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FTB: Do the Leafs need to trade a defenseman?

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There’s a logjam at the bottom of the roster.

Columbus Blue Jackets v Toronto Maple Leafs - Game Five
TORONTO, ONTARIO - AUGUST 09: Travis Dermott #23 of the Toronto Maple Leafs reacts after his team was defeated by the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-0 in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Qualification Round at Scotiabank Arena on August 09, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario.
Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images

New year, new defense for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin are still there at the top, but are joined by new defenseman with the initials TB. TJ Brodie, thankfully. Justin Holl is back, having signed a new three-year deal starting this season. After him, there’s a whole crowd of up to seven players for the final two spots on the roster.

Surely it’s impossible to turn seven into two or three, right?

I wanted to go through the roster and see if there’s any obvious areas to trim the roster, either through trade or demotions to the AHL, or whatever form that’ll take once the season gets underway. The Back to Excited boys also spoke about this in their latest podcast, if you want to go have a listen to their thoughts. It was definitely an inspiration for this little article.

Tier 1: Number One

  • This is where I would put a number one defenseman, IF I HAD ONE!

Tier 2: First Pairing

  • Morgan Rielly
  • Jake Muzzin
  • T.J. Brodie

Tier 3: Top Four

  • Justin Holl

Tier 4: Third Pair

  • Travis Dermott (RFA)
  • Mikko Lehtonen
  • Zach Bogosian
  • Rasmus Sandin
  • Timothy Liljegren
  • Martin Marincin
  • Calle Rosen

Looking at the top, it’s pretty obvious the Leafs are a better defensive team this year than last year. They now have three top pairing defensemen, rather than two plus Ceci and Barrie trying to pretend to be another. If everything else is equal and that changes, it’s a big upgrade.

Holl is in a class of his own (imagine saying that). He played top-four in the NHL all year, which no one else left of the list can say. He did pretty ok next to Muzzin. Serviceable, which is better than any other resume on this list.

Skipping to the bottom, I think the Leafs can safely waive Rosen and Marincin. They’ll be in the AHL as injury replacements.

The Toronto Marlies didn’t expect to see Liljegren in 2020-21, but it increasingly looks like he’ll go back there for this season, or at least be on some sort of a taxi squad. In an ideal world, he would be on the NHL roster, taking practices, and getting the occasional starts.

For Sandin, it’s even harder to believe he won’t be an NHL regular next season. He has so much potential and it seems quite plausible he would be able to hold down a third pair job. It would definitely be good for his development. But unfortunately, there are too many players above them and not enough cap space to have either on the roster.

Dermott, Lehtonen, and Bogosian are left. That’s probably the order right now, with Dermott on the right of Lehtonen as an offensively-minded third pair. Bogosian is there for when the team needs more of a focus on defense and penalty killing against certain opponents. That’s the logic for me, it makes sense and feels like it gives the coaching staff flexibility. Last year, it was more like pulling out boards to plug bigger holes on a boat.

Lehtonen, Bogisian, and Holl. They are three players who have signed new contracts with the team, there’s no reason why they would be traded now. Obviously things have changed from when Holl signed his contract till now, but unless they’re bringing in an obvious upgrade (Weeeeeeeeeegar?) I don’t see the need to trade him. It’s a quick step from Dermott faltering in a second pair role — something he hasn’t succeeded in — to Bogosian playing in the top four. That scares me.

It was rumoured by Elliotte Friedman that Dermott was part of an Andreas Johnsson package (offered by the Panthers) that would’ve brought in MacKenzie Weegar, but that trade never happened and the Leafs went after signing Brodie instead and sending Johnsson on his own to New Jersey. It sounds like the Leafs value Dermott more than his value currently holds, but one question I’ve been asking myself all summer is what happens when Sandin comes of age? There can only really be space for one of these two young defensemen.

Maybe for one more year it’s worth having an offensive defenseman that beats up competition on the third pair. Sandin isn’t overcooked yet, there’s no rush. But the clock is ticking.


Various Hockey Links

Ilya Mikheyev’s arbitration hearing date is set — Katya
Oh cool, when is it?

What can we expect for the Maple Leafs North American prospects in the fall? — Seldo
Idk, you tell me, Seldo.

Maple Leafs Free Agency Recap — Katya
I don’t trust Kyle, it’s never over.

Mirtle: What I’m hearing about the Maple Leafs pursuit of Joe Thornton — The Athletic
Who?

Stars owner’s mounting financial difficulties lead to more furloughs — The Athletic
In a normal world, the Stars would’ve made a lot of money on their way to the SCF.

Here is the list of arbitration dates. Weegar is on the last day in November #WeegarWatch

LOLSNES

Sore Louser.

This is what happens when you give the Habs a meeting.

This season, it appears Patrick Marleau’s career comes full circle and finishes off with the team that made him famous... after the Leafs acquire him at the deadline.

After announcing his departure from Toronto, Kasimir Kaskisuo signs with the Nashville Predators to be Connor Ingram’s backup in Milwaukee.

One better than Victor Hedman.