Toronto Maple Leafs: Let’s Trade JVR for Olli Maatta

TORONTO,ON - FEBRUARY 21: James van Riemsdyk
TORONTO,ON - FEBRUARY 21: James van Riemsdyk /

The Toronto Maple Leafs should trade James van Riemsdyk to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Olli Maatta.

There has been a lot of talk about the Penguins needing more depth at center to make another run at the Stanley Cup. Speculation is that Tyler Bozak would be a great number 3C and could partner up with his buddy Phil Kessel. T

The Bozak for Maatta swap would make sense if Pittsburgh were insane. But based on recent trades involving defenseman, that doesn’t seem to be anywhere within the realm of possibility.

JVR for Maata.

Jame van Riemsdyk is a much better player than Bozak.  With Maata’s injury history, it doesn’t seem unreasonable that JVR could be worth Maata in a one for one swap.  Van Riemsdyk has scored 29, 27, and 30 in his last three full seasons, respectively. He has score more goals than Kessel has scored in his last three full seasons. JVR and Kessel always had good chemistry in Toronto and could ride together again in Pittsburgh.  Conversely, if Kessel is traded JVR makes for a cheap replacement.

Why This Makes Sense

Jim Rutherford and the Penguins are all-in. They want a dynasty, and they can actually do it.

If they trade Kessel, he can get back a serviceable defense-man to replace Maatta. If they don’t trade Kessel, they can reunite him with his old buddy, JVR who will be expecting something in the $6M range with term.

Something the Maple Leafs will probably not be open to giving him. There isn’t a team in the world that couldn’t benefit from a JVR on the wing of one of their lines…at the right price and term.  And JVR’s current price and term is absolutely perfect for the Penguins.  He has one more year left at $4.25M which is barely more than Maata’s $4.083M cap hit. The only difference is Maatta’s contract is for another 5 years, which will take him to age 27.

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The former 22nd overall pick in the 2012 draft had his worst statistical year in his young career and many see him hitting a ceiling. The Penguins would more than likely want to get out of that contract, but it may be the perfect contract for a team like the Maple Leafs.  A 6’2”, 206lb defender who is 22 years of age with many years of NHL experience is exactly the type of guy the Toronto Maple Leafs want on their team. Head coach Mike Sullivan had this to say about Maatta, “He’s a strong kid,” Sullivan said. “He’s strong down low, he’s strong in front of our net and he’s a really competitive guy.”

The two concerns would be that the Maple Leafs are more in need of a right-handed defenseman than a  left-handed one, and he has a bad injury history, skating in  70 games just once in four seasons.

Toronto Maple Leafs
NASHVILLE, TN – JUNE 11: Olli Maatta /

A trade of JVR for Maata would strengthen the long term blue line of the Maple Leafs. The Leafs get a young defenseman who is souring in his current environment and would have the opportunity to thrive on a younger team with Mike Babcock as a coach. He could even play top minutes if Rielly shifted to the right side.

The Maple Leafs blue line could look like this;

Maatta          Rielly 

$4.083M      $5.M

Gardiner       Zaitsev 

$4.05M        $4.5M

Hainsey       Carrick

$3M             $750K

In a year (without any trades) the teams blueline could look like this;

Rielly Liljegren

Gardiner Zaitsev

Dermott Maata

As of today, these players are 23, 18, 27, 25, 20, 22 years of age, respectively.

Cap Space

Rielly cap number would be $4.5M, Liljegren $925K, Gardiner $4.05M, Zaitsev $4.5M, Dermott $863K, and Maata with a cap hit of $4.083M totaling about $18.9M for the starting blueline.  That is $2-3M less than what the two conference champions were paying their blueline this season, the Nashville Predators and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Next: Morgan Rielly is Good

The Toronto Maple Leafs are building for now AND the future while the Pittsburgh Penguins are Building for tomorrow. But when they get out of tomorrow, they will do well with getting rid of Maatt’s long term contract.

  • all cap numbers from