Where is this NHL season going, seriously?
We are just 30 days away from the Trade Deadline. While the players are in the midst of both the All-Star Game and their bye weeks, management is starting to decide how they want to handle this all important day. Do they buy? Do they sell? Maybe they do nothing at all.
From now until the deadline, we will present you with a series of different pieces like this one where we look around the league for different possibilities that could play out. Our focus will be on the Columbus Blue Jackets and teams in the Metropolitan division. But occasionally, such as in this article, we will mention teams outside the division.
When you have a case of two teams in which one has what the other wants, it deserves attention. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets definitely have what the other wants. They’re a trading-partner match made in heaven. Whether they actually talk and come up with a deal is another matter altogether. But in this space, we will explore why these teams should talk and what makes them so perfect together.
It Starts With Meeting Needs
The Maple Leafs have been hammered of late with key injuries to their best defensemen. It’s no secret that they’re actively looking for an experienced blueliner who can step in and help right away. While handedness doesn’t necessarily matter, they’d prefer someone who can play the right side.
The Leafs also prefer someone with term. TSN’s Bob McKenzie said this week on TSN1050 in Toronto that the preference is someone with term, at least one year but would rather have two or more years remaining. They don’t want just a rental in this case. They’re looking for a hockey deal. They have some very interesting players they could deal to make something like this happen.
This is where the Blue Jackets come into play. They have plenty of defensive depth. Thanks to their run of injuries, we saw 10 defensemen get into games at one point or another. And as you may have seen or heard, they’re one of the hottest teams in the NHL.
But if there is an area where the Blue Jackets need an upgrade, it’s up front. Despite being on a 16-2-4 run to enter the playoff picture, they are still 23rd in the NHL in goals for with 138 in 51 games. While the goals per game is starting to creep up, they still need to see improvement if they hope to make the playoffs. The question here will be does Jarmo Kekalainen tap into his defensive depth and acquire a top-nine forward?
Like the Maple Leafs, the Blue Jackets are not interested in a rental. They want someone who can not only help them now, but also in the future. Given that the Blue Jackets don’t have their second or third rounder in the 2020 Draft, you can bet their first rounder isn’t going anywhere. So this would also be a hockey deal if an agreement can be reached with anyone.
The Maple Leafs need a defenseman. The Blue Jackets need a forward. Both teams want a hockey deal. This is a match. Now, who would the teams target?
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs want someone with term and is experienced. If they had a wish list of defensemen on the Blue Jackets, two would come to mind. Those are David Savard and Ryan Murray.
Savard fits exactly what the Maple Leafs are looking for. He’s an experienced right-shot defenseman. He’s plays a very defensive style of game and is not afraid to block shots. He also has term remaining. He carries a cap hit of $4.25 million this season and next. He has everything the Maple Leafs are looking for.
As for Murray, he is currently out with an injury. As of this writing, there is no definitive time frame as to when he’ll return. His name has been mentioned many times before as a trade candidate. He is a left-shot but can play the right side. But when he’s in the lineup, he’s been really good. In fact, the pair of Murray and Savard have been one of the best when paired together in terms of expected goals against when on the ice.
Murray is an excellent passer and can start the puck up the ice in transition. That would fit an element of what the Maple Leafs are looking for. Like Savard, Murray has one year left after this season. His cap hit is slightly higher at $4.6 million.
With Seth Jones and Zach Werenski being basically untouchable, Savard and Murray would be your most ideal candidates for trade in this scenario. Now what would the Blue Jackets get in return?
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets need an impact scorer. If they can throw three lines at you with noted scorers, that would be ideal. They also want someone who can skate and can shoot.
This fits the profile for Kasperi Kapanen. He’s just 23. He has two years remaining after this one at just $3.2 million cap hit. He’s also an RFA after the season. To be able to bring someone in like this fits what the Blue Jackets are looking for. Plus can the Maple Leafs afford to keep him given their cap crunch and others needing a new deal?
To a lesser degree, I could see the Blue Jackets inquiring of a player like Andreas Johnsson. He has three years after this one at $3.4 million cap hit. He had 20 goals last season but has been slowed by injuries this season. I don’t think the Blue Jackets would have to give as much up for Johnsson if they believe his outlook is that of a potential 20-goal scorer.
Other Things to Consider
Keep a couple of things in mind here. First, the Maple Leafs are under a ton of pressure. If they miss the playoffs, it’s not out of the question to think Kyle Dubas could be in trouble. There’s sky-high expectations in Toronto and not making the playoffs is unacceptable in their mind. They will do everything they can to find a hockey deal.
Second, the Blue Jackets are the ones in the driver’s seat. They have depth. They have cap space. They can explore the market and see if something falls to them that makes them better. They aren’t under the same kind of pressure to make a deal. If the asking price for Kapanen is too much, the Blue Jackets will move onto something else. Patience could work out in their favor with all the flexibility they have.
Third, any deal from the Leafs would have to work within the cap. To say it’s a tight squeeze doesn’t give it justice. They will have to be creative in not only finding the right hockey deal, but making it work to the cap. Perhaps the Blue Jackets can get more out of this if discussions ever get that far.
And finally for now, it would take a lot to pry Savard from the Blue Jackets. He’s steady. He’s dependable. He’s a shot-blocking machine. You better be offering up an impact forward if you want to make that kind of deal happen.
So a framework of Kasperi Kapanen for David Savard with some other pieces involved? I’ve seen crazier things suggested. Both players would fill needs of their new teams. Both players fit the kind of trade each team is looking for. With all of these elements in play, it’s no wonder the Leafs and Blue Jackets would make for perfect trade partners. But will they talk? And would they even try to make a deal with both fighting for their playoff lives in the East? Stay tuned.