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The Low Budget Defensive Options; Leafs vs. Avalanche

February 24, 2024, 8:00 PM ET [354 Comments]
Mike Augello
Toronto Maple Leafs Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
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The Toronto Maple Leafs hope to complete a sweep of their four-game Western road swing on Saturday against the Colorado Avalanche in Denver. The Leafs have won six straight games (five in regulation) and will look to even the season series with the Avs after blowing a 3-0 lead in a 5-3 loss on January 13.

Ilya Samsonov is expected to get the start for Toronto after Martin Jones got the victory against Vegas on Thursday. The goaltending situation may be in line for some changes very soon, as Joseph Woll played very well in his first action since a high ankle sprain in early December, making 36 saves for the Toronto Marlies in a 4-1 win in Laval on Friday.

Although it is not known whether Woll will make another start with the Marlies or not, it is expected (barring any setbacks) that he will be between the pipes early in the Leafs five-game homestand starting on Tuesday.

The focus over the next two weeks is likely going to be on what GM Brad Treliving decides to do before the NHL Trade Deadline. Although speculation of the Leafs going big on rental names like Calgary’s Noah Hanifin or Chris Tanev (which were discussed on Thursday’s “32 Thoughts” podcast, it remains likely that Treliving will make a less splashy blueline add before March 8.

All indicators are that the Leafs would prefer to add a right-handed defenseman to play with Morgan Rielly, that would allow TJ Brodie to play the left side as he’s done with Timothy Liljegren during Rielly’s suspension, giving Toronto eight blueliners.

Names that fit the criteria of what the Leafs are looking for, but not costing them their first-round pick in 2024 or a top prospect like Easton Cowan or Fraser Minten are:

Ilya Lyubushkin: The former Leaf has a $2.75 million cap hit and Keefe knows where he plugs in. Lyubushkin played some with Rielly and is more of a physical, stay-at-home defender, which is a good fit as Luke Schenn was last season.

Joel Edmundson: The 30-year-old is a lefty that can play both sides, he is 6’5” and physical but is probably limited to being a fit on the bottom pairing. His main attractive quality is his $1.75 million salary, which if Washington retains 50% can be under $1 million for the cap-strapped Leafs.

Matt Dumba: Toronto was interested in signing the former Wild blueliner over the summer. Very capable of playing on the right side with Rielly, it would give the Leafs the top-four blueliner they thought they were getting when they signed John Klingberg, but a more physical and defensively responsible one.

Erik Johnson: The 35-year-old Cup winner has been a solid bottom-pairing blueliner in Buffalo, and has a reasonable salary at $3.25 million that the Sabres can chop in half.

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