I can just hear Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas say, ‘And boom goes the dynamite.’
Dubas has made the first major trade after the NHL All-Star break by acquiring defenceman Jake Muzzin from the Los Angeles Kings in return for Toronto’s first-round draft pick this year, Marlies forward Carl Grundstrom, and the rights to unsigned draft pick Sean Durzi, a blue-liner who plays for the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack.
Muzzin, 29, is a 6’3″, 213-lbs stay-at-home defenceman that the Leafs have been craving for some time now.
In 50 games this season, the Woodstock, Ont., native has scored four goals and added 17 assists and was a plus-10 on a last-place Kings team that has the worst goal differential in the league.
The deal is an important one for the Maple Leafs in more ways than one. Muzzin’s addition adds a big, defensive-minded player to Toronto’s much-maligned back end. The left-handed blue-liner is signed through 2020-21 and his salary is a cap friendly $4 million AAV (average annual value).
He also averages more than 21 minutes of ice time a game, more than all of Toronto’s defencemen with the exception of Morgan Rielly and the injured Jake Gardiner. By all accounts, Muzzin will be paired with Rielly on the Leafs’ top pairing, moving 37-year-old Ron Hainsey down the depth chart.
The Muzzin trade will no doubt cause other general managers around the NHL to think about improving their rosters before the Feb. 26 trade deadline.
Division rivals Montreal and Boston are at the top of that list as they may face off against the Leafs in round one of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Perhaps, most importantly, this trade signals to the Leafs dressing room that it is go time.
After losing four of their last six games entering the All-Star break, Toronto is aiming to restore the aura that surrounded the club in the early going of this season. There next opportunity to do so, which will be Muzzin’s first game in blue and white, is Friday night in Detroit.