubas would not only covet Mayfield’s size (6-foot-5, 220 pounds) but his offensive upside and fantastic underlying metrics. Bonus: Mayfield elevates his effort come postseason, posting 13 points, 120 blocked shots and 118 hits in 51 playoff games.
Mayfield has indeed been posting some decent underlying metrics, highlighted by a 51.19 xGF%, a 50.37 SCF%, and a 50.45 HDCF%. This is impressive considering that the Islanders have had a rough season so far, especially with putting the puck in the net (they have the fewest goals scored at the time of writing). He likely won’t command as much on the open market when compared to the other big-name targets and is under contract for this year and next at a reasonable $1.45 million AAV.
While the idea behind the Leafs getting a large defenceman who plays with a physical edge and has a right-handed shot seems tantalizing, the chances of this move occurring are low because of two words: Lou Lamoriello. He may have publically stated that he has no hard feelings towards the Leafs and Kyle Dubas, but it seems difficult to envision the two teams making a trade so long as Lou is running the ship. Stranger things have happened, no doubt, but I will believe it when I see it.
Another player Fox brought up was former Leaf Luke Schenn, who is cheaper and would be more of a depth option than one who can slot in the top four. He has quietly put together a respectable season with some impressive underlying metrics and is on pace to surpass the 10 point mark for the first time since 2015-16. All of this while being under contract for the next two seasons at $850K.
One thing the Leafs have missed since Zach Bogosian departed in free agency is a defenceman who plays with toughness and snarl, with none of the remaining options in house providing that consistently apart from Jake Muzzin. I mentioned Schenn as a quality replacement for Bogosian back in July and it makes sense to revisit the idea should he become available. He likely won’t become a regular in the lineup for the remainder of the regular season but could prove vital in the postseason where we all know the importance of having physicality on the backend.
John Klingberg is a player who needs no introduction as he has been the talk of the town since reports came out that he is unhappy with how contract talks with the Dallas Stars have gone and could soon be on the move.
Klingberg has had a sluggish start to the season by his standards as he has one goal, 21 assists, and 22 points in 34 games played. While his possession numbers are respectable, he has struggled at 5v5 with a 41.07 GF%, a 47.88 xGF%, a 50.75 SCF%, a 49.81 HDCF%, and a 43.59 HDGF%, culminating in his lowest PDO to date at 0.974. With numbers like that, it makes it difficult to justify the reported asking price of a first-round pick, a prospect, and an additional pick.
Larkin just sent Klingberg to another planet pic.twitter.com/L6wlZzVmc5
— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) January 22, 2022
If the Leafs are willing to look past his defensive shortcomings and make him their marquee add of the deadline, they would have trouble finding room in the lineup for him to provide value. There is no question he would be given top-four minutes slotted alongside Jake Muzzin, but it would be difficult to justify him taking either Morgan Rielly or Rasmus Sandin’s spot on the power-play unit since it has been one of the best in the league thus far.
Unless there are numerous injuries on the blueline, Klingberg would be limited to top-four minutes and none on the special teams. Based on the current state of affairs, the Leafs should be going after a top-four defenceman who can provide an additional boost to the penalty kill. Meaning that acquiring him could garner the exact same outcome as what occurred when Tyson Barrie was a Leaf: an offensive defenceman who wasn’t really able to secure a proper role with the team and struggled by his standards.
When you consider that Klingberg is also a UFA at season’s end and could command a large pay raise on the open market, this has the makings of being a repeat of Nick Foligno if the playoffs don’t go well. Who doesn’t want that?
Salary information from PuckPedia.com.