Maple Leafs Commentary: Does a Muzzin for Larsson Trade Work?

The Hockey Writers has a number of great writers who cover the Toronto Maple Leafs. Recently, THW colleague Shane Seney wrote a post titled “Maple Leafs’ 2022 Offseason Trade Targets: Seattle Kraken.” One of the players he mentioned in his article was the Seattle Kraken defenseman, Adam Larsson.

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In this post, we’re going to take a more indepth look at one of the players Seney noted in his post, Adam Larsson. In fact, we specifically wondered if a Jake Muzzin for Larsson trade could make sense for the Maple Leafs?

Rasmus Sandin: Engaged in a Stare-down with the Maple Leafs

We do know there is a bit of a standoff between the Maple Leafs and Rasmus Sandin’s agent, who, for anyone that doesn’t know, is Lewis Gross. Gross also happens to be William Nylander’s agent. That fact tells Maple Leafs’ fans something about what they might expect from negotiations between Sandin and the Maple Leafs. Most Maple Leafs’ fans remember just how difficult the negotiations between Gross/Nylander and the Maple Leafs went when Nylander’s last contract was being created.

Rasmus Sandin Toronto Maple Leafs
Rasmus Sandin, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

There is debate as to whether or not the standoff is because of money or lack of a roster spot for Sandin. It might be a little of both. Rumor has it that Sandin wants, and feels, he has earned a spot on the roster.  If the Maple Leafs were to move a player, that would guarantee Sandin a full-time poster position. It might also have a favorable effect on the negotiations.

Jake Muzzin: A Mirror Image of Adam Larsson

With Morgan Rielly and Mark Giordano just having signed new contracts, they aren’t going anywhere. That leaves Muzzin as the most likely candidate to be moved. 

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Is there a scenario where the Kraken could be persuaded to swap Muzzin for Larsson? If so, would it be a good deal for the Maple Leafs?

Larsson could be considered a mirror image of Muzzin, a top-four, right-handed highly physical, shot-blocking defenseman. If we compare hits and blocks, in the past three seasons Muzzin has averaged 2.1 hits per game. Larsson has averaged 2.5 hits per game. Larsson has 1.9 shot blocks per game, while Muzzin has averaged 1.7 blocked shots per game. 

Adam Larsson Seattle Kraken
Adam Larsson, Seattle Kraken (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Over their careers, Muzzin has been much more of an offensive threat than Larsson, averaging .43 points per game to Larsson’s .24 points per game. Last season, for whatever reason Larsson had by far the best offensive season of his career, averaging .30 points per game. That happens to be the exact same points-per-game pace Muzzin scored at in 2021-22. 

Replacing a Leftie with a Righty Would Be Good for the Maple Leafs

If the Maple Leafs were to replace the left-handed Muzzin with the right-handed Larsson, it would give them a couple of options for defensive pairings. Larsson would play with Rielly, giving Rielly a good solid defensive defenseman who would allow him to play to his offensive strengths. This would allow head coach Sheldon Keefe to reunite T.J. Brodie and Giordano. When Giordano won the Norris Trophy in 2019, his partner on defense was Brodie.

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Acquiring Larsson could also allow Keefe to reunite Rielly and Brodie, which were a great pair when they played together. Larsson and Giordano would then make an excellent shutdown duo. 

Having Rielly, Brodie, Giordano, and Rielly as the top four would reunite Timothy Liljegren with Sandin. Those two had excellent chemistry in the AHL playing for the Marlies and have put up fantastic analytics when they have been paired together in the NHL.  

Some Salary-Cap Funny Money Between the Kraken & the Maple Leafs

The money would work well for both the Maple Leafs and the Kraken. Larsson is signed for two more seasons with a cap hit of $4 million per season. His actual pay is $5 million per season. The Maple Leafs would easily pay Larsson $2 million more than his salary-cap hit over the next two years. 

Jake Muzzin Toronto Maple Leafs
Jake Muzzin, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Muzzin’s cap hit is just over $5.6 million per season, but his actual pay is only $3 million per season. Seattle would end up saving a total of $4 million in actual salary over the next two seasons with this deal.  

The Maple Leafs would also have a $1.65 million lower cap hit. That $1.65 would go a long way to getting Sandin signed and keeping the team under the salary cap. 

One Really Key Issue: Muzzin’s NTC

The only fly in the ointment here is that Muzzin, with a full No Trade Clause, would have to agree to the trade. We do know that Muzzin spent eight years of his hockey career playing and living in Los Angeles. We obviously don’t know, but if he and his family liked life on the West Coast, he might not mind living a little further North. Even if his family preferred living further south, Muzzin would only be a short plane ride away. 

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If the Maple Leafs were to initiate the deal they may have to add a sweetener to make it happen, in a draft choice or a prospect. A deal could also include Alex Kerfoot, who’s from Vancouver, a hop skip and a jump north of Seattle. We do know that the Kraken did have interest in Kerfoot back at the expansion draft.  They could still be interested in him today.

This is all pure speculation of course. But, we could see where a Muzzin for Larsson trade could work for the Maple Leafs.

[Note: I want to thank long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith for collaborating with me on this post. Stan’s Facebook profile can be found here.]