Jake Muzzin has produced 21 points so far in 50 games, one of the better performers on a very poor Los Angeles Kings' team. So far, Muzzin is on track for 34 points which would be a decrease from last season, but his production is expected to pick up with his move to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Muzzin ideal move for Toronto
It seems that this trade is great for both teams involved. Toronto receives a very high-quality defenseman, who is accustomed to playing on the left, therefore could fit very well alongside Morgan Rielly on the first line, while Jake Gardiner can lead the second line on his own.
Muzzin is not only capable of playing on either side of the defensive pairing but is also on a very cap-friendly deal, earning $4M against the cap until 2019-20. With cap trouble right around the corner for the Maple Leafs, having a guaranteed $4M, 29-year-old defenseman good enough to confidently hold a spot on the top four would be a big plus for the organization.
Unfortunately for the Maple Leafs though, this move only further fuels speculation that they will lose Jake Gardiner in free agency, as they do not hold much cap space at the moment. They still must re-sign the likes of Mitch Marner, Kasperi Kapanen, and Auston Matthews. Gardiner might get left behind and be asked to sign a very team-friendly deal, which he might be unwilling to do.
As opposed to the forwards named above, Gardiner holds much more leverage as he is a UFA in the summer, and there will be plenty of teams looking to add him to their team. Muzzin might end up being both a strengthening move for this season and to soften the blow if Gardiner walks.
Will Kings keep selling?
The Los Angeles Kings received a solid return for Muzzin; a low first-round pick, the rights to unsigned defenseman Sean Durzi, who was drafted by the Maple Leafs in the second round last year and 21-year-old forward Carl Grundstrom.
The Swedish forward has been loaned to Frolunda HC for the past two seasons, making the switch to the AHL this season. In 42 games for the Toronto Marlies, Grundstrom scored 29 points, getting 13 goals, the third-most on the team, he's now reporting to the Ontario Reign.
The Kings are likely to keep trading away their players, very much in the race for the best lottery position. Center Jeff Carter is reportedly on the trading block as he is currently having his likely worst season with the Kings, and the return might be too low for the team's liking.
Muzzin's pairing partner Alec Martinez might also be on his way out. Martinez is having a considerably poor season but is still quite a high-quality second-pairing defenseman, also on a $4M contract. However, Martinez is 31 and is under contract for two more years after this season, making him a less attractive trading piece.
What are your thoughts on this trade? Did the Los Angeles Kings improve their roster and is this the start of a mini-rebuild? Let us know in the comments section below.