The Toronto Maple Leafs finally got their guy. The Leafs, who have been desperately searching for help on the defensive side, acquired Jake Muzzin from the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night in exchange for forward Carl Grundstrom, the rights to defenseman Sean Durzi and Toronto’s first-round pick in 2019.
Muzzin, 29, will add much-needed depth to Toronto’s defensive corps (specifically the right side), which has been plagued by issues this season. The Leafs ranked fourth in goals allowed but have surrendered the ninth-most shots in the league to this point in the season. Their defensive struggles have largely been softened by great goaltending from Frederik Andersen and their offensive production.
But as general manager Kyle Dubas tries to prepare this team for a serious playoff run, the addition of Muzzin should be a big help.
Muzzin was originally drafted 141st overall by the Penguins in 2007 but went unsigned and eventually inked an entry-level contract with the Kings in 2010. He went on to become a key piece of their defensive unit and averaged over 23 minutes of ice time during the Kings’ Stanley Cup run in 2014. This season, his eighth in the league, he has four goals and 21 points in 50 games.
With a left-handed shot, Muzzin isn’t an ideal candidate for the right side, but he’s a very good player at a solid price contractually ($4 million AAV) and is signed through 2020. Although he’s not the elite caliber defenseman that many were speculating the Leafs would target, Muzzin is a significant upgrade that comes without Dubas having to give up roster players in addition to the first-round pick, which should be a late first-rounder anyway.
On the Kings’ side, they’ll shed Muzzin’s salary while adding an additional first-round pick to their rebuild efforts. Grundstrom, 21, was a second-round selection in 2016 and has 13 goals and 29 points in 42 games with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies this season. Durzi, who has yet to be signed to an ELC, was a second-round pick of the Leafs last summer.