The Toronto Maple Leafs are a fragile group as we approach the March 21 trade deadline. Goaltending and defense continue to be huge question marks for the team as Jack Campbell’s rib injury and Petr Mrazek’s inconsistent play are not helping the cause. The same can be said about the struggles of blueliners Justin Holl and Travis Dermott.
General manager Kyle Dubas continues to work the phones, as it’s likely he’s had conversations with just about every team. For today, let’s focus in on the Columbus Blue Jackets. Here’s a few players from the Blue Jackets the Maple Leafs could target before the deadline:
Last season, it was Nick Foligno joining the Maple Leafs after his dad was a legend in Toronto, and this time around we could see Max Domi finding his father’s old hat to wear during the introductory press conference. Dubas made multiple deals with Columbus last season, and it frankly didn’t work out so perhaps there’s a bit of a bad taste in his mouth this time around. However, if he can land Domi and not overpay, it could be a solid addition.
The 27-year-old has recorded nine goals and 29 points in 49 games this season and could provide the Maple Leafs with some more depth at the wing position. Domi has primarily played left-wing this season and with the Maple Leafs having Alexander Kerfoot who has recently been moved back to center, the Blue Jackets winger could slide in nicely on the Leafs second line with John Tavares and William Nylander.
Domi is a pending unrestricted free agent (UFA) who is making $5.3 million against the cap this season. The number certainly scares Dubas, but the Blue Jackets are likely open to retaining salary to facilitate a move as word is a contract extension is not likely at this point for the forward to stay in Columbus. Domi at $2.65 million for the rest of this season instead of $5.3 million sounds a lot better for the Maple Leafs at this point.
While he’s likely not their top option, the Maple Leafs should have interest in acquiring Joonas Korpisalo. He’s a pending UFA who won’t cost a ton to acquire as this season hasn’t gone as planned for the 27-year-old netminder. Korpisalo makes $2 million against the cap. It’s a number that shouldn’t scare away many teams, even with his save percentage (SV%) only being .883 this season.
With the Maple Leafs letting in way too many goals in 2022, there’s been a lot of talk about what to do in the crease moving forward. It’s pretty obvious to me Campbell should be the starting netminder when he comes back from his rib injury, as he’s shown this season and last he’s capable of getting the job done. Despite some recent struggles, he’s still a capable starter who should be given another chance to take the net in Toronto.
The backup position is anyone’s guess. Mrazek hasn’t performed well, and now his three-year contract is scaring other teams. With the Blue Jackets having Elvis Merzlikins signed and Korpisalo ready to hit the open market, acquiring the latter could be a wise move for Dubas as it would allow for some flexibility moving forward depending on how things shape up. As of right now, they’re stuck with Mrazek for two more seasons, and it would be wise to move on if possible.
While he’s not a household name, Andrew Peeke needs to be on the Maple Leafs radar. The Blue Jackets drafted Peeke in the second round at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. While his development has taken a bit longer than expected, the 6-foot-3 defenseman has been everything as advertised this season.
Peeke is a physical specimen who loves to lay out opponents with bone-crushing hits and use his body to block shots. So far this season he’s recorded 140 hits and 122 blocked shots, two numbers that would rank him first on the Maple Leafs in both categories by a country mile. While the team already added Ilya Lyubushkin, highlighting their awareness to get tougher to play against, adding Peeke to replace Holl and/or Dermott would be a huge upgrade in Toronto.
Columbus won’t be interested in moving any of these targets unless they receive fair value. The good news for Leafs Nation is the fact Dubas has a cupboard full of prospects with trade value, giving the team a number of different avenues to consider. Let’s see if the Blue Jackets and Maple Leafs can spark up some more business with hopes of things working out a little bit better this season post-trade in Toronto.
Latest News & Highlights
Shane’s been a part of The Hockey Writers team since 2020, covering the Toronto Maple Leafs & Pittsburgh Penguins. A constant contributor, his versatile perspective on game results and everything off the ice produces diverse content. You can also find him on the Maple Leafs Lounge podcast with Peter Baracchini and Alex Hobson. Follow along on Twitter @ShugMcSween