Welcome to my new “2022 Offseason Trade Targets” series, where we’ll explore several teams the Toronto Maple Leafs may want to do business with this summer. From small moves to blockbuster deals, I’ll cover them all as we dive into some potential trading options for General Manager (GM) Kyle Dubas.
Last time the showcase was on two Edmonton Oilers forward who could provide a little more depth up front for the Maple Leafs top nine. For today’s segment, we’ll make our way across Canada to the country’s capital, as you wouldn’t normally expect two teams in the same division to make a summer deal, but Dion Phaneuf’s blockbuster threw that theory out the window. . Here are a few senators who could be on the Maple Leafs’ radar this summer.
With Dubas struggling to sign Jack Campbell, the Maple Leafs may have no choice but to trade for a starting goalkeeper. Could Matt Murray of the Senators be the answer? Personally I don’t think so, but lately his name has been linked to the hockey club as a possible replacement for ‘Soup’. Let’s paint a quick picture here and take it back to the 2013-14 season, Murray’s last in the Ontario Hockey League. His head coach? Sheldon Keefe. You can guess who the general manager of the team was.
Now that Dubas knows Murray very well, that could certainly play a role here, as the Maple Leafs GM is one of the most loyal executives in the sport. If you use a fine-toothed comb through many trades around Toronto over the years, there are so many connections throughout Dubas’ hockey career. So honestly, while I think this would be a risky move, I could totally see it happening just based on trust and familiarity.
Related: 3 Potential Trade Destinations for Maple Leafs’ Jake Muzzin
Murray is signing up for $6.25 million a year for the next two seasons and it feels like if a transaction fails, Toronto won’t be interested in paying his full salary. It’s a bit rich for a netminder who posted a 3.05 goals against average and a .906 save percentage in 20 games last season. The only thing is that Dubas may have no choice in his own right, as if Campbell leaves Toronto for a more lucrative offer once free agency kicks off on July 13, Toronto will be between a rock and a hard place with only Petr Mrazek, Erik Kallgren and Joseph Woll to leaning on for rescues. At this point, you would think that Mrazek would be included in this trade to simply balance salary.
The plus side of acquiring Murray from the Senators is the fact that he is a two-time Stanley Cup champion who is only 28 years old. He also showed last season that he is capable of finding his groove and playing on a bad team in Ottawa. He has a no-trade clause to protect him from 10 teams of his choice; it’s highly likely that a move to Toronto to reunite with a familiar face will get its stamp of approval. The takeover costs wouldn’t be huge here either, as Mrazek and one solid prospect could probably be enough for the Senators to move forward with Murray.
If the Maple Leafs are looking for a little more sandpaper this off-season, the Senators’ Austin Watson is a fair target. While his on-ice behavior made headlines for all the wrong reasons a few years ago, it seems that time is well behind the 30-year-old and he’s been able to focus on strict hockey and make a difference on the ice.
The 6-foot-4 winger plays a bruise and likes to mix it up in the dirty areas of the ice. He’s signed for the 2022-23 season, earning $1.5 million on the books and with Ondrej Kase potentially leaving Toronto, Watson could make a nice replacement on the team’s third-line for Kase or fourth-line for Wayne Simmonds and the retired Jason Spezza.
Watson scored 10 goals last season, his best result since the 2017-18 season, when he scored 14 for the Nashville Predators. The rugged winger is at his best when he takes crushing hits and pisses opponents off, an element of the Maple Leafs that many believe could be improved or upgraded for next season.
While this acquisition would give Dubas a little more depth, it would also help with the penalty kill, as Watson played 1:26 shorthanded last season and finished the season with 63 blocked shots. The more impressive stat, however, was his 213 hits, which, to give you an idea, would have ranked him first on the Maple Leafs with a whopping 65. Ottawa may be hesitant to move Watson this off-season and may want to see how next season goes. That said, Dubas would be smart about circling his name as a potential trade target and if not for this summer, before the 2022-23 trade deadline.
There you have it folks, another Maple Leafs trade target episode is coming to an end as the Senators have two interesting options for Dubas to consider. If Campbell skips town, rumors about Murray will explode as it will be hard to deviate from his connection to Toronto. Meanwhile, Watson could become more of a target if the Senators drop out of the playoff battle next season. For now, we’ll wait and see how things shake up in Toronto as the July 13 free agency period looms heavily for the Maple Leafs.
Shane covers everything to do with the Toronto Maple Leafs & Pittsburgh Penguins. A constant contributor to the THW family, his passion and unique take on the game results in some diverse content. Definitely versatile, you can also find it at NHLTradeRumors.me, BaseballRumors.me & BBallRumors.com. Follow along on Twitter @ShugMcSween