Welcome to my new series ‘2022 Offseason Trade Targets’ where we’ll examine several teams the Toronto Maple Leafs could be interested in doing business with this summer. From minor moves to blockbuster deals, I’ll cover them all as we dive into some potential trade options for general manager (GM) Kyle Dubas.
The St. Louis Blues are today’s featured team as they are in the market for some help on the left side of their blue line. The Maple Leafs have Jake Muzzin and Rasmus Sandin who could be made available, so let’s see what kind of talent the Blues have to offer should either of these two defensemen be moved.
It would cost a pretty penny, but Robert Thomas would be worth every cent. The Blues forward is still only 23 years old and is coming into his own as one of the best playmakers in the game. Last season he finished with a career-high 77 points in 72 games, including 57 assists. He’s under contract for the 2022-23 season at $2.8 million and is set to become a restricted free agent next summer.
The Blues won’t have any interest in a deal from Toronto unless Rasmus Sandin, Nick Robertson and at least one other top prospect is included in the package. Dubas and company would have to overpay here and rightfully so, considering how talented Thomas’ game is and the high ceiling of potential. The Maple Leafs organization knows him well from his days in the Ontario Hockey League and if they’re going to sell some of the farm, it will be for a familiar face to upper management.
The Blues are desperate for left-handed help on their blue line but admittedly, it would be a stretch to see them entertain moving Thomas. Sandin has a ton of potential and is still only 22 years old so it would all depend on how high they are on the Swedish blueliner.
A player who is likely more available than Thomas would be Blues winger Ivan Barbashev. After an impressive regular season, he disappeared in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, tallying only two assists in 12 games. During the regular season, the 26-year-old put up a career-high 26 goals and 60 points in 81 games.
Barbashev is versatile and can play either wing position and he’s also accustomed to playing on both the power play and penalty kill. Two areas the Maple Leafs could always use more depth in. He’s feisty as well, collecting a team-leading 160 hits while also spending some time at center.
Barbashev’s salary of $2.25 million for the 2022-23 season is something Dubas and company could afford and considering they are expecting to lose Ilya Mikheyev to an overpriced free-agent market, he could essentially be the perfect replacement. The second-line left-wing position with John Tavares and William Nylander could have his name all over it if a deal goes down.
Blues and Maple Leafs Could Produce Early Offseason Deal
Two teams with needs, the Leafs and Blues do match up nicely for a deal. While someone like Thomas is stretching it, Barbashev is the type of forward the Maple Leafs could use more of and the asking price is likely one they could afford. Moving Muzzin may be the answer here, as this deal would free up ice time for Sandin and a bit of cap space as well. Toronto absolutely loves Muzzin and were very happy with how he performed in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but there’s no denying the fact that he’s had concussion issues, and other injury troubles. He is also a veteran shut-down defenseman who isn’t getting any younger or faster with each game. As such, Dubas may be best suited to move on at the right time and cash in on a very reliable defender.
While Ryan O’Reilly, Jordan Binnington or Vladimir Tarasenko would be an absolute pipe dream at this point, there could be a match here with a lesser degree deal. Sandin’s restricted free agency could get messy as other teams are hovering around the Maple Leafs with the potential for an offer sheet. They may be better suited to pull off a blockbuster deal and package the young blueliner with some other talent to bring back another game-changer for next season. Muzzin or Sandin? That’s the million-dollar question at this point and one that should be answered in the coming days, as the NHL Entry Draft and free agency approach.
Shane covers any and everything to do with the Toronto Maple Leafs & Pittsburgh Penguins. A constant contributor to the THW family, his passion and unique perspective on the game results in some diverse content. Certainly versatile, you can also find him contributing at NHLTradeRumors.me, BaseballRumors.me & BBallRumors.com. Follow along on Twitter @ShugMcSween