Toronto Maple Leafs fans were wondering when general manager Kyle Dubas would pull off a major deal to load up and go on the pursuit for a deep playoff run. Before the day before the deadline managed to get Mark Giordano and Colin Blackwell from the Seattle Kraken without giving up a whole lot.
Related: Maple Leafs Get a Jump on the Trade Deadline with a Frenzy of Moves
In total he made two moves before the trade deadline. As a result, I thought I would break down each player the Maple Leafs got as a result of the transactions Dubas made and give a grade on each one. Here are the grades for the trade deadline.
It comes as no surprise that this is the biggest addition for Dubas and the Maple Leafs. He brought in Giordano and Blackwell in exchange for two second round picks (2022, 2023) and a third round pick in 2024. This was probably the worst kept secret as talks of Giordano to Toronto had picked up in the last week and that was his preferred destination.
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While there have been some improvements lately, their consistency has come into question over the last few months. There isn’t any doubt that bringing in Giordano helps improve the Maple Leafs defensive situation. He easily brings a calming presence as he’s able to play the style suited for late in the season and in the playoffs. He can play excellent shut down defense, make a hit and more importantly provide strength in front of the net to clear players out.
Many will question Maple Leafs going for a veteran that’s way past his prime. However, Giordano has been able to play at a high level, make crisp first passes and consistently over the past five seasons. He won the Norris Trophy back in 2018-19 and won the Messier Leadership Award in 2019-20. Despite being 38, he’s just as competitive and strong and that’s the kind of play the Maple Leafs have lacked late in the season.
Giordano is still able to provide average offense as he has 23 points in 55 games this season. When looking at his underlying numbers at five-on-five with a minimum of 400 minutes played, he’s just as effective in generating offense as he had the second best Corsi For percentage on the Kraken with 51.93 and sixth best high danger scoring chances for percentage of 52.01. Reasonable production for a player known for his defensive responsibilities.
He brings a major vocal presence to the room, but it also sets up a reunion with former teammate T.J. Brodie as they were a steady and reliable pairing for the Calgary Flames in the past. If they’re able to rekindle that chemistry, this will be a viable pair that can provide strong offence and defence.
With defense being a priority and with the competition in the Atlantic making significant moves, Dubas follows suit as he’s able to match what they did and bring in a top tier name without giving up a first-round pick or a top prospect in the process. Both sides benefit as Giordano can be a critical factor for the Maple Leafs in the playoffs.
While Giordano is the main centre piece of that trade, the addition of a depth forward in Blackwell could very well be an underrated player that could make more of an impact than we think.
During his time with the Kraken, Colin Blackwell has some strong underlying numbers. At five-on-five, he had a 51.46 CF% (fourth on the team) and the best HDCF% of 58.04. When comparing to different types of competition, he has a 53.3 GF% against elite level competition while only playing against them 35% of the time. Even though he may be in a third or fourth line role, that’s still a decent impact for a player in that spot.
Despite being 5-foot-9, he plays an extremely physical game as he has great strength. His 57 hits had him eighth on the Kraken and would still have him in the top-10 on the Maple Leafs in that category. He’s fierce and isn’t afraid of any battle, something that the Maple Leafs could use as they’ve shied away from the physical play at times when they appeared to be out matched.
Blackwell is an extremely versatile forward and can play in any situation. While he does have some offensive production in him, it’ll be his strong defensive mindset that’ll be an asset to a team that has struggled in their own end periodically during the season. The last time, the Kraken played the Maple Leafs, Blackwell scored a short-handed goal, as he could be a key addition to a team that already boasts the fifth best penalty kill in the league at 84.6%.
While it may not seem like a big addition, Blackwell is definitely a strong forward depth piece that Maple Leafs were looking for in order to improve the bottom-six. He has the ability to play in a shutdown role and provide energy with his physical play. This will be an underrated addition for Dubas.
Lost in the all the notoriety of bringing in a top-four defenseman like Giordano was the first trade the Maple Leafs made in bringing in Ilya Lyubushkin from the Arizona Coyotes along with Ryan Dzingel (since put on waivers) in exchange for Nick Ritchie and the Coyotes choice of a draft pick.
Lyubushkin isn’t the fastest player, but ever since coming over from the Coyotes, he has been impressive, handling top-four minutes on the right side. He has been physical, made key defensive plays and an asset on the penalty kill. He has even shown some offensive capabilities, cycling in the offensive zone and even jumping up into the rush every now and then.
Since coming over after the deal was made on Feb.19, Lyubuhskin leads the Maple Leafs in hits with 43 and is fifth in blocked shots with 13. That ability to be a strong, defensive minded player to suppress shots and make life difficult for the opposition is one that can help the Maple Leafs when the intensity starts to pick up. As a result, he’s seen some time on the top pair showing that he can play anywhere in the lineup.
While he brings a lot of intangibles, he does a great job with shot generation, even though he’s recorded just one assist. In 13 games played, he has a 54.62 CF%, a 57.53 SCF% and a 55.56 HDGF%. To get the kind of offensive impact from a shutdown defender is a great piece to have on your roster.
This deal alone addressed an area of concern before the Giordano deal. Lyubushkin provides a steady presence and strength for a team that was looking for an upgrade. They’re already getting some early gains from it and could get more later on.
While many were expecting Dubas to make one more move on deadline day– either a top-six forward or a goaltender– it was still a successful deadline for him as he managed to shore up a position that needed an upgrade. While he could’ve added a goaltender, he’s continuing to show his faith in Jack Campbell and Petr Mrazek.
Now, it’s time to see how these moves will pay off as the home stretch is now on.
Statistics from Natural Stat Trick, Puck IQ and NHL.