Maple Leafs’ 2022 Offseason Trade Targets: Ottawa Senators

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.

Last time around, the showcase was on two Edmonton Oilers forwards who could provide some more depth up front for the Maple Leafs’ top-nine. For today’s segment, we make our way across Canada to the nation’s capital as you wouldn’t normally expect two teams in the same division to make a summer deal, however with the Dion Phaneuf blockbuster, that theory was thrown out the window. Here are a couple of Senators who could be on the Maple Leafs’ radar this summer.

Matt Murray

With Dubas being in tough to sign Jack Campbell, the Maple Leafs may have no choice but to trade for a starting goaltender. Could Matt Murray of the Senators be the answer? Personally, I don’t think so, however lately his name has been linked to the hockey club as a potential replacement for ‘Soup’. Let’s quickly paint a picture here and trace it back to the 2013-14 season, Murray’s last in the Ontario Hockey League. His head coach? Sheldon Keefe. You can take a wild guess at who the general manager of the team was.

Matt Murray Ottawa Senators
Matt Murray, Ottawa Senators (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

With Dubas knowing Murray very well, that could certainly come into play here as the Maple Leafs GM is one of the most loyal executives in sports. If you take a fine-toothed comb to a lot of transactions surrounding Toronto over the years, there are so many connections throughout Dubas’ hockey career. So frankly, while I do think this would be a risky move, I could totally see it happening just based on trust and familiarity alone.

Related: 3 Potential Trade Destinations for Maple Leafs’ Jake Muzzin

Murray is signed for the next two seasons at $6.25 million annually and it feels like if a trade does go down, Toronto won’t be interested in paying his full salary. It’s a bit rich for a netminder who posted a 3.05 goals against average and a .906 save percentage in 20 games last season. The only thing is, Dubas may have no choice in the matter per se, as if Campbell leaves Toronto for a more lucrative offer once free agency begins July 13, Toronto will be between a rock and a hard place with only Petr Mrazek, Erik Kallgren and Joseph Woll to lean on for saves. At this point, you’d figure Mrazek would be included in this trade to simply balance out the salary.

The bright side of acquiring Murray from the Senators is the fact he’s a two-time Stanley Cup champion who is still only 28 years old. He also showed in stretches last season that he’s capable of finding his groove, and has been playing on a bad team in Ottawa. He holds a no-trade clause to protect him from 10 teams of his choice; it’s very likely a move to Toronto to reunite with a familiar face gets his stamp of approval. The acquisition cost wouldn’t be massive here either, as likely Mrazek and one solid prospect could be enough for the Senators to move on from Murray.

Austin Watson

If the Maple Leafs are looking for some more sandpaper this offseason, Austin Watson of the Senators is a reasonable target. While his off-ice behavior was making headlines for all the wrong reasons a few years ago, it appears those days are long behind the 30-year-old and he’s been able to focus on strictly hockey and making a difference on the ice.

Austin Watson Ottawa Senators
Austin Watson, Ottawa Senators (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The 6-foot-4 winger plays a bruising style and loves to mix it up in the dirty areas of the ice. He’s signed for the 2022-23 season, making $1.5 million on the books and with Ondrej Kase potentially leaving Toronto, Watson could be a nice replacement on the team’s third-line for Kase or fourth line for Wayne Simmonds and the retired Jason Spezza.

Watson chipped in with 10 goals this past season, his best mark since the 2017-18 season when he potted 14 for the Nashville Predators. The rugged winger is at his best when he’s laying bone-crushing hits and pissing off opponents, an element of the Maple Leafs that many feel can be improved or needs to be upgraded for next season.

While Dubas would be landing some more depth with this acquisition, it would also be a help to the penalty kill as last season Watson played 1:26 shorthanded and ended the season with 63 blocked shots. The more impressive stat though was his 213 hits, which to give you an idea, would have ranked him first on the Maple Leafs by a whopping 65. Ottawa may be reluctant to move Watson this offseason and may want to see how next season plays out. Having said that, Dubas would be smart to circle his name as a potential trade target and if not for this summer, before the trade deadline in 2022-23.

There you have it folks, another Maple Leafs’ trade target episode comes to an end, as the Senators have two interesting options for Dubas to ponder. If Campbell skips town, the Murray rumors are going to blow up as his connection to Toronto will be hard to turn away from. Meanwhile, Watson may become more of a target if the Senators fall out of playoff contention next season. For now, we wait and see how things shake up in Toronto as the July 13 free-agency period looms heavily for the Maple Leafs.

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