Throwing around names for timely trades in Toronto isn’t unfamiliar for Maple Leafs fans. In fact, playing the role of general manager for one Canada’s largest sports markets has become a pastime for fans in recent years.
This season, March 21 could be life-changing for some players in the National Hockey League. NHL general managers will have until 3:00 p.m. EST Monday to make any tweaks or changes to their rosters before the trade market is officially closed.
Toronto Maple Leafs’ general manager, Kyle Dubas, will be one of the many active GMs looking to shore up his team before the inevitable playoff push, but what areas he intends to address have yet to be determined.
With the team’s goaltending beat up and continuing to spiral, acquiring a veteran goaltender could be one of those areas. Jack Campbell is still out with injury and Peter Mrazek is making himself difficult to trust between the pipes, adding to the uncertainty of the goalie position for the Leafs.
Although there’s been some relief in the form of rookie net-minder Erik Kallgren, Toronto can’t afford to sit tight and hope it lasts.
There’s also much uncertainty around 33-year-old defenceman, Jake Muzzin, who’s on long-term injured reserve following his awkward collision with Montreal Canadiens defenceman Chris Wideman back in late February. According to CapFriendly, Muzzin carries a $5.625 million cap hit against the Maple Leafs.
Torontonians share their thoughts
Trade talk is a reoccurring theme for Maple Leafs fans around this time of year as they see their team bringing in new faces, hoping to get the team over their first-round playoff slump.
Listening in on some of the chatter from regular home-game attendees is Scotiabank Arena VIP bartender, Matt Lacas. He’s heard it all, from buy-out options to outrageous trade suggestions, but the common themes remain the same: goaltending, defence and a minimal exchange of players and pieces going out.
“No one is willing to lose our top-six forwards,” Lacas said. “In terms of trades, people want things like goalies and D-men but aren’t really sure what we would give up. They are scared of breaking up our top-six [core].”
Northern Ontario connection
Born and raised in ‘hockey-town’ Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., 27-year-old Malcolm Carlson-Strain hails from the same hometown as Leafs’ GM Dubas. He’s been cheering for the Leafs since childhood, and understands the need for urgency while being unaware of the team’s uncertainties, one of which, he said, is Muzzin’s condition.
“If he doesn’t come back until playoffs, I think they make a move for a defenceman,” Carlson-Strain said. “If he does, look at getting a goalie with playoff experience — preferably someone who has made it to the [Stanley Cup] Finals or has won the Cup before.”
An expert weighs in
NHL insider and hockey journalist Ken Campbell, of Hockey Unfiltered and formerly The Hockey News, weighed in on the difficult decisions ahead of Dubas and his team, calling on a couple of former Stanley Cup winning goalies as potential Maple Leafs’ saviours in the crease.
“With the goaltending the Leafs are getting right now, I just don’t see a path to victory there,” Campbell said. “Even if they do go out and get a Marc-Andre Fleury or, do I dare say, a Braden Holtby or someone like that, I’m not sure I see them getting out of the first-round anyway.”
Watch for any Maple Leafs’ roster changes or breaking trade-news between now and Monday afternoon at www.nhl.com.