The Toronto Maple Leafs are in a precarious spot at the moment. After a disastrous road trip and a bounce back performance against the Philadelphia Flyers, many are wondering if change remains an option in the future for this organization.
It’s clear that defense remains an issue for this team as they’ve been prone to making poor lapses with the puck and have a hard time getting anything going offensively. With Jake Muzzin out long term, and with an important piece out of the lineup, the Maple Leafs can use as much help as they can get on the backend. There’s a bright spot as Timothy Liljegren is close to returning, but to replace the presence and impact of Muzzin remains at the top of general manager Kyle Dubas’ to-do list.
While the trade market for impactful defensemen is relatively bare, there are some names that Dubas can look to bring in and improve his team early on. One name that can be an intriguing option, is Seattle Kraken defender Carson Soucy. To put it simply, he’s everything that the team needs in a shut-down defender.
Cost Effective Defenseman
Given how the Maple Leafs have cap space to work with and the need to continue to improve the defense, Soucy serves as a perfect trade target to fill the void that Muzzin had.
Even with the eventual return of Liljegren and eventually Matt Murray– which led to Muzzin being placed on LTIR– the Maple Leafs could still have space to work with. If they’re able to off-load some current contracts in order to free up more space, they definitely could make some moves in order to bring in the hard-hitting, defender from the Kraken.
Soucy’s current contract is definitely appealing to the Maple Leafs as he’s making $2.75 million for this season. Even though he’s a pending unrestricted free agent, he could certainly be an early season rental for a playoff push this season. There’s the potential to possibly keep him and re-sign him if he continues to excel in his role as a player that can make an impact as a third pairing, possibly second, and someone who can play both sides. This would give the Maple Leafs more positional flexibility as they can use him where they see fit.
If the Maple Leafs are looking to make a deal, Soucy could be acquired at an affordable price, given his ability to be used in a depth role. If they could offload a mid-level prospect, a pick or even move a name like Justin Holl in the deal or elsewhere, it would free up more roster spots and cap space for more deals or transactions.
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Even though the Kraken are playing well to start this season led by rookie Matty Beniers, they’re still a young team that may still want to acquire pieces in order to continue taking that next step. The Maple Leafs have pieces to try and bring in a player they have use for.
Steady Overall Impact
If the Maple Leafs were to acquire Soucy, there isn’t any doubt that he would bring great value to a team that is looking to find some stability on the back end. Selected by the Kraken in the expansion draft, he was a consistent defensive presence for the Kraken last season and he’s continuing that trend this season. Everything that Muzzin brings, Soucy can deliver as well.
While he’s had long journey to get to the NHL, Soucy’s a player that can play a brand of hockey that the Maple Leafs could really use as he can play an effective shutdown defensive game. He has shown constantly that he can be responsible with his play in his own end. Overall, Soucy has been able to provide a strong and consistent net front presence in order to block out forwards and mitigate the chances against for his team. This season at five-on-five when he’s on the ice, he has been on for three goals against and only two high danger goals against, ranked 14th overall on the Kraken.
Soucy has a strong awareness to get into the lanes and break up plays, though it’s his ability to be physical that remains a strength to his game, as he’s tied for second with Brandon Tanev (28) and behind Jamie Oleksiak (35) on the team in hits. He has no problem standing up at the blueline or going into the corners and making his presence felt and lay a punishing hit. He’s extremely competitive and it shows every time is on the ice.
Overall, Soucy is making an impact in all situations and all forms of competition. He’s currently 11th overall in ice time per game with 16:04 and eighth in short-handed time per game with 1:41. His strong production offensively given third pairing minutes and workload is making him a player that can thrive in multiple situations.
Soucy posted career bests in goals and points last season with 10 and 21 respectively and he’s already off to a great start this season. In 12 games he’s scored once and has four points and is on-pace to finish with 28 points. Soucy would still be providing the same amount of production as Muzzin, as Muzzin finished with 27 points in 2020-21. He’s got a powerful shot from the point to get the puck on net. As we’ve seen with the Maple Leafs defense, they need to shoot more instead of being passive. Soucy’s 14 shots would have him third among defensemen on the Maple Leafs, behind Mark Giordano and Morgan Rielly (both with 18).
Even looking at Soucy’s advanced metrics, he’s making a strong impression offensively as he’s fifth in Corsi for percentage with 55, his highest in his career. He’s currently third in scoring chances for percentage with 54.32 and has a strong expected goals for percentage of 56.78.
Given his ability to be a player that can be used in all situations, Soucy could be someone who can be given a shot on second pairing. Much like Ilya Lyubuskin last year, Soucy would be able to provide the physicality, shut down play and consistency that the Maple Leafs need on defense.
Dubas has had a history of trading with teams multiple times in the past. There were the Muzzin and Campbell trades made previously with the Los Angeles Kings and now he has another potential partner in the Kraken.
Dubas acquired Giordano at the trade deadline last year and that acquisition has paid off well in terms of his overall presence, on and off the ice. He’s still a steady defender at 39 years old and is able to keep up with the speed of the game. There’s already that familiarity with Giordano and Soucy last season and brining in a player who can play a menacing game, could benefit the Maple Leafs.
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Given how the Maple Leafs are without one of their top minute earners and all situation defenseman in Muzzin, Soucy would be a great replacement for him for the present and in the near future. He’s physical, strong and responsible in his own end and has an offensive game that can be overlooked at times. The Maple Leafs should be wise to look into and acquire him.
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