The Toronto Maple Leafs traded two prospects and a first-round draft pick to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for veteran defenseman Jake Muzzin in an effort to improve their chances of contending for the Stanley Cup this season.
Muzzin has played for the Kings since debuting in the NHL during the 2010-11 season, and will strengthen what has been one of the most glaring weaknesses for Toronto this season.
Muzzin Adds Solidity to Toronto Defense
Muzzin isn’t a superstar, and has never been selected for an All-Star Game. But he has been a steady performer on the defensive end of the ice, making him a valuable commodity for a team that is hoping to make a championship run this year.
“The key is his ability to play at the top end of our defense, play in all situations, play against the other team’s top players,” Toronto general manager Kyle Dubas told the Associated Press. “He’s proven himself over a good career now to be able to move the puck, to excel at playing against high-quality competition and to contribute offensively.”
Over the course of his career, Muzzin has scored 51 goals and 162 assists while being a reliable, healthy player who was a key contributor on a Kings team that won the 2014 Stanley Cup.
Kings Seek to Rebuild
Muzzin hasn’t put up great numbers this season on a Kings team that is last in the Western Conference with just 44 points. But that hasn’t diminished his stock around the league much, making this the perfect time for Los Angeles general manager Rob Blake to trade him.
“I think we’re in a position where we’re looking up every day at the standings,” Blake said after the trade was announced. “We’re not happy about where we are. We’re not comfortable with where we are, and now we have to make decisions for the best of the organization going forward.”
For the 29-year-old Muzzin, the trade came as a surprise, though not one that was entirely unwelcome.
“I was a little shocked to get the call,” Muzzin told reporters after learning of the deal. “But I’m very excited to join Toronto.”
The Leafs were forced to give up a lot of value to acquire the defenseman. The first-round pick is obviously attractive to a team looking to rebuild, while the 21-year-old Carl Grundstrom is a second-tier prospect who has 29 points in 42 American Hockey League games so far this year. Meanwhile, the 20-year-old Sean Durzi is also considered a decent prospect, with the defensemen currently playing with the Guelph Storm of the OHL. While he is currently unsigned in the NHL, Toronto will now hold the right to sign him in the future.
The move should help solidify the Maple Leafs as one of the primary contenders for this season’s Stanley Cup. With 62 points, Toronto currently sits second in the Atlantic Division, though they are 14 points back of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Maple Leafs are also second to the Lightning in terms of their Stanley Cup odds at most bookmakers. According to William Hill, Tampa Bay is the 3/1 favorite to win a championship this season, while Toronto is a 9/1 pick.