Could the Toronto Maple Leafs’ big deadline addition come on their blue line instead of up front?

Photo credit:Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports
Joseph Zita
1 year ago
The 2023 NHL trade deadline is already a month away, and every day we get closer to it comes more trade rumours and speculation surrounding all our favourite teams.
However, when it comes to the Toronto Maple Leafs, could their most significant addition at the trade deadline come up front on forward or on their blue line that has been among the best in the league this season?
Last Thursday, NHL insider for TSN and Star Sports Chris Johnston dropped juicy stuff on his podcast about the Toronto Maple Leafs and their potential trade deadline plans.
Before we get into what Chris Johnston said, here is the link to his latest podcast episode where you can listen. He talks about the Maple Leafs’ potential trade deadline plans, the Bo Horvat trade to the Islanders, the NHLPA director search, and much more.
“I’ve been of the opinon, myself… that the Leafs are always gonna be chasing a high-end forward or one of the more impactful forwards available at this deadline to solidify their top-six. I’m not saying that isn’t the case, but I have had someone reasonable close to the team that is not someone in the front office to be clear… someone who probably knows what they’re thinking to a degree who’s been suggesting to me that he could see them making a more impactful move on their blue line.” – Chris Johnston via The Chris Johnston Show
Chris talks more about this and he ultimately says he doesn’t think the Maple Leafs are “locked” in on one thing to do at the trade deadline and they – as many other insiders have already reported – could be looking at upgrading at more than one position come March 3rd.

1. Jake McCabe – CHI – 29 years old – LD/RD

2022-23 stats: 45 GP – 2 G – 12 A – 14 PTS – 19:20 TOI
Career stats: 473 GP – 24 G – 89 A – 113 PTS – 19:26 TOI
Contract: 3 years x $4M (M-NTC)
The first defenseman I’m going to talk about is someone that Frank Seravalli has already mentioned as a potential target for Toronto. The 29-year-old left-shot defenseman who can play both sides is currently having a bounce-back season with the struggling Chicago Blackhawks and has lots of term left on his deal so you wouldn’t be trading for a rental.
Jake McCabe is currently in the second year of a four-year deal he signed with Chicago during the 2021 off-season that carries a cap hit of $4M.
Seravalli reported numerous times that both Toronto and McCabe could be a potential fit, and despite the defenseman having a 7-team no-trade list, Toronto is apparently not on his list of teams he wouldn’t want to be traded to.
However, the only knock on McCabe that I – and I bet some others have – is his health. McCabe has a history of injuries and his most recent one isn’t something to brush off. He underwent off-season spine surgery that sidelined him for 10-12 weeks which forced him to miss the first couple of games of the 2022-23 NHL season.
McCabe said that it was something that he’s been dealing with for four of five years according to an NBC article. I guess it’s a good thing he got the surgery, but if Toronto is the team to pull the trigger on a guy like McCabe, I just wouldn’t want them to overpay for him and have a similar situation to Jake Muzzin who is currently sidelined after multiple head/neck injuries.
Anyways, let’s say Toronto does go out and acquire Jake McCabe… what kind of defenseman are they getting? Well, he’s a big player, to begin with. Standing at 6’1 and 210 lbs, McCabe can play both sides of the ice and bring a steady presence to the blue line while also bringing a physical element to the ice. He blocks a ton of shots, lays a bunch of hits and can easily slide into the Maple Leafs’ penalty-kill unit and maybe even help improve it given how poor it’s been this year compared to last.

2. Vladislav Gavrikov – CBJ – 27 years old – LD

2022-23 stats: 50 GP – 3 G – 7 A – 10 PTS – 22:33 TOI
Career stats: 254 GP – 15 G – 58 A – 73 PTS – 20:47 TOI
Contract: 1 year x $2.8M
Vladislav Gavrikov isn’t my first choice and he wouldn’t be my second choice either for Toronto. However, he is someone who is at a reasonable cap hit of $2.8M and if acquired for the right price and not an overpayment like some people are reporting for Columbus’ asking price, I wouldn’t mind him being a third-pair guy for this team.
Unlike McCabe, Gavrikov only has one year left on his deal and comes in at a cheaper cap hit as well. The 27-year-old left-shot defenseman has been chewing up a ton of minutes for the Blue Jackets this season and has seen time on both special team units too.
Gavrikov currently has 10 points – three goals and seven assists – in just 50 games this season and isn’t really close to having a similar year offensively as he did last season when he put up 33 points in 80 games. However, there’s more to his game than just the points. He – just like McCabe – blocks the rubber and lays the boom. Gavrikov has 84 blocks and 53 hits this season putting him on pace to finish the season with well over 100 blocks and just under 100 hits.
Again, Gavrikov wouldn’t be my first choice let alone one of my top choices at all, but he is someone that has been linked to Toronto already by Elliotte Friedman and as multiple insiders have said, Columbus is looking for a David Savard-type return for the 27-year-old which was a first-round pick and a third-round pick. I just hope Toronto doesn’t give that up because there are far better options out there, in my opinion.

3. Scott Mayfield – NYI – 30 years old – RD

2022-23 stats: 53 GP – 5 G – 7 A – 12 PTS – 20:51 TOI
Career stats: 399 GP – 24 G – 75 A – 99 PTS – 19:03 TOI
Contract: 1 year x $1.45M
Another option for their blue line is someone currently on a team that is trying to get back in the playoff picture, so it’ll be tough, but we’re going to have to wait and see if they could climb back into a playoff spot before thinking this defenseman is a realistic option for Toronto or anyone for that matter.
30-year-old, Scott Mayfield is an intriguing name for me. He’s a big bruising defenseman that would immediately bring even more help to the Maple Leafs’ top four. He’s 6’5 and 220 lbs, so right off the bat he’s already the team’s tallest and heaviest defenseman and I know that brought a smile to some people’s faces for sure.
Mayfield is on a very team-friendly deal that sees him making only $1.45M per season. He is in the final year of a five-year deal and I think it’s safe to say he’ll be getting a little raise when the time comes to sign a new contract in the 2023 off-season.
Mayfield would bring great defence at even-strength and on the penalty kill with his big frame. As I said, he’s 6’5 and 220 lbs, and with a frame like that you know he blocks a ton of shots and also hits a lot as well.
Through 53 games this season, he currently has 113 blocks and 68 hits, putting him on pace to finish the season with 175 blocks and 105 hits. Just absolutely insane.
However, as I said earlier, the Islanders are in a weird position right now. They’re currently on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs and they just went out to acquire centre Bo Horvat and lock him up to an eight-year, $68M contract. So it’ll be interesting to see what Lou Lamoriello does with this team as the deadline continues to approach. Will they sell some pieces if they continue to fall out of the race or will they find a way to get into a wild card spot?

4. Matt Roy – LA – 27 years old – RD

2022-23 stats: 53 GP – 6 G – 10 A – 16 PTS – 18:31 TOI
Career stats: 259 GP – 16 G – 55 A – 71 PTS – 19:02 TOI
Contract: 2 years x $3.15M
The fourth and final name I’ll be talking about is probably the best name on this list for the Toronto Maple Leafs to go out and acquire, in my opinion.
Matt Roy of the Los Angeles Kings would be such a great fit on the Maple Leafs’ blue line and they’d have him for two playoff runs as well at a reasonable cap hit of $3.15M. Oh, and did I mention he’s a right-shot and only 27 years old?
The Kings have quite a log jam on the right side of their blue line and it’s been reported that they could potentially move on from someone on their right side to help solidify their left side even more.
Frank Seravalli has both Matt Roy and Sean Walker at number 30 on his recent trade targets board for DailyFaceoff.com and as the trade deadline looms, there is a chance one of these two right-shot defensemen could be dealt to a new team.
Roy would help Toronto tremendously in a ton of areas and it’ll also help solidify their right side even more than it is right now. On the right side, Toronto has Brodie, Holl, Liljegren, and Timmins, and although that isn’t terrible by any means, if they somehow add Roy to that right side and take a guy like Holl out, their lineup gets even better.
It’ll probably be quite expensive to acquire Roy’s services because of how good of a defenseman he is, the fact he is only 27 years old, he’s a right shot and he has two years left on his current deal with a respectable price tag attached to it.
If I had to guess, this would probably be less likely to happen, but hey, you never know what can happen during trade deadline season. Kyle Dubas could shock us and go after a guy like Roy when not a lot of people are thinking about him, meanwhile, it seems like the majority of the attention is on Jake McCabe right now.

Honourable mentions:

  1. Nick Jensen – WSH – 32 years old – RD – 1 year x $2.5M
  2. Dmitry Orlov – WSH – 31 years old – LD – 1 year x $5.1M
My two honourable mentions that I am going to talk about briefly are both defensemen for the Washington Capitals. Now, the reason why they’re both honourable mentions is that the only way I could see the Capitals parting ways with both of their – or at least one – pending UFA’s is if the Capitals fall out of the playoff race between now and the trade deadline.
Washington is in the first wild card spot with 60 points in 53 games. The Pittsburgh Penguins are right behind them in second place with 57 points in 49 games, and the Islanders (53 games) and Sabres (50 games) are close behind with 57 and 56 points each.
It’ll be interesting to see how the wild card race in the East shapes up as we get closer to the trade deadline and, ultimately, the end of the season.
(All stats from Hockey-Reference.com)
(All contract details from PuckPedia.com)

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