Forward vs Defense

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The debate around the water cooler at the moment revolves around what to do with the extra cap space left in the wake of Jake Muzzin’s cervical spine injury, which will more than likely mean the end of his season and possibly his career.

While a few names that are making the rounds include Luke Schenn and Jakub Chychrun at defense, with Patrick Kane and Ryan O’Reilly at forward, there are issues with adding any of those players.

For starters, the Leafs are more in need of a defender that can play the right side. With the flexibility of T.J. Brodie, a left shot defender that is more than comfortable on his off side, its not imperative that the team adds a RD, but it has to be the preference. So, while Chychrun has suited up on the right side at times over his career, I don’t believe hes proficient enough there to justify the price to acquire his services.

Over the past couple of seasons we’ve seen a variety of players paired with Morgan Rielly, including Zach Bogosian, Ilya Lyubushkin, T.J. Brodie (best fit thus far) and, currently, Jordie Benn. All but Brodie leave something to be desired, so I’d propose an addition to the team that is in the same vein as Bogosian, Lyubushkin and Benn, but with the ability to play in the top 4 more steadily. That puts a damper on the idea of adding Schenn as well. For me, there are two players out there that fit the bill very well.

Connor Murphy

Murphy may be the ideal partner for Rielly on paper. At 6’4″ 212lbs, the right shot defender is known for his defense. He’s signed for 3 more seasons after this one at a palatable 4.4M cap hit. His contract will bring him to 33 years of age, so we shouldn’t expect much in terms of regression during that time.

Artem Zub

If the Senators have trouble signing Zub to an extension, they may opt to trade him instead. In my opinion he’d be a very good fit for the Toronto Maple Leafs. A good skater that can help on the penalty kill and log over 21 responsible minutes a night, Zub would be the under-the-radar addition that could work out very well alongside Morgan Rielly.

As far as the forward group goes, while it would be great to add a talent like Patrick Kane, he’ll be extremely expensive to acquire and they’ll have zero chance of re-signing him. That, combined with the circus the media would create surrounding his past indiscretions, would make me question bringing him to Toronto. Much the same can be said about Ryan O’Reilly, who once drove his pickup into a Tim Hortons building while under the influence of alcohol. While these things tend to be forgotten in other cities, nothing is truly buried in Toronto. While O’Reilly is a terrific player and, on paper, very much what the Leafs need, I’d wonder about his fit immediately and long term. There are a couple of players that I would love to see join the team though.

Jonathan Toews

I know what you’re thinking. If I’m so worried about off-ice antics then why would I think Toews would be a good fit. Afterall, he did deny any knowledge of the Kyle Beach sexual assault situation. Well, you’d be right in that adding Toews could become a side show. However, his play hasn’t been that of a franchise centreman as of late, which could mean he’d have a future in Toronto past this year. He’d also fill in as a 2C immediately while having the ability to slide back as a scoring 3C that could take tough matchups and that’s exactly what I think the Leafs are missing from their roster. A centre group of Matthews/Tavares/Toews would be impossible for other teams to match.

Lawson Crouse

Signed for 4 more years after this season, with a 4.3M cap hit, Lawson Crouse is the power forward the Leafs thought they were getting when they signed Nick Ritchie. He scored 20 goals last season and is on pace for 30 this year. If you put this 6’4″ 220lb tank on Marner’s opposite wing you can write up 35 goals a year for the next 4 seasons. I believe it and you can’t convince me otherwise….. but I’m happy to have you try.

Adam Henrique

Again, I’m begging for a 3C that can play against good players and produce. This might be a player whose acquisition cost is low, even if they do have to retain 50% of his 5.825M cap hit to trade him.

There are a ton of players out there that could help this team, these are just a few that I think could be a fit.

Give me your thoughts in the comments. Are any of these players worth chasing? Would you prefer a forward or defender to be added to the group?