The Toronto Maple Leafs only has five defensemen on their current roster under contract for next season with Jake Muzzin and Tyson Barrie scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency on July 1. That may be changing. The Toronto Sun’s Lance Hornby writes that the Maple Leafs and Muzzin are close to agreeing to a four-year contract, with many suggesting it will be in the $5.5MM range.
However, that deal may have to wait before it is official. There is a stipulation in the collective bargaining agreement that might force Toronto to wait until Mar. 1 when the ceiling for money allocated towards next season’s salary cap increases, according to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, Saturday on Hockey Night in Canada.
“You can only commit so much salary to the season following the one you’re in, but that amount goes up by 10 per cent on March 1,” Johnston said. “So it does seem as though the Leafs and Jake Muzzin are on the path here to reaching a contract extension, but I wouldn’t be surprised if everything isn’t signed, sealed and delivered until after that date.”
There has been speculation for weeks on which free-agent, Toronto should focus on with Muzzin being the likely candidate, but the blueliner will turn 31 years old in five days and there was concern about giving Muzzin, a player who wears two knee braces and has had back surgery earlier in his career, a long-term deal. Even four years would take Muzzin into his age 35 year. However, if the AAV is close to the rumored $5.5MM, then it is only a $1.5MM raise, which the team should be able to afford.
Regardless, Muzzin has been a steady defensive influence for a team that desperately needs it. He has just four goals and 16 points on the season, but carries a plus-six rating, while averaging 21:37 of ice time for Toronto. He also has 101 hits and 86 blocked shots, making him a well-rounded defenseman that Toronto needs on the ice.