The New York Islanders are having a season to forget. With a 23-21-5 record and one win in their last 10 games, they are projected to miss the playoffs for the second season in a row. As a result, they might look to trade away some of their veteran players at the trade deadline, especially defenseman Scott Mayfield who is playing in the final year of his contract.
One of the teams that should consider adding Mayfield is the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are having a great season but need to make one or two moves to put their team over the top. With a 29-11-8 record, they look poised to once again make the playoffs. However, they are hoping to snap the longest Stanley Cup title drought in the NHL with their last one being in 1967, and will make the moves necessary to do so.
Maple Leafs Add Defensive Depth
The Maple Leafs’ defense is one of the most improved in the league. After allowing 3.07 goals per game last season, they allow only 2.63 goals per game this year, making their defense one of the best in the NHL. However, while the unit is great they’ll need reinforcements to solidify their second and third pairings, especially for a playoff run.
Last year, the Maple Leafs faced the Tampa Bay Lightning, and in a seven-game series, their defense struggled, allowing 23 goals including 14 in the final four games, resulting in another first round exit. They will likely play the Lightning in the playoffs again this year and a rematch will require a deep defensive unit to match up well against a potent offense that has four reliable forward lines.
Mayfield would be that addition as a missing piece for the Maple Leafs’ defense. At 30 years old, he’s still playing at a high level, leading the Islanders’ defensemen with 104 blocked shots to go along with 2.4 defensive point shares and 66 hits. Additionally, he is having a big season offensively with five goals and seven assists as a playmaker from the point. On the Maple Leafs, he’d solidify their defense and at the same time catapult them into one of the Stanley Cup frontrunners.
Mayfield Secures the Right Side
The right side of the defense is a particular concern for the Maple Leafs. Justin Holl and Timothy Liljegren have stepped up but Conor Timmins, who was acquired from the Arizona Coyotes, is playing a minimal role, averaging only 16:28 of ice time. On the other side of the defense, Morgan Rielly, Mark Giordano, and Rasmus Sandin have stepped up in the absence of T.J. Brodie, who is on injured reserve, and have made it one of the best in the league. A right-side defenseman will complete the unit and leave it with no glaring weaknesses.
Mayfield could play alongside Giordano and form a veteran pairing for situations that require strong defensive discipline. Likewise, as a skater that is averaging 20:49 of ice time this season, he could skate alongside Rielly and take on a strong workload in the defense. Mayfield is a reliable and versatile defenseman who along with playing well on the ice, will be a veteran presence who can provide much-needed playoff experience.
Mayfield’s Playoff Experience
When the Islanders reached the Stanley Cup Semifinal in 2020 and 2021, Mayfield played a pivotal role in their playoff success. He helped the defense limit potent offenses including the Pittsburgh Penguins in the First Round and the Boston Bruins in the Second Round of the 2021 Playoffs, both teams the Islanders beat in six games to advance. The team that acquires Mayfield will be adding a playoff-proven defenseman that can eliminate some of the best goal-scorers in the game.
The Maple Leafs have particularly struggled in the First Round and haven’t reached the Second Round since 2004. Along with adding talented players at the trade deadline, they’ll look to acquire a playoff-proven player who can help them get over the hump. Mayfield has played against the best forwards in the league in the playoffs and is playing at a high level this season, making him an ideal addition for a team looking to make some noise in the postseason.
The Possible Return the Islanders Would Receive
Mayfield is a rental addition, diminishing his value on the trade market, especially if he’s acquired at the trade deadline. However, he can still bring the Islanders a prospect or a draft pick in the second or third round considering the value he adds to a Stanley Cup contender. He can be one of the best defensemen available at the trade deadline and a valuable addition to any team looking to put their roster over the top, especially the Maple Leafs, who are eager to finally make a deep playoff run.
With the Islanders and Maple Leafs heading in opposite directions this season, a Mayfield trade could be a win-win move. The Islanders aren’t looking to rebuild but if they continue to struggle, a retool might be necessary, and moving a player in a contract year is a big step in the right direction. The Maple Leafs meanwhile will look to fill the voids on the roster and securing the defense will do that for an otherwise complete team.
Mike Fink joined The Hockey Writers in November 2020 and covers the New York Islanders. In addition to covering the Islanders, Fink writes about the NHL at large, looking at general topics from potential cities for NHL relocation to arena traditions throughout the league. Follow Mike on Twitter @Finks_thoughts for more Islanders and general hockey insights.