The Toronto Maple Leafs accomplished what they set out to do when they snagged defenceman Jake Muzzin on Monday. The trade sent Carl Grundstrom, Sean Durzi and a 2019 first round pick to the Los Angeles Kings and now the scrutiny can begin in earnest.
First, the gain for Toronto is palpable.
While Muzzin isn’t the ideal right-hand shot, he is arguably the best available defenceman this year. He was also the Kings’ best blueliner and he’s an easy fit in the top four for the Maple Leafs. The gaps have been apparent and general manager Kyle Dubas filled one of the biggest.
Muzzin is a big minutes-munching defenceman and he’ll play a treasured shutdown role, something that will be all the more beneficial when the playoffs commence and Toronto has to strap in against the likes of Tampa Bay. Muzzin kills penalties and can put points up on the board, especially on the power play. Also, he has one of those Stanley Cup rings.
And his celly game is on-point.
“I just thought it was great fit for us,” Dubas said. “When he joined Los Angeles coming out of junior [in 2010], they were kind of at the same stage we’re in now, so he has that experience of seeing a team mature from being a team that wanted to contend to contending and ultimately winning, and he was a big part of their championship team in 2014.”
This deal is further contextualized by the probable/possible departure of blueliner Jake Gardiner, who could be on his way as a free agent this summer. Having faced the boo birds of Toronto as of late, you have to imagine the likelihood of his departure a little higher these days.
The trade went down without the Maple Leafs losing a serious roster player and that’s a good thing, especially when you think of all the different ways it could’ve gone.
But, on the other hand, the deal was good enough to make Los Angeles jump into the trade pool.
At the top of the list is that juicy first-rounder. It’s something the Kings are interested in since they’re trying to rebuild their entire system and it’s something Dubas and Co. felt they could do without because of its ostensible depth.
21-year-old Grundstrom has put in work with the Marlies. He has two playoff runs with the club, including 2018’s storied championship run, and he’s a tenacious forechecker. The Kings dig that. When he was with the mighty MODO in Sweden, he finished up his last season by becoming the highest-scoring under-20 skater in the league. No big deal.
As for Durzi, he was drafted in the second round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft and has been putting up good totals in the OHL. He has 11 points in eight games with the Guelph Storm this season.
(Photo credit: NHL)