Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Campbell, Lyubushkin, Dzingel & Dermott

Last night, the Toronto Maple Leafs showed their fans the other side of the coin. While Thursday’s win over a strong Pittsburgh Penguins team was the coin’s sunny-side-up, the team flipped over to the dark side when it lost 6-3 to the St. Louis Blues. It was a good score for the game, probably. The Blues seemed about twice as interested in working hard for the win.

Related: Maple Leafs Rielly Has Become One of the Best 2012 Draft Picks

In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll share some of the news from the game and comment upon what it might mean to the success of the team moving into the postseason. However, the bigger news of the weekend is obviously the trade the team announced last night. 

Sign up for our regular 'Maple Leafs Newsletter' for all the latest.

I’ll also share news of that trade and offer some commentary about what it might mean for the Maple Leafs.

Item One: Maple Leafs’ Playoff Success Might Not Rest on Its Goalie Play

As I was watching the game last night, it occurred to me that I might have been wrong about the tipping point that could give this team a shot at playoff success. Given the strength of the Maple Leafs’ offense and the lack of NHL experience for Jack Campbell, I figured that whichever way his game went when the Maple Leafs reached the playoffs would tip the scales.

Jack Campbell Toronto Maple Leafs
Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Now I’m coming to think that the tipping point might not be Campbell but, in fact, might be overall team defense. When this team plays tight, shutdown defense from top to bottom, it seems to win almost every time. Obviously, a goalie can steal a game – either for or against, but what fans saw against the Penguins was not what they saw against the Blues. Talk about a game of contrasts.

Related: United States & Canada Women’s Olympic Hockey Rivalry Revisited

Last night, the team defense just didn’t seem to show up. The Blues kept pushing and the Maple Leafs kept letting them. No doubt, Campbell could have been better and there’s at least one goal he probably wants back. However, he made a lot of good first stops. It was the second and sometimes the third that would beat him.

Of Campbell’s play last night, head coach Sheldon Keefe said – and I think perfectly, “He doesn’t have a chance to be good tonight. I am not saying that he wasn’t good, but you give up five, and it doesn’t look good. There were a lot of gifts tonight in and around the net… tap-ins. Our team didn’t do a good enough job for him tonight.”

Often I think Keefe works hard to cover for his players, but last night’s post-game comments made perfect sense. Campbell stopped the shot, but his teammates didn’t control the rebounds or clear the crease in front of the goal. As Keefe said, there were a “lot of gifts” for the Blues.

Item Two: Have the Maple Leafs Made Their Only Trade Deadline Deal?

Maple Leafs’ fans didn’t have long to wallow in the angst of the loss to the Blues. Soon after the game was completed the team announced a trade that brought the defenseman most fans believe the team needs to push further. They also were able to move Nick Ritchie’s contract, and it didn’t cost them an arm and a leg.

Nick Ritchie Toronto Maple Leafs
Nick Ritchie, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

The specifics of the deal are that the Maple Leafs brought defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin and forward Ryan Dzingel to the team from the Arizona Coyotes and sent Ritchie and the choice of a draft pick the other way. That pick will be the Coyotes’ choice of Toronto’s third-round pick in the 2023 draft or their second-round pick in the 2025 NHL Entry Draft. 

What do we know about Lyubushkin and Dzingel? Lyubushkin is a 27-year-old Russian who comes with some size at 6-foot-2 and 208 pounds and the reputation of playing a physical game. He provides little to no offense (only nine assists this season) and seems the very definition of a stay-at-home defenseman. 

Ilya Lyubushkin Arizona Coyotes
Ilya Lyubushkin, Arizona Coyotes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Lyubushkin almost seems a clone of Zach Bogosian. He has 60 blocks and 94 hits in the 46 games he’s played this season. His salary-cap hit is $1.35 million per season. About the only thing I don’t like about him is that I’ll have to practice spelling his name for my posts.

Dzingel is a two-time, 20-goal scorer with the Ottawa Senators who’s obviously either not playing to the Coyotes’ expectations or is a potential Kyle Dubas reclamation project. On the face of it, it’s tough to see the reason for his addition. However, that might reveal itself something soon. What we do know for now is that he’ll go on waivers today and if he clears he’ll be sent to the Toronto Marlies.

Related: Alexander Mogilny: The Great Russian Enigma

Dzingel’s scored four goals and added three assists (for seven points) in 26 games this season. His salary-cap hit is $1.1 million per season. He seems every bit as valuable as any of the pieces that Maple Leafs added last season to the team.

Item Three: Travis Dermott Remains a Maple Leafs Player

One surprise with the trade is that, with another defenseman coming in, Travis Dermott remains with the team. Yet again, he was a healthy scratch in last night’s game and he seems regularly to be the odd man out on the defense.

It made sense that the organization would keep Dermott around as an extra defenseman just in case of an injury, but that seems to make less sense now. Could something more be afoot? 

Travis Dermott Toronto Maple Leafs
Travis Dermott, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Wild speculation on my part and I have no grounding at all for this thought, but could Dzingel be packaged in a trade with Dermott somewhere? Where my logic falls down is that I’m not sure what the Maple Leafs could be after if they plan to keep both Dzingel and Lyubushkin around, which I would guess they do. I’m sure readers have thoughts on that point.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

In the game last night, Auston Matthews looked like he’d been hit in the face with a pipe, which is sort of what happened in the Penguins game. His nine-game, point-scoring streak ended Saturday; however, I’m guessing he’ll begin another one on the road against the Montreal Canadiens (Monday) and then against the Columbus Blue Jackets (Tuesday).

Related: 3 Maple Leafs Who Probably Won’t Return Next Season

Last night was only the third time in his last 28 games that Matthews had not registered a goal or an assist in a game. Matthews now sits with 33 goals and 26 assists (for 59 points) in 45 games this season. 

There’s a good chance he’ll hit career highs in both goals and assists, which will be good fun to watch as a fan.