Maple Leafs Could Make Big Trade With Canucks If Muzzin Lands on LTIR

Consider the recent speculation as not much more than a theory or a “what if” scenario right now, but according to a couple of sources, should defenseman Jake Muzzin hit LTIR after being placed in concussion protocol, the Toronto Maple Leafs could use the money freed up by removing his $5.625 million off of the roster. More specifically, one NHL insider believes the Maple Leafs could take that money and make a big swing on J.T. Miller of the Vancouver Canucks.

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During the first intermission of the game between the Maple Leafs and the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday, Elliotte Friedman noted, “If Dubas is gonna be able to use his LTI space, I think that’s gonna make things really interesting for him. I’m on the J.T. Miller train.”

The Specifics Of How the Trade Might Work

There’s no guarantee that Muzzin will be out long-term. That said, if he is — and the Maple Leafs won’t be in a rush to get him back based on their need for cap space and a lack of production from the defenseman — Toronto could theoretically keep him out until the playoffs. Assuming the NHL looks at such a move and clears it medically, Muzzin could return in the postseason and his cap hit does not count.

Jake Muzzin Toronto Maple Leafs
Jake Muzzin, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

This would give Toronto more than $5.5 million to go out and add a player. When you consider Miller is $5.25 million for the remainder of this season and that the Maple Leafs would surely be moving some salary back in the deal, it becomes quite feasible for Dubas to pull this off.

What Would the Cost Be For Toronto?

Miller would cost a lot but there’s an argument he would be worth it. The forward is signed through next season at a bargain cap hit of $5.25 million. He’s scored 18 goals and 55 points in 53 games for the Canucks this season and he’s a weapon on offense, arguably Vancouver’s most consistent one. He’s a natural top-six fit in Toronto, especially on their second line.

Related: Current Maple Leafs Are Not a True Cup Contender Yet

All that said, it is important to note is that Vancouver is not sold on even moving Miller at this point. There’s been talk his name is out there but lately, that talk has centered more around the idea that Vancouver might pull back on the idea of moving him, waiting until the offseason, and perhaps even extending him and moving Brock Boeser instead. Needless to say, it will cost a lot to acquire Miller at this point and something like Alex Kerfoot, a 1st-round pick and 2nd and another prospect might have to go back to Vancouver.

The Right Choice for Toronto?

Some fans are a bit surprised by the suggestion that Toronto would be interested in J.T. Miller should the team lose Muzzin for the foreseeable future. Even if Muzzin returns for the playoffs, he’s not been a solid and consistent blueliner for them and the team could use a better option. The expectation is that this kind of money should be allocated to improve the defense, not add another forward on a team that already is stacked with talented ones.

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The Maple Leafs might be better off adding another defenseman. Darren Dreger of TSN suggested the Leafs look at someone like Hampus Lindholm in Anaheim, John Klingberg in Dallas, Ben Chiarot out of Montreal, or Mark Giordano from the Seattle Kraken. There’s even an opportunity to bring back someone like Luke Schenn if the Maple Leafs insist on making a deal with the Canucks.

Mark Giordano, Seattle Kraken
Mark Giordano, Seattle Kraken (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

This isn’t just Toronto adding a rental either. This is Dubas going after a player he projects to be with the team next season and that creates a slight problem for the Leafs because it means having to deal with contract hurdles during the summer, especially when it comes to making room for Jack Campbell’s next deal.

Even if Muzzin doesn’t play for the remainder of this season, he’s still a Maple Leaf for the next two seasons after this. Adding Miller’s contract, having Muzzin’s on the books, and finding room for Campbell is challenging, at least if the plan isn’t to move another major contract off the books like a William Nylander. or let players like Pierre Engvall, Ilya Mikheyev or Ondrej Kase go in other deals.