Earlier this offseason, I mentioned a few Toronto Maple Leafs who could be traded in the coming weeks, and general manager (GM) Kyle Dubas will need to be creative to upgrade his hockey club for next season. Defenseman Jake Muzzin was someone I showcased for a couple of reasons. While the Maple Leafs’ brass loves Muzzin and was impressed with his showing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, he’s a shut-down defenseman making $5.6 million. With a log jam of left-side defensemen, the need for more financial flexibility to land a starting goaltender and looking for more depth up front, the 33-year-old blueliner became a prime trade candidate.
Here are two potential destinations if Dubas decides to approach Muzzin with a trade this offseason:
Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter knows Muzzin very well from their days with the Los Angeles Kings, so there could be a match here. The Flames need more help on defence next season and only have four blueliners under contract. GM Brad Treliving has major work ahead of him with forwards Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau and Andrew Mangiapane to re-sign, and Mangiapane should be on Dubas’ radar.
The Toronto, ON, native is a pending restricted free agent and with Tkachuk and Gaudreau set for hefty extensions, Mangiapane might be on the outside looking in. If the Flames want to upgrade their d-core, he could be a prime trade target to be shipped out of Calgary. The shifty winger recorded 35 goals and 55 points in 82 games in 2021-22 and chipped in with another six points in 12 playoff games. It was a career season for the 26-year-old, and there’s no doubt he is well-suited to play on the Maple Leafs’ second line with John Tavares and William Nylander.
Related: Maple Leafs’ 2022 Offseason Trade Targets: Calgary Flames
As for Muzzin, he holds no-trade protection, which makes any decision his. But perhaps playing for his old coach and a playoff-bound team could spark his interest. Next season, his trade protection will be reduced to only 10 teams.
Los Angeles Kings
Speaking of old teams, Muzzin’s return to the Kings could be in the cards. The Kings have very little depth on their left-side defence. Meanwhile, they are stacked on the right side with Drew Doughty and Sean Walker returning from injury and the emergence of Sean Durzi – thanks to a trade with the Maple Leafs. The Kings have cap space to work with and are very much in win-now mode as general manager Rob Blake continues to fly under the radar as one of the best executives in the league.
Muzzin spent the better parts of eight seasons with the Kings, and if he’s willing to approve a trade from Toronto, this might be near the top of his list. The only issue is what the Maple Leafs will want in return. There’s a chance it could be strictly a salary dump for a mid-to-high draft pick, but that’s not a move that will go over well in the Maple Leafs dressing room, so the counter-move would have to be a deal that Dubas hits out of the park. Muzzin’s an integral piece in Toronto, and seeing him leave would have to be a calculated process for management.
Kings forward Alex Iafallo could become a Maple Leafs target as he’s signed through the 2024-25 season at $4 million annually and can play on the wing or down the middle within the team’s top nine. In 2021-22, he finished with 17 goals and 37 points in 79 games. Iafallo is also an above-average penalty killer and played 2:45 a night on the team’s power-play unit.
There aren’t a ton of teams who have cap space and a need for a left-handed defensive defenseman making $5.6 million, so the market for Muzzin is narrow. His battles with concussions in 2021-22 also make him a bit of a flight risk on the trade market, so if Dubas and company are looking to free up some salary-cap space or looking to reallocate some resources to their forwards, they may be in tough if Muzzin is involved.
Shane covers any and everything to do with the Toronto Maple Leafs & Pittsburgh Penguins. A constant contributor to the THW family, his passion and unique perspective on the game results in some diverse content. Certainly versatile, you can also find him contributing at NHLTradeRumors.me, BaseballRumors.me & BBallRumors.com. Follow along on Twitter @ShugMcSween