The Toronto Maple Leafs have returned a more well-balanced team than in recent seasons, with goals scored and goals against both down. Improved team defense and capable goaltending from Ilya Samsonov and Matt Murray have spearheaded that trend, and with impressive performances from younger players such as Rasmus Sandin, Timothy Liljegren, and Conor Timmins, some have questioned Toronto’s need to add a defenseman at the trade deadline.
However, Chris Johnston of NorthStar Bets today relayed a report from a league source that the Leafs’ “main focus” is on fortifying its defensive depth, citing the Jake Muzzin injury as a notable absence. While the team does have seven NHL defensemen that can play solid games on any given night, you can never have too many capable options come playoff time when injuries can end a season quickly. Still, Johnston says the Leafs are still searching for roster upgrades all over to escape an Atlantic Division ring of fire alongside Boston and Tampa Bay.
- Due to what the New Jersey Devils have called “upper-body soreness,” superstar center Jack Hughes did not participate in practice today, taking a maintenance day. Already soaring past his career highs with 35 goals and 67 points in just 50 games, Hughes’ point production, even-strength goal-scoring, and excellent defensive metrics have helped propel the Devils into contender status. Having lost just twice in regulation since the New Year, New Jersey is in a comfortable standings position.
- After NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said over the All-Star weekend that more than 15 parties have demonstrated interest in purchasing the Ottawa Senators, Chris Johnston said today on TSN’s Insider Trading that the final evaluation of the team at sale could be upwards of $800MM. As Johnston notes, it’s an incredible return on investment for the Melnyk family, as Eugene Melnyk purchased the team at a $92MM valuation two decades ago.
I for one am glad to hear that a defender is first and foremost. But who? Chychyrn,McCabe,Gavrikov,Murphy,Scheen or has Kyle got someone else targeted. Up front will Kyle try and find a winger for the second unit or will he bolster his bottom six. I’m not going to lie an upgrade on a winger for the second unit would be nice, but if it were me I’d be looking for a couple of player’s capable of creating a shutdown line. For me it’s a defender that can help create a shutdown pairing and creating a shutdown third line, that’s what’s going to give this group what it needs to be successful. The question is can Kyle provide what’s needed with what little he has to work with. We haven’t even addressed the elephant in the room yet and that’s goaltending specifically Murray and his injury history. Can Kyle depend on Murray’s health going forward, myself I wouldn’t take that bet. But how the heck would Kyle pull off a trade that brings a goalie into the fold, with a defender and a couple of depth player’s this is what faces Kyle from now till the deadline. We know that this group can score, what’s always been the problem is protecting the lead, this is where a shutdown pairing and defensive third line comes in. Then you’re fourth line becomes a checking line that’s job is to create as much havoc in the offensive zone possible. My choice for that line is Knies with Holmberg and McMann, three hungry players that could make for a great energy checking line, something this group could use in those tight game’s. All we can do is read the rumors and wait and see what Kyle can pull off, and hope he gets it right. Cheerz