Finding a fit for Bertuzzi, future for Reaves, and revisiting Dumba: Leaflets

Photo credit:Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
1 month ago
It’s been another weird week with the Leafs. The Morgan Rielly crosscheck and the fallout from that along with illnesses to Marner and Tavares that kept them out of the lineup, and hat tricks for both Auston Matthews (somewhat expected) and Bobby McMann (never would have expected) made February hockey a lot more exciting.
With the NHL now less than three weeks from the trade deadline, it seems that interesting times will become the norm and here are a few stray thoughts from the week.

Keep Bertuzzi in unless you are done with him for good

As Bertuzzi’s goalless drought continues to emphasize that he might not have been the best signing for Toronto, there is a growing number of people calling for Bertuzzi to watch a game from the press box. While I can appreciate how underwhelming Bertuzzi has been, I can’t say that agree with that sentiment for a few reasons.
First, most of my thoughts on Bertuzzi can be found here from a post earlier this week. The game against Philadelphia didn’t change my belief that finding a way to use him in a checking line capacity and hope he figures his scoring on the powerplay is my preferred approach for him. Bertuzzi’s on-ice numbers have been incredible this year, largely driven by who he plays with, but for all the criticisms of his game, he has moved the puck up ice very well. Seeing if he can do more in a reduced capacity seems like the best option not taking him out entirely.
Secondly, if you were to take Bertuzzi out entirely it should be because he can’t play to the level that the bottom of the roster is currently playing to. I think you can still safely say that keeping Tyler Bertuzzi in the lineup over Noah Gregor and Ryan Reaves makes a lot of sense. I’m not sure the Leafs are in a position to make their lineup actively worse just to prove a point.
Finally, if the Leafs think they are possibly done with Bertuzzi, be all the way done. Scratching him does nothing, but there are still plenty of teams that would like him on their roster. If Brad Treliving and Sheldon Keefe have given up on Bertuzzi, showing their cards would be a misstep. Stick with the snakebitten narrative and quietly move on before March 8th.
While I am anything but the biggest fan of Bertuzzi and agree all the criticism is warranted, there are smarter plays at this point rather than scratching him.

What’s next for Ryan Reaves

With Bobby McMann scoring hat tricks, Pontus Holmberg establishing himself as a versatile forward option, and even Alex Steeves showing a strong spark of energy during his time as a Leaf, it is becoming clear that even if Ryan Reaves’ game has looked better since returning from injury, he’s still a blockade keeping better options out of the lineup.
Complaining about Reaves has been a staple for Leafs coverage this year and I am 100% being a broken record here but Toronto is a team that can benefit from gaining the roster space and the cap space both in the present and the future. It seems hard to imagine that Reaves makes it through the trade deadline as a Leaf and whether that comes via including him a trade to help justify the Leafs overpaying or if it is simply sending him down to the AHL, Reaves is just not a fit for what the Leafs need and that’s four useable lines.

Mathew Dumba might be the right price/fit

When we look at who has worked with Morgan Rielly over the past years, it’s clear that he hasn’t required a TJ Brodie (good years) or Chris Tanev level partner to standout. Rielly to varying degrees of success has found that partners like Matt Hunwick, Ron Hainsey, and Luke Schenn were the best fit for him. And given the desire to also add a bit of sandpaper to the Leafs blueline, I wonder if the player that gets the gig at the trade deadline ends up being Matt Dumba.
Dumba was very close to becoming a Leaf this summer and instead of the Leafs and Dumba finding middle ground, Treliving foolishly went with an impulse buy on John Klingberg and Dumba was stuck waiting around for less money from Arizona than what Toronto initially offered him. Both sides shouldn’t feel too good about how that played out and now there is an opportunity to come together.
Dumba is a hitter, a decent enough shot blocker, and can play 20 minutes a night. He might not be a top pairing defenceman but he’s a legitimate top four defenceman who has the coveted right shot. And not only that, but his shot is also a lot heavier than any current Leafs making him a potential fit for the powerplay point and giving Toronto an option that diversifies their attack.
Dumba allows the Leafs to avoid the higher price tag of other defencemen on the market. He’s certainly not a first, and if Chris Tanev is a 2nd + another asset, Dumba might be had for less than that. Given how many draft picks the Coyotes already have for 2024, there might be a path to obtaining him for assets the Leafs are more willing to spend. If the Coyotes are looking for a bigger deal, someone like Barrett Hayton could also be worth exploring for the Leafs.
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