Toronto Maple Leafs may have solved their defensive problems by adding Ilya Lyubushkin this weekend.
Then again, they might not have. In my opinion, the Toronto Maple Leafs still need to add a defenseman as we near this year’s Trade Deadline and the ideal target to pursue might very well be the Winnipeg Jet’s Dylan DeMelo.
It’s been clear this season that Jake Muzzin can no longer drag Justin Holl to a reasonable NHL level. In fact, Muzzin isn’t the same player he was once was, so has his own struggles to deal with.
Other options include pushing Rasmus Sandin into a position he’s not quite ready for. While he is showing healthy signs of easily being a top-four guy, he’s not quite ready defensively to hold up in the role. Then there is the newly acquired Lyubushkin, who is nearly a complete unknown.
Thus, the simple fact remains that the Toronto Maple Leafs need to find a willing trade partner and add someone a little more reliable alongside Muzzin.
Dylan DeMelo fits the role for the Toronto Maple Leafs
In this regard, Dylan DeMelo should tick the relevant boxes for the Toronto Maple Leafs, especially given that he play’s the right-side.
At even-strength this season, he’s largely been an effective player, with the Winnipeg Jets averaging more chances for than against whilst he’s on the ice (per Natural Stat Trick).
Of course, some of this can be attributed to most common defensive partners, Logan Stanley and Josh Morrisey, but given the statistics of each pairing see them still above average in generating chances, you have to imagine DeMelo is playing his part.
He’s the sort of player that should be relied upon for the dirtier shutdown role that the Leafs like to utilize Muzzin’s pairing for. DeMelo isn’t a prolific point-scorer but can be relied upon to get in amongst it clearing out the net-front or getting greasy along the boards.
The Leafs could expect somewhat more of a workhorse mentality; ideal for the fourth defenseman and meaning they can run the younger inexperience of Timothy Lilijgren and Sandin as a third pairing.
That pairing, while it will make mistakes, also has a strong chance of generating offense for the team against team’s third or fourth lines.
A cap hit of $3 million and 3 years remaining on his contract mean he would not be a cheap acquisition and may very well hamper some of the team’s upcoming negotiations with their restricted and unrestricted free agents.
An asking price in the realm of a second-round pick, an NHL-ready player and perhaps a low-grade prospect or AHL player sounds expensive, but might be the only way to acquire DeMelo.
If the Leafs can make sure that NHL-ready player is Travis Dermott or Justin Holl, it becomes a little easier to swallow, as their cap hits at least offset the extra expense a little. Chances are though, this may be wishful thinking, but stranger things have indeed happened.
However, given that the Winnipeg Jets exposed DeMelo to the Seattle Kraken in the Expansion Draft, maybe a deal can happen at a slightly cheaper price. Was that move out of necessity or was it about moving on from the player?
No deal is going to be easy, but DeMelo certainly more than ticks the boxes and definitely seems a smarter bet than other names out there.
Will Kyle Dubas willingly give up more draft capital? Likewise, how would the Toronto Maple Leafs squeeze a longer-term deal under the salary cap?
Those questions obviously need answering if they indeed pursue DeMelo, but that’s the nature of the trade deadline. Questions and doubts must be answered.