With the NHL’s Trade Deadline fast approaching, it’s no secret that the Toronto Maple Leafs were in the market for a defenceman with playoff durability. That means physicality, toughness and the ability to play hard in their end of the ice.
On Saturday night, Kyle Dubas made a move following a 6-3 loss at the hands of the St. Louis Blues that could potentially fill that hole on the back end. He traded Nick Ritchie and a conditional 2023 third-round pick (that could become the Maple Leafs’ 2025 second-round pick) to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for hard-nosed defenceman Ilya Lyubushkin and forward Ryan Dzingel.
Related: Maple Leafs Address Multiple Concerns with Lyubushkin/Ritchie Trade
While the acquisition of Lyubushkin likely shortened the list of possibilities for the Maple Leafs when it comes to targets ahead of the deadline, there’s a real possibility that they may not be finished building up their back end for a playoff run.
Sure, it’s likely taken them out of a few races like the Ben Chiarot sweepstakes, the John Klingberg conundrum and the Jakob Chychrun conquest, but there still might be an option out there for them to sure up their three pairings – one that might not be considered by most.
But consider this – the seasoned, grizzled veteran, Mark Giordano.
Maple Leafs’ Brodie and his Familiarity
Now, the Maple Leafs could potentially still move both Travis Dermott and Justin Holl. Neither one has remained a constant within the Maple Leafs’ lineup this season and with Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren likely taking up spots moving forward, moving both Dermott and Holl would open up a spot for another defenceman.
At 38, Giordano might not be the first choice for most to bring in on a rental basis, but his experience and the road he’s taken to get where he is speaks volumes to how good of a player he is and still is – captaining the NHL’s 32nd franchise, the Seattle Kraken.
But what makes him even more of an interesting option is his familiarity with Maple Leafs’ defenceman T.J. Brodie. Brodie played the first 10 seasons of his career in Calgary with the Flames and was often partnered with Giordano on their back end.
From 2017 to 2020, the two paired up in 204 games and nearly 1,900 minutes. They had a combined Corsi For Percentage (CF%) of 54.75. More often than not, when they were on the ice together, they made it tough for opponents to score. Giordano had some of his best offensive seasons lined up beside Brodie, while the latter perfected his craft of being a tough defensive defenceman – something the Maple Leafs have seen over the past couple of seasons.
It’s not just about familiarity though, it’s about comfort too. And while it’d be unlikely that the Maple Leafs and Sheldon Keefe would separate the top pairing of Brodie and Morgan Rielly, knowing Brodie is there might be an intriguing part to draw Giordano out of Seattle with his modified no-trade clause.
Maple Leafs Can Afford Giordano
I know at first glance it looks as though the Maple Leafs can’t afford Giordano and what’s left of his $6.75 million annual average value (AAV) to close out the final year of his contract. And while he would be a rental for the Maple Leafs for a potential playoff run, there are options for the Maple Leafs to make sure they can open up room to take on his contract for the remainder of the year.
We’ll talk about what they would have to move to acquire him from the Kraken in just a moment, but the Maple Leafs would likely have to move Dermott, Holl and Pierre Engvall if they want to open up cap space to bring in Giordano.
Even then, the Maple Leafs would have to find a way to get the Kraken to eat some of Giordano’s cap. Going into the season, some questioned Alex Kerfoot’s place on the team, but he’s proven all year long that he’s fit into Keefe’s system. So, with the possibility of moving the three afore mentioned players, the Maple Leafs would only open up enough room to cover just under $5 million in cap space.
With that in mind, let’s call it what it is – a simple hurdle if the Maple Leafs were to want to go that route. But what would it take the Maple Leafs trading away to acquire the playoff-built, veteran from the Kraken?
In my mind, not as much as you think.
Maple Leafs’ Options for Acquiring Giordano
Well, I mentioned that the Maple Leafs would likely need the Kraken to hold onto some cap in any sort of Giordano trade. Even if Seattle held onto 25 percent of Giordano’s contract, it’d work out to about $1.69 million in savings for the Maple Leafs.
To do so, however, the Maple Leafs will need to give up assets in return. With that, I’ve put together two possibilities when it comes to the Maple Leafs acquiring Giordano as a rental at the deadline.
The first option would see the Maple Leafs acquiring Giordano for a package of their 2022 first-round pick and Dermott, with the Kraken eating 25 percent of Giordano’s cap. While there would still be some logistics for the Maple Leafs to work out on this deal, essentially, they’d be giving up their first-round pick for the cap the Kraken would be holding onto and Dermott would be a young player under contract for another year that the Kraken can have control of.
That said, Dubas did speak to not giving up his first-round pick this season for a rental, so that provides another complication. So, here’s another option for the Maple Leafs to look at in possibly bringing in Giordano.
The Kraken would receive Dermott and Mikhail Abramov, the Coyotes would take on 25 percent of Giordano’s contract and receive the Maple Leafs’ 2022 second-round pick and the Maple Leafs would acquire Giordano in a potential three-team cap-eating trade like we saw last season. Now, while I’m convinced Dubas isn’t willing to move even his second-round pick for another rental, this possibility is more realistic in that the Kraken will receive a young blue liner and a capable centre for the veteran blue liner and open up cap space in the process.
The Maple Leafs won’t give up too much for a rental this year as the Nick Foligno deal did shake the team a little in making those types of deals, but they do need to find a way to sure up their back end and Giordano is an option that can bring that type of tenacity.
While he may be the further from their minds right now in what they’re looking for, he would be a perfect fit in Toronto as they look to get some playoff success with the core they have now. Still, Dubas won’t be looking to overpay for a rental player and Giordano would have to approve a trade to the Maple Leafs as part of his modified no-move clause, but his type of play and his experience would be a solid addition to the Maple Leafs who are up against a tough Atlantic Division come playoff time.