The Toronto Maple Leafs’ defense just can’t seem to stay healthy this season. This did not affect them much, earlier in the season when forwards like John Tavares and Mitch Marner went down with injuries. The Leafs have excellent depth at the forward positions which is why they were able to survive such big losses. General Manager Kyle Dubas might be forced to make a move now that the injury bug has shifted over to the blue-line.
Who got injured:
Jake Muzzin went down with a foot injury on December 27th, making an already thin defensive corps even thinner. This forced the Leafs to give Martin Marincin regular minutes, which is less than ideal.
Morgan Rielly fractured his foot and will miss at least eight weeks, to add insult to injury. literally. The announcement was made Monday afternoon, after the Leafs’ 8-4 loss to the Panthers on Sunday night.
Losing two players like Rielly and Muzzin is very tough to overcome. Both bring experience and leadership in the dressing room and they both may be the best defenders on the team. It is very hard to replace just one of these players, let alone both.
After going on a great run since the hiring of Sheldon Keefe, the Leafs find themselves in a playoff spot. Considering the bad start they had to the season under Mike Babcock, that is a great improvement. Now on a three-game losing streak, the Leafs must find their grove back. With Florida being right behind them and Tampa Bay starting to pick it up they need to figure this out.
It looks like it is going to be a tight race to the playoffs in the Atlantic Division. It might be time for Kyle Dubas to consider making a move before it is too late. Here are some real players the Leafs can target:
Alec Martinez: Why not reunite Muzzin with his old defensive partner? The Leafs may not need to give up a roster player to acquire Martinez. He is a UFA after next season and on the block in LA. His cap hit of $4 million might be a little concerning, but maybe the Kings would eat a contract from the Leafs. To get this deal done, the Leafs would need to give up two early to mid-round picks plus Cody Ceci.
Jeff Petry: This 32-year-old blue-liner could very much be one of the most underrated in the game. He has great possession numbers and can also contribute offensively. The Leafs may need to make another move to clear some cap but I’m sure Dubas can make it happen. one important note is that Petry has a modified no-trade clause where he can submit a 15 team no-trade list. Jeremy Bracco and a second-round pick should get this deal done.
Rasmus Ristolainen: Ristolainen may still want out of Buffalo after it was rumored he requested a trade in the offseason. The Sabers have nine UFA’s after this season so moving on from Ristolainen could be a possibility. He is under contract through the 2021-22 season with a $5.4 million AAV. The Leafs need to move some pieces around to get his cap hit to fit. A package that includes Jeremy Bracco, Andreas Johnsson, and two second-round picks may be enough to acquire the Finnish blue-liner.
The Leafs may need to make a deal very soon, even with the trade deadline being over a month away. These next few weeks, with such a thin defense, can make or break the season for the blue and white.
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