One of the most consistent questions throughout this past season was ‘What will the Toronto Maple Leafs do to improve their blue line?’. One of the new questions that might get asked after the current NHL season finally comes to an end is, ‘How bad do the Maple Leafs want to improve their blue line?’
With the likelihood that right-handed defensemen Tyson Barrie and Cody Ceci will both be hitting free agency, Luke Fox of Sportsnet looks at what decisions might be facing the Maple Leafs as they try to shuffle deck chairs on what could be a sinking ship of a defensive corps.
With the only experienced blueliner being Jake Muzzin signed beyond the 2020-21 season, Fox notes that the team could use a veteran defenseman that can kill penalties. If the Maple Leafs are going to go through free agency to fill this need, unrestricted free agents like Travis Hamonic, Chris Tanev, Sami Vatanen, or Radko Gudas might be the team’s primary targets.
That won’t come cheap and it’s not like the team is swimming in free money.
Should the Maple Leafs be looking at trade options, you have to give to get in most situations.
Fox believes some of the bigger names the team might focus on are Matt Dumba, Rasmus Ristolainen, David Savard, Brett Pesce, Colin Miller, Adam Larsson, and Josh Manson. If that’s too rich and the cost too dear, cheaper trade targets could include Troy Stecher, Matt Roy, Matt Benning, and Ilya Lyubushkin.
With whatever the Maple Leafs acquire, the Maple Leafs will likely mesh that with up-and-coming prospects like Mikko Lehtonen, Rasmus Sandin, and Timothy Liljegren. All will be given a good chance to make next season’s team.
And… for anyone wondering if the Maple Leafs will target a player like Alex Pietrangelo?… the answer is, no. He’ll simply be too rich for their blood.
What Might the Leafs Have to Give Up?
The typical names will probably float around the rumor mill when it comes to the Leafs. Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson and others on affordable contracts have some attractiveness around the NHL. Fans shouldn’t be shocked if one of those players move.
What could surprise Leafs Nation is what happens with players who aren’t expected to be shopped, for instance, someone like goaltender Frederik Andersen. Andersen is a UFA at the end of next season and Fox believes the Maple Leafs would like to extend him, assuming he plays well in this upcoming playoff run. Should he not, he could become an unexpected trade candidate and GM Kyle Dubas could offer him up in a deal.
Affording Andersen could be an issue, especially with Hyman due for a nice raise that same off-season, which absolutely cracks a small window of opportunity for Campbell, who is signed through 2021-22 at a pandemic-friendly $1.65-million cap hit.
Campbell, 28, has never played more than 53 games in any season, but goalies often peak late. His passion and work ethic are off the charts. Kyle Clifford says Campbell is more than “just a backup.”
So, what does that mean? Are the Maple Leafs hoping Campbell takes that next step, allowing for Dubas to trade a player no one thought the Maple Leafs would consider trading? Stranger things have happened.