By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12
The Toronto Maple Leafs have gotten their defenseman. News broke last night that the Leafs had acquired left-handed defenseman Jake Muzzin from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for forward Carl Grundstrom, the rights to defenseman Sean Durzi, and Toronto’s 2019 first round pick.
This move shows the world that general manager Kyle Dubas is serious about addressing the Leafs’ biggest issue, defense and that the Kings are on their way to a rebuild or retool of some sort.
Muzzin joins the Maple Leafs as a piece to their top-four defense that has been missing for years, instantly improving the team’s defense. The 29-year-old plays a heavy, responsible defensive game, but can move the puck up the ice nicely and chip in on offense with his booming slap shot. Assuming he slots in on the top pair with Morgan Rielly, guys like Ron Hainsey and Travis Dermott will be able to play roles better-suited to their skillsets.
Muzzin gives the Leafs flexibility, both in terms of roster make-up and the salary cap, since he can play either side anywhere in the top-four and carries a $4-million cap hit for this year and next. A Woodstock, Ontario, native and a Leafs fan growing up, Muzzin also brings playoff experience and knows what it takes to win the Stanley Cup, having won with the Kings in 2014—these assets can be invaluable to a young, inexperienced team like Toronto.
So what exactly does all of this mean for the Bruins?
Well, for one thing, the Leafs addressed their most glaring issue, a defense that the Bruins have been able to expose on a regular basis recently, most notably in last year’s playoffs. So, a Bruins team that has well-documented scoring woes this season may find themselves having a much harder time scoring goals against the Leafs in a potential playoff matchup, at least on paper as of right now.
Another implication is that it may put pressure on Don Sweeney to go out and make a move that addresses the Bruins’ issues, most notably second line right wing, and third line center.
However, since the deadline is still a little under a month away, there is no immediate rush to go out and make a deal. After all, the organization has to have liked what it has seen from Peter Cehlarik so far at second line right wing. Also, not to be forgotten is the fact that the 29th-overall pick in the 2016 draft, 20-year-old Trent Frederic (10G, 7A in 37 games for Providence this season) is making his NHL debut on Tuesday night at third line center, centering Danton Heinen and his boyhood idol, David Backes.
Cehlarik and Frederic are seemingly the only possible in-house solutions left to fix the holes at these positions. If Cehlarik can keep up what he’s done (2G, 1A in three games) and Frederic is able to step in and make an impact, then there is no immediate need to go out searching for a trade–they’re still only a hot week away from catching right up to Toronto, mind you.
On the other hand, if “the Atlantic arms race is upon us” as Ty Anderson said, and these two players fail to make a meaningful impact going forward, then the Bruins cannot afford to stand idly by and not bring in a potential solution via trade if management feels they are truly in the mix for Cup contention this season.
As I talked about in a recent article, the Bruins have a couple possible courses of action they can take. First, the team can go for it and acquire a top-six, big-name winger, or they can simply make depth acquisitions if they like what they see in-house. If management feels that the team is not true contenders this season, they can stand pat, ride out the season, and take their chances with what they’ve got right now.
With reason to believe Kyle Dubas may not be done dealing just yet, considering he had all but told the league that the Leafs are going for it, Don Sweeney and company have some decisions they’ll need to make before 3:00pm on February 25th.
The Muzzin trade only gives Don Sweeney that much more to think about as the deadline creeps closer.