The Toronto Maple Leafs swung another trade on Dec. 19, and it wasn’t one for a top-four defenseman or a top-six scoring winger. If anything, it was more comparable to the deal they made with the Arizona Coyotes a few weeks ago, adding Conor Timmins in exchange for Curtis Douglas. This time, the Maple Leafs swapped some forward depth, trading forward Denis Malgin to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for forward Dryden Hunt.
This move more than likely won’t move the needle for either team all that much, as both players were in need of a change of scenery more than anything else. But we like to cover and discuss trades no matter how big, small, relevant, or irrelevant they are, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do here.
Denis Malgin – A Failed Experiment in Toronto
Malgin’s tenure in Toronto was…unfortunate, to say the least. He always had some extra expectations surrounding him considering the fact that he was originally acquired for Mason Marchment, who went on to have a successful breakout season with the Florida Panthers before joining the Dallas Stars on a four-year contract. Malgin, on the other hand, didn’t really do anything in his first stint with the team following the trade, with no points in the eight games he played for them.
After Malgin returned to Switzerland in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the trade was almost entirely a wash for the Maple Leafs, and it only got worse when Marchment had his breakout season with Florida in 2020-21, notching 47 points in 54 games. Granted, he had that breakout season because he had an opportunity with the Panthers that he wouldn’t have had in Toronto, but the trade still hurt seeing what each team got out of it.
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Meanwhile, Malgin was overseas in Switzerland torching the top pro league in his home country. He led his team in scoring in both 2020-21 and 2021-22, recording 52 points in 48 games for the ZSC Lions, the same team Auston Matthews played for in his draft year. With a couple of spots to fill up front, the Maple Leafs decided to take another flier on him. He had an outstanding preseason and deservingly won a job on the starting roster. But, after scoring in the season opener, he fell off a cliff and finished his 2022-23 Maple Leafs tenure with two goals and four points in 23 games.
Hunt Brings Similar Offense, But Added Grit
Hunt is an interesting case. He was a highly-coveted overage junior player after scoring 58 goals and notching 116 points in 72 games in his final junior season with the Moose Jaw Warriors, and ended up signing an entry-level contract with the Panthers. He’s since bounced between a few teams, including the Arizona Coyotes, New York Rangers, and Colorado Avalanche, with last season being his most productive to date, where he recorded 17 points in 76 games for the Rangers.
He’s taken a step back offensively this season, which says a lot considering his career high in points is 17, with only two points in 28 games combined between the Rangers and Avalanche. But, the Maple Leafs aren’t bringing Hunt in to score goals. In fact, he was leading the Avalanche in hits with 58 at the time of the trade, and carries a solid defensive game for a depth forward as well.
The reality is, with Calle Jarnkrok’s return ahead of tonight’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Malgin didn’t really have a place on this team anymore. He didn’t do much with his opportunity in the top six alongside John Tavares and Mitch Marner, and although he has the skill set to succeed in a role like that, he couldn’t put it together when presented with the opportunity. The Maple Leafs certainly won’t be bringing in Hunt to play in the top six, but at least he has an element that can still render him valuable if he’s not scoring goals.
Trade Could Be a Wash, But Was Necessary
This is going to seem like a nothing trade for a lot of people, and in all honesty that’s probably what we’re looking at. To be honest, I can’t imagine Hunt getting many reps with the team past the trade deadline, and since he’s not eligible to go to the American Hockey League (AHL) without passing through waivers, he may not even finish the season with the Maple Leafs. But, for now, he’ll bring a different style of game than that of Malgin’s, and should provide the fans with some big hits if nothing else.
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There’s a very high chance this article and the discussion surrounding the trade will be moot in a few months, but then again, we were saying the same thing about the Timmins/Douglas swap a few weeks ago, and the former has six points in six games with the Maple Leafs so far. Expectations for Hunt should be kept low because he hasn’t really earned any reason to believe otherwise this season, but crazier things have happened in this league.