Toronto Maple Leafs Trade Deadline Preview 2022

Washington Capitals forward Nic Dowd chases down Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs at Capital One Arena in Washington D.C., Feb. 28, 2022. (Image: Brian Murphy, All-Pro Reels)
Washington Capitals forward Nic Dowd chases down Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs at Capital One Arena in Washington D.C., Feb. 28, 2022. (Image: Brian Murphy, All-Pro Reels)

The 2022 NHL Trade Deadline now is less than a fortnight away, at 3 p.m. (ET) on Monday 21 March. As a result, the next couple of weeks will be a hive of activity, with general managers attempting to strike deals before the window slams shut. In his latest column for British Ice Hockey, Luke James analyses the Toronto Maple Leafs’ trade deadline plans.

Toronto Maple Leafs: 2022 Trade Deadline Preview

With his team flying high in the standings as 21 March comes into view, Leafs GM Kyle Dubas will be a buyer at the deadline.

Toronto, 6-4 winners over the Seattle Kraken on Tuesday, are 37-16-4 on the season and sit within striking distance of top spot in the Atlantic Division. However, unlike the teams around them, the Leafs’ form has been patchy of late – they’re 5-4-1 since 19 February.

According to CapFriendly, Dubas has just under $4.5 million in cap space to play with at the deadline. That said, he cannot wheel and deal carefree – some of that wriggle room will disappear if defenceman Jake Muzzin returns from injury before the end of the regular-season. Also of note, the Leafs have used up 47 of their 50 available contract slots.

By almost all accounts, the Leafs are Stanley Cup contenders this term. History, however, counts against them.

Although the Maple Leafs have lifted the Stanley Cup on 13 occasions, they were last crowned playoff champions in 1967. Toronto has lost in the first round of the post-season five years in a row, with their last series win coming in 2004.

What Are the Maple Leafs’ Trade Deadline Needs?

Unusually for the Scotiabank Arena franchise, the Leafs know what they need to do before the trade window slams shut.

“At this time, the focus will be more on defence,” Dubas revealed in a media availability last week. “We still have quite a bit of flexibility to get creative and try to make something happen.”

As it stands, the only complicating factor for Toronto’s GM is Muzzin’s health. The left-shot defenceman was sidelined with a concussion, his second of 2022, on 21 February. If he remains on the Leafs’ long-term injury reserve (LTIR) list until the playoffs, Dubas will have more money to spend at the deadline.

In 2018, Kyle Dubas' Toronto Marlies won the AHL Calder Cup (Image: Thomas Skrlj/AHL)
In 2018, Kyle Dubas’ Toronto Marlies won the AHL Calder Cup (Image: Thomas Skrlj/AHL)

In other words, Muzzin’s fitness will determine the Leafs’ approach to the trade deadline.

“Unless we get the news we don’t want on Muzz, I think we will just have the one move left,” Dubas confirmed.

“It is not one of these things where we are going to wait and try to have him come back in the playoffs. With a style of a player like him, if he is healthy and good to go, we need to get him up, playing and in-form before the playoffs.”

Toronto’s Trade Deadline Targets:

Toronto’s primary goal for the next fortnight is to acquire a top-four defenceman, which was the case before Muzzin’s injury.

The Leafs, 16th in the NHL for goals against in 2021-22, haven’t been strong enough in front of their own net this term. Although head coach Sheldon Keefe has talented defenders at his disposal, most of them are puck-movers.

In other words, the Leafs are focussed on trading for a defensive defenceman – another Ilya Lybushkin-type.

However, trades get messy at the deadline and Dubas could easily pivot in another direction. If the Leafs have a large chunk of change to spend, Mark Giordano could be a big-ticket option for Toronto. The 38-year-old, Seattle’s inaugural season captain, would bring experience and skill to Keefe’s line-up – but isn’t the defensive fit Dubas is looking for.

Anaheim Ducks alternate captain Josh Manson is a cheaper option and is a player on the block, per Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. John Klingberg, of the Dallas Stars, is another offensive defenceman on the rental market.

If Muzzin stays on LTIR, there’s also scope for the Leafs to trade for a forward at the deadline. T.J. Miller, of the Vancouver Canucks, has been floated as an option, although that feels less likely following Nick Robertson’s return from the AHL.

Who Could the Maple Leafs Deal at the Deadline?

The Leafs, reluctant to move their first-round pick in this year’s entry draft, have plenty of assets they could trade at the deadline.

Travis Dermott, who has one year left on his $1.5 million contract after 2021-22, will appeal to Toronto’s trade partners. At 25 years old, he still has plenty of upside and could make an impact elsewhere.

Justin Holl is another of the Leafs’ trade deadline bait. The right-shooting defenceman, a rarity in the NHL, carries a $2 million cap hit through next season and is a solid player for bubble teams. However, he’s made a catalogue of costly mistakes this season – and is unlikely to stay in Toronto for the long haul.

Justin Holl, Toronto Maple Leafs versus the Washington Capitals, Feb. 28, 2022 (image: All-Pro Reels / Brian Murphy)
Could the Toronto Maple Leafs trade defenceman Justin Holl before the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline? (Image: All-Pro Reels / Brian Murphy)

Dubas, unwilling to part with his top prospects, could trade a young player or two at the deadline.

Erik Kallgren, Joseph Woll, and Ian Scott carry potential in net – which makes them vulnerable at the deadline. Likewise, forwards Alex Steeves and Pontus Holmberg are likely to attract interest from around the league.

Will the Maple Leafs Trade for a Goalie?

It’s important to address the elephant in the room – goaltending.

Since the NHL’s COVID shutdown in December, Jack Campbell and Petr Mrazek have struggled. The Leafs rank 28th in the NHL at five on five save percentage this season, even with Campbell’s blisteringly hot start.

“We have two guys that have been good goaltenders,” Dubas said. “Jack played at an All-Star level this year. Petr Mrazek has played 300 games — or nearing that (289) — and has been a good goaltender in his career. Petr, especially of late, has had a game against Minnesota at home and a game at Washington where he was very good.”

Washington Capitals' T.J. Oshie crashes the net against Petr Mrazek of the Toronto Maple Leafs at Capital One Arena in Washington D.C., Feb. 28, 2022. (Image: Brian Murphy, All-Pro Reels)
Washington Capitals’ T.J. Oshie crashes the net against Petr Mrazek of the Toronto Maple Leafs at Capital One Arena in Washington D.C., Feb. 28, 2022. (Image: Brian Murphy, All-Pro Reels)

“I am not concerned about either one of them,” he insisted. “They have both shown themselves to be good goalies and they will be.”

Even if the Leafs wanted to acquire an upgrade in goal before the deadline, the netminder market is thin. Marc-Andre Fleury is the only obvious, gettable improvement – and it isn’t clear he’s willing to move at the deadline.

For better or worse, the Leafs will stick with Campbell-Mrazek through the playoffs.

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