Updated: Jan 30, 2019
Looking at a potential trade target for a Leafs team in dire need of defensive upgrade
After signing arguably one of the biggest free agents in NHL history, the Toronto Maple Leafs had leapfrogged their way to the top of Vegas’s Stanley cup odds. With one of the deepest forward groups in the league, the Leafs were considered to be a serious contender before the season had even begun. However, what was a glaring issue last season, was and still is one this season, has many arguing they will never win anything with their current group of defencemen. After they had locked up John Tavares to a 7-year deal worth 11 million dollars annually, rumours had begun to swirl around another potential free agent signing that would, at the very least, help debunk the disbelievers. Calvin De Haan was at the top of many teams’ wish list when the free agency period had begun, and one of those teams were the Maple Leafs. This would have helped shore up their defensive core, and despite him being a left-handed shot, having Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner and De Haan on your left side is far from being weak. As a result, that subpar right side would have gained a solid player in Travis Dermott, as he had played the right side for the Toronto Marlies of the AHL quite often. This is what could have been:
Rielly – Dermott
Gardiner – Zaitsev
De Haan – Hainsey/Ozhiganov
Though, as well know now, this did not happen and instead the Leafs are stuck with their current lineup that sees Dermott playing third line minutes on the left side, while Ron Hainsey sees on average almost 20 minutes per game, good for fourth most on the team (sitting behind Nikita Zaitsev, Gardiner, and Reilly, leading all with 22.36 ATOI).
Needless to say, this is not ideal.
Dubas was tasked with an offseason that saw him land John Tavares, a signing that led many to believe that there was little to no chance of being able to keep the big three. With that being said, after a lengthy holdout, he was able to ink Nylander to a 6-year deal with an annual cap hit of $6’962’366. Whether you like the deal or not, that became a priority for Kyle as he knew it was a battle he could not lose. The problem that arises because of this was that he did not do much to help an issue that has crippled the Leafs in two straight playoff appearances. Whether he felt comfortable with what is now the current lineup, or if he believed that the addition of Igor Ozhiganov was enough; heading into the All-Star break, it is extremely clear that this current defence core is simply not good enough.
It is not all bad though, despite a recent slump, this young and exciting Maple Leafs team is still a threat if they remain healthy. There have been many names that have been tossed around for potential trade targets at the deadline, with the likes of Colton Parayko, Alex Pietrangleo, Radko Gudas and Jake Muzzin. However, there is one name that seems to be very intriguing, Mark Pysyk. Why is this player so intriguing when he has just 6 points in 36 games played this season? Well there are many reasons for this, but the most obvious one is that he is right hand shot, and almost anybody would be an upgrade of what they currently have. He is a 27-year-old who has one more year left after this with a very team friendly cap hit of $2’733’333, making him cheap and more than just a rental player. He is a big body with a big shot, one that can kill penalties if asked to, and is a -5 on a very lowly team where he averages just over 17 minutes a night. With increased playing time by being alongside one of the best and most productive offensive defencemen in Morgan Rielly, Pysyk is a major upgrade over 37-year-old Ron Hainsey.
Now that there is a little glimpse of what Pysyk has to offer, let’s talk about the price. The LA Kings have announced that they want a first round pick and a prospect for Jake Muzzin. That is not an absurd price for a tough defenceman with some offensive upside, but it is very rare that a team will get what they initially ask for. For argument's sake though, let’s say that Muzzin fetches the Kings a first round pick and B or C level prospect: that provides a standard for all other defenceman who are made available at the deadline. Mark Pysyk is not Jake Muzzin, who has 21 points in 50 games on one of the worst teams in the league, but Pysyk still has much to offer for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
So what does this mean for Pysyk? Well, it is safe to say that the price will most likely be far less than that of Muzzin. Realistically, Florida could see themselves receiving a 3rd round pick or a combination of a B or C level prospect and a low-end pick (5th or 6th). Regardless, it is a relatively cheaper option for the Toronto Maple Leafs who desperately need to acquire some help on the backend if they seriously want to make it deep in the playoffs. With $5’537’769 left in cap space, not including their potential use of LTIR that would free up $5’300’000, the Leafs have more than enough wiggle room to play with this year. This means they can go full out and acquire a guy like Muzzin or Pietrangelo, or make a few smaller deals, or if they are really feeling good about their chance this year, do both. Overall, a guy like Pysyk could be a great fit alongside Rielly, and someone who would seriously improve their weakest area without costing an arm and a leg.
Contract Research from CapFriendly.com