Once again, trade rumours are swirling around the Toronto Maple Leafs and P.K. Subban. I find this one hard to ignore due to one simple fact: the team has not extended Morgan Rielly. Make no mistake, Rielly’s departure is happening. If he is not traded, he will become a free agent next summer, and he’ll get paid far more than Toronto can afford. Acquiring Subban could fill the void left by Rielly. Also, a deal with the New Jersey Devils could be the answer to a few problems.
This rumour started when Jimmy Murphy from Boston Hockey Now reported the Boston Bruins had inquired about Subban. He added, “the Toronto Maple Leafs have also expressed ‘more than lukewarm interest’ in the 2013 Norris Trophy Winner.”
P.K. Subban to the Maple Leafs
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not suggesting that this is a one-for-one deal. Toronto would get Subban and some solid assets in return, or these players would make up two pieces of a more significant trade. However, Subban is no longer in Norris Trophy form. His numbers have fallen off a cliff. In the past two seasons in New Jersey, the 32-year-old has played 112 games, recording 37 points and is a minus 37.
The Devils have made it clear they are moving on from Subban after landing the biggest fish in the free-agent market. New Jersey signed Dougie Hamilton to a seven-year contract worth $9 million a season. Subban has one year left on his $9 million a year deal. The Devils would eat a lot of that contract to move the ageing and declining defenceman to any team.
Morgan Rielly to the Devils
New Jersey has more than $12 million in cap space. Therefore, it would be advantageous for the general manager, Tom Fitzgerald, to get Rielly now before he hits the free-agent market. In addition, the move would give Fitzgerald all season to work on an extension before any of the other teams get to pitch their offers.
It would be pulling off quite a feat for the Devils to lock up two top-two pairing defenseman for several years. But New Jersey has a roster and a farm system full of young guys ready to earn NHL ice time. Being at the bottom of the standings for years has its advantages. The Hockey Writers Farm System Rankings pegs New Jersey at fourth in the league for strength in the system. They also have all their picks for the coming years and some extras acquired in previous deals. New Jersey could advance the rebuild a few paces with Rielly, or they could wait for their youth to develop.
Toronto Needs Defencemen
There are more than enough forwards in Toronto, and Petr Mrazek’s signing has solidified the goaltender position. Therefore any deal Toronto makes has to include defencemen. One look at New Jersey’s stocked-up system makes you wonder if Dubas is looking for a significantly more extensive trade.
The jury is still out on Rasmus Sandin, Timothy Lilijegren and Travis Dermott. Ryan Graves is a left-side defender who would fit the bill perfectly in Toronto. The Colorado Avalanche sent him to New Jersey in an expansion draft protection deal. The 26-year-old led the Avalanche in blocked shots with 91, and he throws his body around too, recording 77 hits. He has two years left on a contract that pays just over $3 million a season. The problem here is that Dubas would have to give up more pieces to acquire both Graves and Subban, but it would be worth it.
Trading for Subban may be the first step. After that, Toronto could be looking to fill the void left by Reilly because there is another deal in place with a different team. I’m certain Dubas, Rielly, and the rest of the Leafs don’t want to start training camp with this dilemma hanging over the group. Just how hot is lukewarm? We may find out soon.
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.