Toronto Maple Leafs: Revamp the Blue-Line
The most important players on the Leafs blue-line are Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren.
The most important thing to realize is that Morgan Rielly is a weapon who can be used more effectively if he isn’t forced into a role *(i.e #1 defenseman) that he isn’t suited to.
Playing close to 30 minutes per night and being the top pairing should fall to Timothy LIljegren and Rasmus Sandin.
Liljegren put up the best numbers in the regular season on the Leafs blue-line, and the team did it’s best when he was on the ice. They lost by one goal in the seventh game of the playoffs after sitting him for five straight games, and it’s worth wondering if he’d have made a difference.
He and Sandin were one of the NHL’s best pairings this year, and look for them to take on a top four role to start next season, eventually graduating to obviously being the team’s top pairing.
On their second pairing, the Toronto Maple Leafs should use Morgan Rielly with rookie Topi Niemela. Lyubushkin is an OK player, but he was so outclassed on the top pairing against Tampa, and he obviously doesn’t have the puck skills to play with Rielly. They should still re-sign him, however.
Pairing these players combines the worst of both worlds and hopefully it never happens again. The Leafs can pair Rielly with a strong rookie puck mover, and they can use their skills to help the team score against weaker competition.
Finally, re-sign Giordano to a cheap one-year deal and pair him with Lyubushkin and use this as the shut-down pairing.
Assuming you can get Brodie and Muzzin to waive their No Trade Clauses, you’d free up $10 million dollars in cap spending. Holl can get traded too and you have $12 million to spend.
This might seem counterintuitive, because while Muzzin and Brodie are getting older, they are still good players, and they are still worth their contracts. Doesn’t matter. The two kids will cost 10% of their salary (assuming they are re signed fairly cheap) and you can spend money better than on two mid-range veteran defenseman.
I like Brodie and I like Muzzin, but they are in decline and it’s really going to be hard to get better if you don’t have a few players with high ceilings scattered throughout the lineup.
The Leafs haven’t given much of a chance to rookies and young players in the last couple of years, and I think next season we will really see that change.,