The Toronto Maple Leafs have acquired defender Jake Muzzin from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for Carl Grundstrom, the rights to Sean Durzi and Toronto’s first-round pick in 2019.
.@SportChek Player Alert: The @MapleLeafs have acquired defenceman Jake Muzzin from Los Angeles in exchange for forward Carl Grundstrom, the rights to Sean Durzi and Toronto’s first-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.#LeafsForever pic.twitter.com/3DYt3w0dc1
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) January 29, 2019
A player that was rumored to be on the move out of Los Angeles and very much on the radar for the Maple Leafs was finally shipped out of LA and the Kings got quite the haul in return. For Toronto, giving up their first-round pick does save the team from not having to move a player like Kasperi Kapanen, but it also signals that the Leafs are going for it this season, dealing with contracts and restricted free agents once their playoff push is over.
With this trade — arguably the biggest of the pre-trade deadline weeks — the doors may officially open as the price for players in Muzzin’s tier has now been set.
The Cost for Muzzin
It was being speculated by most NHL insiders that the Los Angeles Kings wanted a lot for their top-four defenseman. TSN’s Darren Dreger used phrases like “off the charts” when describing what the ask was. Clearly, those assumptions wound up being correct as the Leafs gave up two prospects and their first-round draft pick in 2019.
The pick will likely wind up being a late first-rounder, but the Kings got what they wanted if they were going to move a minute-muncher on their blueline.
In exchange, the Kings will receive Grundstrom, who has 29 points in 42 games for the Toronto Marlies of the AHL and Durzi, who has 11 points in eight games for the Guelph Storm of the OHL.
Maple Leafs Immediate Contenders
With this trade, the Maple Leafs have found their defenseman and become immediate contenders, having shored up a glaring area of weakness. Their lineup on the blue is much deeper than it was with the expected Leafs pairings to be: Muzzin with Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner paired with Nikita Zaitsev and Travis Dermott playing with Ron Hainsey on the third pair.
Perhaps even better for Leafs fans, it was speculated GM Kyle Dubas was not going to get into the rental market and he didn’t. Muzzin has one more season left after this one at a reasonable cap hit and by most accounts, that was an important part of any trade Dubas was going to make.
It could be important too that Muzzin was acquired with an entire extra month to go before the deadline. He’ll have an opportunity to adjust to new surroundings and get used to his linemates and for a team that wants to be clicking on all cylinders considering a recent slump, this point shouldn’t be underrated.
What’s Next for the Leafs?
This deal will also help the Leafs navigate the waters of restricted free agency this summer and potentially prolong the agony of trying to find a blueliner while giving players like Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner massive raises. Obviously, the cap crunch has not been eliminated with this move, but it gives the Maple Leafs a better idea of what their defensive corps might look like over the next season and a half.
If the Maple Leafs are done, they are infinitely better. That said, they may not be. Having not had to part with players like Kapanen or Andreas Johnsson, perhaps there are still trades available for the Maple Leafs should a home run offer be made and if they believe this is the year to go for it, Dubas may keep looking (or at least listening).
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Jim Parsons is a freelance writer who covers the Edmonton Oilers and news and rumors posts here at The Hockey Writers.
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