As we inch closer to the NHL Trade Deadline, there are more rumors circulating about specific targets that the Maple Leafs may be interested in. On the surface, the team is extremely deep up front. Scoring isn’t an issue and they have great depth pieces in the bottom half of the lineup. However, Cup contenders try to fill out their roster with even more assets for a long playoff run. If the Maple Leafs are serious about a deep run, they’re going to have to make a move or two to improve their roster.
A Viable Back-up Option Available?
The Maple Leafs are in the market for a backup goaltender, despite the recent success of Michael Hutchinson. He’s gone 3-3-0, with a shutout in his last six outings, and has seemed to play better under Sheldon Keefe.
When starter Frederik Andersen got pulled against the Edmonton Oilers and the Florida Panthers, Hutchinson allowed three and four goals respectively in relief. While the team in front of him didn’t play well, you expect your back-up to relieve the pressure and slow things down. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to get some added reassurance and consistency in the crease.
According to Elliotte Friedman during the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens broadcast, the New York Rangers are willing to listen about backup goaltender Alexandar Georgiev and are asking for a young forward or NHL-ready player in return.
With Igor Shesterkin already making an impact in his two starts, Georgiev might be looking for a new home. Georgiev has a 11-9-1 record while boasting a 3.11 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage (SV%). He has played relatively well for the Rangers and that could be why a team like the Maple Leafs would inquire about him.
Georgiev could be the answer they’ve been looking for, providing a better career SV% (.914) than Hutchinson (.905). The Maple Leafs are loaded with young talent like Dmytro Timashov and Andreas Johnsson, but the main piece that teams may ask about is Jeremy Bracco.
It’s understandable that Bracco would be part of a deal. He’s a highly-touted playmaker with 140 points in three seasons in the American Hockey League. He has an NHL future, but not with the Maple Leafs considering their depth. Given how close Bracco is to being in the NHL, a Bracco for Georgiev deal seems like a good starting point.
Brenden Dillon on Maple Leafs’ Radar?
In the same segment, Friedman also mentioned that the San Jose Sharks could be open to a trade. While they’re not in a rebuild, they need to make some decisions, starting with their unrestricted free agents, including defenseman Brenden Dillon.
The Maple Leafs are all too familiar with Dillon after he laid a questionable hit on Auston Matthews earlier in the season.
Dillon would be able to provide a physical presence against opponents. He would also be a complimentary piece to the Maple Leafs’ defensive unit. With Dillon’s $3.27-million cap hit, if the Maple Leafs can move out Cody Ceci and his $4.5-million contract, the team would gain $1.23 million in space. This would give the organization some much-needed space to work with.
However, would acquiring Dillon be beneficial to the team’s performance and an improvement on the bottom pairing? Here’s a look at his stats compared to Ceci at five-on-five:
|Stat||Cody Ceci||Brenden Dillon||Differential|
While some of Dillon’s numbers are slightly better than Ceci’s, he does excel at limiting shots against and Corsi against. His 51.15 Corsi for percentage is also better. Even though he isn’t known for putting up points, Dillon is able to push the play and has some offensive abilities. Not to mention, he would give the Maple Leafs some physicality and better situational awareness.
With Dillon on the Maple Leafs’ radar, he could be an improvement over Ceci both financially and in terms of on-ice production. If the price is right, it’s something to consider. He would be better defensively, which would give the Maple Leafs a reliable body on the back-end.
Any Top-Four Defenseman Would Do
The recent news of Morgan Rielly’s fractured foot changes the narrative from the Maple Leafs probably making a move to definitely making a move. Rielly is going to be out a minimum of eight weeks, which already puts the team at a major disadvantage on the blue line.
Without Jake Muzzin, who is inching closer to a return, and now without Rielly, the team is in desperate need of help. With all due respect to Travis Dermott, Tyson Barrie and Ceci, they aren’t able to lead the back end for two months. In order to keep up with the competition in a tight Atlantic Division, pressure is mounting on Dubas to make a move and it may end up costing him a valuable asset.
Teams have already started to call the Maple Leafs about their defense. As previously mentioned, Bracco could be used in a package deal to acquire a major asset to help the top four. If that isn’t enough, then teams may look to Johnsson or even Kasperi Kapanen as they’ve been part of trade rumors in the past. Teams will try to force Dubas into giving up a key asset in order to address a major need, not only because of injuries but for a positional need as well, as the 8-4 loss to the Florida Panthers demonstrated.
Even with the possibility of a move (or two) coming on defense, calling up the top defenseman at the World Junior Hockey Championship should give the Maple Leafs some help on the back end.
With his play at the World Juniors, Ramus Sandin has matured and deserves another shot at the NHL. His second opportunity to make an impact and thrive under head coach Sheldon Keefe is beneficial because of their familiarity in the AHL. Keefe will give him every opportunity to succeed. As a 19-year-old, Sandin has the second best points-per-game average in a season, for his age and position, second only to John Carlson in 2009-10.
Sandin could play his way onto a team that’s dealing with injuries to two key players. He’ll have an increased role this time around compared to his first stint at the beginning of the season. If at some point Rielly and Muzzin are both healthy and Sandin continues to impress, then he will become a complimentary depth piece on the team’s defense. Even with possible trade deadline acquisitions, Sandin could still be serviceable on the third-line pairing. If his first game back, against the New Jersey Devils, is any indication, it’s a good start.
With all the issues on the blue line as well as the Maple Leafs’ poor defensive play recently, there’s no other way to put this: Dubas has to make a move. Given the possibilities above, the Leafs could be deep at a position that was once weak ahead of the playoffs.
Statistics from QuantHockey, Natural Stat Trick and NHL.