As my colleague Nick Barden wrote recently, the Leafs are well stocked with toughness. Obviously, they have that classic kind of physical toughness that we’re all familiar with: Kyle Clifford, Wayne Simmonds, and the defenders Jake Muzzin and Ilya Lyubushkin. Muzzin once again stood out in the playoffs with a calmness and a sense of belonging there. The aggressiveness of Lyubushkin was something for the Lightning forwards to contest with.
There was also players like Colin Blackwell, Ondrej Kase, and Michael Bunting, who offered that kind of energetic resilience that can turn momentum in your favour. As Barden points out, Auston Matthews threw 32 hits in that series against Tampa Bay. Veterans Jason Spezza and Mark Giordano brought that calmness in the face of danger, showing that kind of mental toughness that gets you playoff wins.
That said, of the players mentioned above, Lyubushkin, Blackwell, Kase, and Spezza are all without contracts for next season. There’s also talk of moving Jake Muzzin to create some cap space, as his style of play starts to catch up with his body.
So, if the Leafs decide to move on from ‘Boosh’ or ‘Muzz’, there should be a shortlist of defenders to replace them. That’s where I come in.
Heading into the 2019 trade deadline, I made a similar short list, consisting of trade targets the Leafs should go after:
This year, looking at available free agents this offseason, we get a whole new list of players the Leafs should target. First, my …
Author: Ryan Hobart / The Leafs Nation