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The Leafs Get A Defenceman: Jake Muzzin Trade Roundtable

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Our masthead’s first reaction to the big defence addition.

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Los Angeles Kings Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday evening, amidst a mean Toronto snowstorm, the Leafs acquired defender Jake Muzzin from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for Carl Grundstrom, Sean Durzi, and their 2019 first round pick. Muzzin brings long playoff experience and a track record of impressive defensive metrics to a team that can use them, while the Kings pick up a couple of interesting B prospects as well as a late first.

Here’s what our staff thought of the deal.

Hardev: First of all i love the deal for Toronto, and the fact that straight away Hainsey is moving down.

Katya: My fist reaction is LOL Soo Greyhounds player.

Omar: think it’s incredible we managed to get this done without giving up Timothy or Sandin.

Seldo: First reaction on getting a notification from Leafs PR: why are they calling up Trevor Moore on the bye week? Next reaction: great deal, too bad he’s not a righty, and I miss Durzi already

Hardev: Question, what does this mean for Jake Gardiner, apart from the fact that he’s probably not re-signing now. Will Babcock put him and Zaitsev together or keep Dermott up there. That new pairing has been a lot of fun and you might as well ride the wave.

Omar: That would be very Babcock to find any way to keep Hainsey in the top four

Fulemin: The price isn’t nothing, but you have to give to get and I’m comfortable with the price we paid. I have a feeling I would prefer this deal to most of what else was out there. I like Muzzin a lot even if he’s not quite what he was in his absolute prime.

Brigstew: Muzzin reaction: I’m torn, but overall happy. I have loved Muzzin as a player for years, and had him on my fantasy teams for the past 3-4 seasons. He adds offense, he throws hits, he has a reputation for good defense, can play on the PK and PP. I love having him and love him playing on the top line with Rielly. We got him without giving up any of our best prospects (Sandin, Liljegren). Things I don’t like... I know we didn’t give up the best quality prospects, but I was somewhat attached to Grundstrom and Durzi. Adding the first round pick, which could have been turned into another Sandin, may hurt unless they can get another first rounder or high second rounder. And Muzzin has had a bit of a down year, albeit on a terrible team. Overall, I like this trade. I think the Leafs got better and while they didn’t fleece LA, I think they won it.

So my biggest (really, the only) hangup is my emotional attachment to prospects haha

Seldo: He’s for sure a bridge from losing Gardiner to to making Dermott or Sandin or someone a top 4 defender.

Katya: Longer thoughts: My irritation over the idea the Leafs should just get this or that Morgan Rielly clone defenceman knows no bounds. So for me, what’s best about this is that the Leafs picked a guy with some term, some high-end talent, but talent that’s skewed to their weak areas. This is not coals to Newcastle, it’s an actually capable defensive defenceman who can PK and fill in on the PP if needed. Would I rather he was 25? Well, sure, but that would cost Sandin, and the crucial part of dealing from a position of being asset poor as the Leafs are (relatively speaking) is that they didn’t give up a high end asset. Having said that, the Kings will do something clever with that draft pick, and we will all whinge about that in time.

In the short term, this improves the defence now. In the medium term, it keeps the team from backsliding too much on the blueline if they cannot re-sign Jake Gardiner, and in the longer term, Muzzin will age out as the hotter young prospects move up.

Is this not the best defensive partner Morgan Rielly has ever had?

Seldo: This trade came out of nowhere right? One of the biggest surprise deals the Leafs have made. Even the Phaneuf deal had a 10 minute warning from the Bobfather

Katya: Right! Kyle outdid Lou.

Hardev: How long before we knew about the Kessel trade? or Freddy?

Seldo: Kessel was rumored for weeks. Freddy was a bit of a surprise

Species: I loved Komarov, and Grundstrom was NU FORMAK Komarov. But I look at Komarov now and I see a player that if he hadn’t been with the Leafs before he would be in the “who?” column of players I didn’t know.

Kevin: The Leafs were bound to add a defenceman at the trade deadline. It’s impossible to look at this group of forwards, with Frederik Andersen in net, and not upgrade on the backend. You can’t play a 38-year old Ron Hainsey against the Bergeron and Kucherov lines come playoff time.

Jake Muzzin made Canada’s World Cup of Hockey team just a couple of years back. He’s a 40-point defenceman who can match-up against top competition, and he’s a massive upgrade for a team that had such a glaring weakness.

At first glance, this does not look like an overpay for two playoff runs with Muzzin. Losing a first round pick hurts, but it’s bound to be a late pick, and at least they are not surrendering this for a pure rental. Durzi is a talented scorer, but I’m not completely sold on his footspeed yet, considering that he’s more of an offensive defenceman. I like Durzi, and I wish him all the best in Los Angeles, but you have to give to get.

Grundstrom is a future NHL player, but his lack of vision and playmaking will hurt his value. The Leafs could use cheap and effective winger over the next few years, but Dubas has shown an ability to find players like Tyler Ennis, and I don’t think Grundstrom will be far above replacement-level.

All in all, the Leafs needed a quality top-four defenceman, and they got it done for a fair price. Good luck to Grundstrom and Durzi in LA.

Omar: Longer reaction: The biggest win from this trade was we added Muzzin without giving up Liljegren or Sandin. Perhaps in a year or two the Leafs groom them into NHL calibre options and we’ve seen with their play in the AHL that they’re capable defencemen to invest in.

Giving up Grundstrom hurts but I think the question there is where would he have played? Trevor Moore looks to be a lock to make the team out of camp next sewason and can play in the top nine so does it make sense to have another winger with upside on the fourth line? The Leafs are truly in the phase of the plan to love prospects for improvements on the roster and part of that comes with evaluating what you can and can’t afford to give up. The Leafs have enough wingers.

As for what Muzzin brings to the table has been covered for weeks and I’m sure Brigs beat me to a good breakdown of his game. What I like and am most intrigued by is the trickle down effect.

Hainsey on the third-pair always made the most sense given the point in his career. Additionally, Dermott benefits from having a veteran next to him. At the same time could that start to hold Dermott back and if so would it make sense to play Hainsey with Zaitsev and Dermott with Gardiner?

Ahhh the endless possibilities. Either way, good move for the man in the thick rims.

Hardev: Ozhiganov is clearly the odd one out. This Also creates the question of roster spots. Marincin, Ozhiganov, and Holl are all scratches. Whats going to happen there? Holl’s gotta be waived at this point, right?

Arvind: There’s a lot to like about this trade. Even if you’re pessimistic, Muzzin is a slightly above-average LD who can (and has) played the right side effectively. Given that the player he would presumably be displacing on the top pair is Ron Hainsey (who is decidedly not average, or particularly close to it), the Leafs have made a significant gain on their top pair relative to what they had before. Hainsey will play a role he is more suited to, and the knock-on effect of this will likely mean that he is more effective on a per-minute basis than what we’ve seen so far.

Just as excitingly, Muzzin’s contract extends to next year, and $4M for a player of his caliber is excellent value for the Leafs in a year where they need to squeeze out whatever they can out of every single dollar. Muzzin can be a Gardiner replacement, or he can embolden the Leafs to rid themselves of Nikita Zaitsev without worrying about his replacement (though I’d argue they should be doing so anyways). This also doesn’t mean the Leafs are done. While the prospect pool is completely decimated outside of Liljegren and Sandin, the Leafs still have the option to trade roster players and picks.

My only (very mild) concern is Muzzin himself. He’s a bit of a fancystat darling, though a lot of that is propped up by his phenomenal 2015/2016 season. Since then, his effectiveness has dropped a little, especially by more advanced metrics like RAPM and Isolated Threat. Not to the point where he’s bad, or even average. As I said, he’s an above average defenseman even if you’re pessimistic. I like the deal either way, but I’m not sure Muzzin is as good as his three year average suggests, since the first year of that was his best NHL season by some distance. From a stylistic perspective, he appears to push shot volume more than shot quality, which will be an interesting match with the Leafs, who are great at getting to the front of the net. I’m happy with the deal, we’ll see what happens from here.

Seldo: I just hope people dont hype the deal up over the next gameless week.

Hardev: Muzzin-Liljegren will be fun next year.

Katya: Leafs fans? Overhype something?

What do you think, now that you’ve had time to think it over?