The Toronto Maple Leafs, according to Elliotte Friedman, are trying to trade for Vladislav Gavrikov.
The Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman is 27, and is a hybrid top-pairing defenseman in the style of Jake Muzzin, who is unlikely to ever play for the Toronto Maple Leafs again.
This is interesting news because we can extrapolate a lot of information about the Leafs intentions here.
Gavrikov is a left side defender, and so are Rasmus Sandin, Mark Giordano and Morgan Rielly.
The Leafs obviously want a player with snarl, but have no interest in the types of one-dimensional Radko Gudas, Ben Chiarot types that dominate typically dominate these conversations.
If they are interested in Gavrikov, then likely that means Sandin would be a trade chip.
Toronto Maple Leafs and Vladislav Gavrikov
Gavrikov is 6’3, he can be physical. But he isn’t a some kind of hitting machine. For example, Morgan Rielly has thrown 3.53 hits per 60 minutes of 5v5 ice time this year, while Gavrikov has thrown 2.93.
Gavrikov is physically imposing, but I don’t think he plays in a way that is going to terrify the opposition.
From what I can gather, he plays a quiet game. Makes a good first pass, doesn’t try to handle the puck much. The Leafs short-pass, puck-possession focused game is tailor-made for players like this.
He makes smart decisions, as long as he’s not rushed (which is why he’s only very good, instead of elite). And while he’s not a great puck handler or massive hitter, he’s just smart. What is the main things the Leafs look for? Intelligent players.
Gavrikov adds a size element, and I could see him paired with Timothy Liljegren to form a lights-out top pairing. Rielly-Brodie comes in next, and then you have Gio/Holl as probably the best 3rd pairing in the NHL.
Gavrikov has some major upside on a team like the Leafs, playing with a guy like Liljegren. Instead of the 3 x 1b set up they have now, this would give them a true top pairing, and give them a better physical set up on their blue-line.
Their current blue line can be exposed as small and soft, and suddenly when you add Gavrikov, who is 6’3, to replace the 5’9 Sandin, it makes Rielly, Liljegren, Gio and Brodie, who are all 6’1+ stand taller.
The Leafs would send a first and a B prospect for Gavrikov, and Columbus would likely retain half his salary, making him a dirt-cheap upgrade in the $1 million dollar range.
Whether or not this happens, knowing the Leafs want this player means they will use a first to get him (or someone similar) and then turn around and use Rasmus Sandin – signed dirt cheap beyond this year and threatening to become an elite player – in a trade to upgrade their scoring and add someone like Timo Meier (although should there be a power-forward available….).
Sandin is a massive trade chip, and so is Matthews Knies. If the Leafs are thinking of moving one, or both, then they can potentially make a major upgrade. Neither of those assets would be needed to get Gavrikov, who looks like a great fit.
Gavrikov, plays a lot like Muzzin. He is big, and can hit. He has strong defensive instincts and most importantly, is smart enough to know his limits. He plays smart, and moves the puck. Most importantly, other than Holl, the Leafs don’t have a single defenseman who can win individual battles with the huge forwards that try to distract the goalie.
Gavirkov gives them a more balanced lineup, has star-level upside, and frees up a major trade chip in Rasmus Sandin.