A few weeks back it seemed ludicrous to suggest the Toronto Maple Leafs pursue Seattle Kraken captain, Mark Giordano.
However, with the Toronto Maple Leafs placing Jake Muzzin onto long-term injured reserve, per TSN, and in doing so, freeing up a decent chunk of cap space, it feels like a less crazy idea, assuming the Leafs aren’t on his no-trade list, of course.
Obviously, there is the risk of paying too much when acquiring a 38 year-old as a rental. There was risk last season acquiring a 33 year-old Nick Foligno and that didn’t work out too well, after all.
At this point though, it might very well be a risk that the Toronto Maple Leafs need to take, especially with Muzzin’s absence significantly weakening their defensive group.
Mark Giordano and the Toronto Maple Leafs
Perhaps the biggest value that Giordano could bring is familiarity with T.J. Brodie. The pair played together for several seasons for the Calgary Flames and demonstrated great chemistry. To revive that in Toronto would be ideal for them.
However, given he’s on a near career-best pace, it might upset Morgan Rielly, who has also managed to form a strong partnership with Brodie.
Likewise the challenge, assuming Muzzin is fit in time for the playoffs, is how to also shoe-horn him back into a line-up alongside Brodie, Giordano and Rielly. He is after all a left-sided guy that is best suited to top-four usage, as are Rielly and Giordano.
Aside from looking at the possibilities of a reunion there; there’s a lot to be said for the veteran leadership he would bring to the group. While there’s already plenty of leaders in the locker-room, it’s unlikely another voice would upset the apple-cart too much.
Finally, let’s factor in his playing style. He isn’t necessarily the hard-nosed heavy-hitter that many Toronto Maple Leafs fans covet. However, what he is strong on the puck; the Leafs thrive on puck possession and driving forward, so he fits perfectly in terms of their preferred playing style.
Questions remain though as to whether that is the course the Maple Leafs want to steer heading into the playoffs or whether they do indeed want to add a bit more blue-line menace and physicality.
How Much Would It Cost?
The Toronto Maple Leafs are likely to need help from a third team, regardless of the fact that Jake Muzzin has opened their current deadline cap space up to $5.625 million.
Mark Giordano is in the final year of a contract with an average annual value of $6.75 million, meaning the only real way to manage a one-for-one deal, in pure salary terms, involves shipping at a minimum (based solely on cap hit), Pierre Engvall and his $1.25 million cap hit to Seattle.
That deal, of course, would never fly but it highlights the contract values that are coming into play.
Realistically, assuming a three-way trade, which would allow the Toronto Maple Leafs room to continue maneuvering in the trade market, you’re talking giving up this year’s second-round pick, a minimum of Travis Dermott and a second-tier prospect and possibly an AHL depth option as a throw-in.
So taking that into consideration, let’s think to recent trade partners and who might be willing to play a part by retaining salary. The obvious answer given recent dealings are the Arizona Coyotes.
Let’s assume they’re willing to take on 30% of Mark Giordano’s cap hit and for doing so, the Leafs will give up their 2022 second round pick.
The Seattle Kraken insist upon both Travis Dermott and a player akin to Pavel Gogolev, Semyon Der-Arguchintsev or Nick Abruzzese, but otherwise the Leafs get off lightly.
By the end of it, the Leafs are down an earlier round draft pick and a prospect, but are up a veteran blue-liner and still have $2.4 million wiggle room against the cap. There’s no saying such a return would be enough for Ron Francis and the Kraken.
However, given the cost of the Foligno deal last year, you have to hope that some lessons have been learned and this is the maximum price the Leafs would willingly pay.