The Toronto Maple Leafs need to upgrade their blue line.
The Toronto Maple Leafs may be doing adequate without Auston Matthews and William Nylander, but the more impressive thing is that they are doing it while continuing to dress Ron Hainsey – let alone doing it in their top four.
Ron Hainsey, who brings almost no offense to the table, has a 47.75% possession rating, even though he and Rielly are getting decidedly easier competition this year, and despite the fact that his partner is among the best players in the world.
Fourth in 5v5 ice time on the team, Hainsey is 37, and it shows.
Trade To Make
The Toronto Maple Leafs didn’t upgrade their defense over the summer, and considering they were easily the worst defensive team to make the playoffs last year, and one of the worst in the NHL, to return with the exact same top-four defenseman was surprising.
Most likely, however, the Leafs are waiting until after signing William Nylander to make a move. There is no real need to rush, and this allows them to have a full understanding of their salary cap situation before making a move.
But the player to target doesn’t play for the Carolina Hurricanes. (Brett Pesce, who plays on their third pairing, should never be mentioned in the same breath as WIlliam Nylander). He plays for the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. His name is Josh Manson..
Though he has a reputation as a defensive defenseman, Manson was among the NHL leaders in 5v5 points by a defenseman last season. He has a great two way game, he can hit, he can pass and he’s right handed.
A legitimate top pairing defenseman, he’d be expensive to acquire, but he’d be worth it.
Signed to a delightfully cheap $4.1 million cap hit for the next four seasons, Manson is everything the Leafs need: he brings some grit to the lineup, he can pass the puck, he can move it out, he’s quick and, most of all, he’d be the perfect complement to Morgan Rielly.
But Is He Available?
Hard to say. Obviously if the Ducks were good, there is no way he would be. But the Ducks are terrible. Their record is deceiving good owing to the incredible play of John Gibson, but they have several players over 30 on long term contracts, and they therefore probably need to rebuild.
If they are rebuilding, it makes sense to trade away a valuable 27 year old whose prime may be over before they’re good again.
Enter the Toronto Maple Leafs. Using a package of picks and prospects (not William Nylander) the Leafs should acquire Josh Manson. It’s hard to think of a more perfect fit for the team’s needs.
He is in his prime. He’ll help them win now. He’s right handed. He moves the puck. He’s excellent defensively. His contract is reasonable.
The Toronto Maple Leafs should definitely pursue Josh Manson.