The questions seem to be growing for Leafs GM Kyle Dubas as the trade deadline nears
It’s going to be an interesting week for the Maple Leafs. With fewer than seven days until the NHL trade deadline — and with the Leafs having gone 2-4-1 against non-playoff teams since Feb. 26 — they are facing questions with their goaltending and defence that need answering.
General manager Kyle Dubas will have an expected $3.7 million (U.S.) in cap space available, which will limit what he can do before the March 21 deadline.
One name that keeps surfacing is veteran Marc-André Fleury. It is believed Toronto would have to surrender a first-round draft pick and prospects to land Fleury, and they would likely need Chicago to retain some of his salary (he has about $1.6-million left on his annual $7-million cap hit). It’s a steep price to pay for a 37-year-old whose numbers (2.92 goals-against average, 28th in the NHL, and .908 save percentage, 24th) aren’t that different from Jack Campbell and Petr Mrázek.
The Leafs have traded away most of their picks in this year’s draft, though they still have their first-rounder, but the Blackhawks might be more interested in next year. A report Monday said NHL GMs are favouring 2023 first-round picks because they believe the top end of that draft will be deeper.
Dallas’s Braden Holtby has been mentioned in trade talk, and he may get the start when the Stars are in Toronto on Tuesday. But the Stars’ Anton Khudobin reportedly was slated to have hip surgery Monday, meaning Dallas might not have the depth to deal goaltending. Buffalo’s Craig Anderson, the 40-year-old who beat Toronto on Sunday, could also be available.
If the Leafs don’t deal for a goaltender, they’ll need better play from Campbell, out with a rib injury, and Mrázek. The Leafs also might want to look at Marlies call-up Erik Källgren while Campbell is sidelined. Ultimately, the net should be Campbell’s, with Mrazek backing up, though it’s hard to argue that an upgrade at the position could be the most beneficial move Dubas could make.
The batch of available blueliners appears to be strong and this could be where GM Kyle Dubas works his cap magic, with the hope that stabilizing the defence will stabilize the goaltending. It’s clear the Leafs cannot go into the playoffs counting on consistency from the young trio of Rasmus Sandin, Timothy Liljegren, and Travis Dermott. Jake Muzzin’s return from concussion will change the complexion of the defensive pairings, but Muzzin has played very little since Jan. 15 and will need time to regain form.
Mark Giordano’s name has surfaced as a solid rental, and the undrafted 38-year-old from Toronto won his Norris Trophy in Calgary with T.J. Brodie as his defensive partner. Giordano would be a tremendous get for Dubas.
The Leafs should have a timeline this week for the return of Muzzin, who is skating and practising, and they’ll need to juggle their roster as they play with the cap. The will likely mean one of Sandin or Liljegren heading to the Marlies, possibly with a forward like Nick Robertson or Kyle Clifford.
Muzzin wasn’t having his best season before he was hurt, but the Leafs’ problems in their end of the rink have only been mounting. After allowing 76 goals in their first 31 games, they have given up 105 in their last 28.