Despite all the stars and certainty that the Toronto Maple Leafs have among their strikers, the blue line is full of depth problems and questions about who will take the six starting positions next season.
Recent injuries have made it clear that the Leafs lack depth on the blue line. But it's not immediately clear how things will get better there – Morgan Rielly, Rasmus Sandin, Martin Marincin and Justin Holl are the only current pro-Blueliner who are under contract for the 2020-21 season.
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There are two major upcoming UFA defenders who are of particular interest to the Leafs and their fans. Tyson Barrie, who was brought over from Colorado in a summer shop, and Jake Muzzin, a dealer who came from Los Angeles last season. From day 1, Barrie was considered an experiment. The offensive freelancer was hit and missing, but has generally been better since the team fired Mike Babcock and promoted Sheldon Keefe to the position of head coach, probably because Keefe is more open to accepting the type of game Barrie plays.
However, Muzzin is seen as the kind of defender that Toronto needs. A strong defensive blueliner that brings a level of toughness that is believed to translate well into playoff hockey. And he has the post-season experience that so many current leafs lack – and he previously won the Stanley Cup. But it will be a challenge for Toronto to keep one of the two, and it will be a big challenge to keep both.
It is positive that Muzzin grew up in the area at least. In fact, he mentioned that there are many reasons to play in your hometown.
"The organization, the way they take care of us, the people here, the hustle and bustle in the city around hockey is huge," said Muzzin after skating on Monday. “Being close to home is always a nice touch, especially when there is a small child around. There are many good things here and I would love to stay. "
Although details of a contract extension for Muzzin were not known, Elliotte Friedman raised the issue of Tim and Sid last week.
"I think they're trying to see if they can sign Muzzin," said Friedman. "I can't prove it – nobody will talk to me about it – but there is enough smoke to make me believe that the two sides are fleeing and looking for common ground in this regard. It won't be easy, but I think they're trying it. "
Muzzin has not played a game since December 27 due to a foot injury, but will be a welcome addition to the lineup in Nashville on Monday.
The Leafs start their break schedule after the All-Star success with a four point lead over the playoffs.