In the short term, the news today was that Toronto Maple Leafs’ defenseman TJ Brodie and his oblique injury will be on the mend for a little longer than anticipated. In the long term, the Maple Leafs will be looking to go on a long Stanley Cup journey at the end of this season.
From both those perspectives, the name of the Anaheim Ducks’ defenseman John Klingberg keeps coming up as a potential rental at the end of the season’s trade deadline.
There’s No Need to Rush any Maple Leafs’ Decision on Defense
Two things: first, I’m not a big fan of rentals unless it has a chance to turn out like last season’s Mark Giordano trade. Giordano came home and stayed past the end of the season. Second, it’s unlikely that the Maple Leafs will make any trades prior to the trade deadline. There’s no reason for it; and, given the team’s 10-1-2 record over their past 13 games, is there any reason for panic? That’s rhetorical – the answer is No.
Brodie will be returning soon enough and the regular season will be a good time for (a) the two young Swedish defensemen Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljigren to get some solid game action and (b) the organization to learn who’s who on the blue line. There are options for this team that (think Mac Hollowell) include the team’s future.
But a Trade Deadline Deal Might Be a Thing
Right now, even with the defence suffering injuries, things are going pretty well. In the short term, Jordie Benn is doing better than expected. Victor Mete is in the wings, and he has NHL experience.
The point is that any trade for a defenseman makes no sense until later in the season. Sure, the team’s defence has turned the puck over a few times and the youngsters have at times looked like rookies. But aside from the odd mental lapse or two, the defence has been generally solid this season. And we will soon be 20 games into the regular season.
However, the trade deadline is another deal. If everything falls right for the Maple Leafs, I can see them trying to pull in another defenseman as they pulled in Giordano at the last trade deadline. It certainly worked out well for them last season.
What a Pickup with Mark Giordano
The Giordano trade made sense at the last deadline because there was little certainty about Jake Muzzin‘s status. Gladly, Giordano has been re-signed. Sadly, Muzzin’s injuries have persisted. In retrospect, getting a steady, reliable, and mentoring veteran defenseman such as Giordano signed for so little money in the offseason was like finding gold at the end of the rainbow.
Not only did Giordano’s signing address some of the defensive needs left by the space where Muzzin used to line up, but you have in Giordano a player who truly wants to be in Toronto.
The bottom line is that the Maple Leafs have been playing structurally sound team defence (not just the defensemen), and night after night have given goalie Matt Murray a chance to win. Murray is doing it, but he’s not doing it alone.
That’s Where John Klingberg Comes In
As I noted, I’m not a fan of renting players unless there’s a chance to build the team past the end of this season. One thing I like about Klingberg is that I think the Maple Leafs can sign the 30-year-old past this season. If there’s a chance that (a) the team can land him without emptying the cupboard and (b) there’s a chance to re-sign for a longer term in Toronto, I think they should jump into the mix to see if they can land his services.
I can’t know this, but I think that Klingberg signed a one-year deal to test the market for his next contract. That’s where the Maple Leafs might come into play. Klingberg might be a great fit with the Maple Leafs.
Klingberg leads the Ducks’ defensemen with seven assists and eight points in 18 games; and, eats up minutes to the tune of 23:36 of time on the ice each game. He’s also an offensive boost. He fits into the Maple Leafs’ belief that the best defence happens when the puck is in the other team’s defensive zone.
The Salming Tribute and Making a Home for Klingberg
When the Maple Leafs saluted Borje Salming during the Hall of Fame weekend, it sent a message to others in the NHL. That includes (especially) Swedish players.
First, for all the bad publicity Toronto fans get for their treatment of players, the organization is first-class. Second, when the Maple Leafs’ fans fall in love with a player it stays that way. Third, Toronto is a place that welcomes Swedes and makes them feel at home.
When the Maple Leafs started six Swedes that night against the Vancouver Canucks, that put the Köttbullar (Swedish meatballs) on top of the table. This is an organization that a Swedish player might want to gravitate to and make his home. Furthermore, while there are great places in the United States to live and work, the fact is that Canada is more like home to Swedes than the United States would be.
I wonder if the Salming tribute might see a number of other Swedes choose to set their sights on Toronto as a potential place to play – of course, all other things considered.
John Klingberg, among other things, is a Swedish defenseman – just like Borje Salming. Giordano came home to Toronto. Any chance, like Salming, Klingberg might find Toronto a nice place to call home?