According to Elliotte Friedman, the Toronto Maple Leafs were looking at John Klingberg and decided to pass. However, the NHL insider said the asking price was likely too high, or the fit may not have been right. Friedman’s 32 Thoughts podcast was recorded hours before another dreadful defensive showing resulting in a 5-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens. To make matters worse, Jake Muzzin sustained another injury. So Toronto may need to reconsider the idea and pay up.
When Klingberg reportedly wanted out of the Dallas Stars organization in early January, of course, the Maple Leafs were included in possible trade destinations. Firstly, because every trade rumour must include Toronto and secondly because Justin Holl’s play has been inconsistent all season. That said, it didn’t seem too realistic that Klingberg could be coming to Toronto for several reasons. He is a free agent this summer who is carrying a $4.25 million cap hit, and the blue and white don’t need another offensive defenseman.
Maple Leafs Will Have to Pay for Klingberg
Friedman said, “one of the guys Toronto looked at over the last month is Klingberg. He is someone they considered. But they didn’t do it.” There has been speculation that Dallas is looking for a top prospect and a first-round pick. “For Toronto, they were looking for D. I think they decided that if they were doing a rental, they weren’t going to be trading a first-round pick for it. I also don’t think they were doing one of their top prospects for a rental.”
These factors and others (getting rid of Nick Ritchie’s contract) led Toronto to deal with the Arizona Coyotes to acquire Ilya Lyubushkin. “Lyubushkin is a good fit for them. He is a right-hand shot. He is not much of an offensive player, but he is a pretty good defensive player, and he is physical. He is not a guy who is going to wow you with his speed game, but he knows where he is and fits at the bottom of their D. I think it is a really good pickup for them,” said Friedman.
It is a good acquisition, and it appeared a few smaller moves for depth may have been all that Dubas had left. But, unfortunately, that was before Monday night embarrassment in Montreal. The only thing worse than Toronto’s performance during the first two periods of play was when Muzzin was laying on the ice after an awkward collision that resulted in the 33-year-old bashing his head on the ice. Muzzin had already missed time this season with a concussion and remained in Montreal overnight for observation.
Maple Leafs Trying to Move Holl, Dermott
Holl has been a trade candidate since the first month of the season. After being a health scratch for a few games, his play improved. Although it’s still nowhere close to where it needs to be. Friedman said Holl or Travis Dermott could still be moved before the deadline. “I don’t think Dubas is necessarily finished tinkering with his defence. It may end up that nothing happens, and this is what they’ve got. But I don’t think it is possible that he continues to tinker with it, specifically with Holl.”
The tinkering may need to be escalated; Muzzin’s injury could leave him sidelined for a while. He missed games during the last two years of playoff games for Toronto. The Maple Leafs need his kind of Stanley Cup-winning or playoff-winning experience in the locker room. Klingberg was a big part of the Stars team that lost in the Cup Final in 2019-20, recording 21 points in 26 games.
Friedman’s latest show sheds some light on the situation in the front office. It sounds like Toronto is not concerned about fitting a $4.25 million contract on the books before or at the trade deadline. Klingberg or not, this is a significant development as Toronto is always tight against the salary cap. This revelation could indicate the Leafs already have a team on standby ready to take on some salary if Toronto swings for the fences and acquires a big contract. That seems more likely and more urgent given the latest play and injury situation.
Kevin Armstrong is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of experience. He’s been rink side for World Juniors, Memorial Cups, Calder Cups and Stanley Cups. Like many Canadian kids, his earliest memories include hockey. Kevin has spent countless hours in arenas throughout the country watching all levels of the game.