Was the Jake Muzzin trade worth it?

Published April 22, 2022 at 10:07 PM
BY BRADLEY CELSIE
On January 28th, 2019, the Toronto Maple Leafs made a splash in the trade market by acquiring defensemen Jake Muzzin in exchange for two prospects and a first round pick. But was this trade worth it? Let's review what the Leafs gave up and how those pieces are doing now.

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Sean Durzi was a second round pick of the Leafs' in 2018 and, at the time of the trade, he was lighting up the OHL as a 20 year old defensemen with 28 points in 24 games. That year, Durzi went on to help the Guelph Storm win an OHL Championship scoring at over a point per game pace. He then spent the following two years playing with the King's American League Affiliate Ontario Reign. He began this year in the AHL, but was called up the big leagues after posting 16 points in his first 13 games with the Reign. Since then, he has posted 27 points in 61 games played, good for fourth in the NHL for rookie scoring by a defensemen this season. Durzi is averaging 19 minutes and 37 seconds of ice time per game this season. Clearly, the 23 year old has a promising career in front of him. It is likely some Maple Leaf fans will follow his career and wonder, "what if"?

Carl Grundstrom was a second round pick in 2016. At the time of the trade, many felt Grundstrom's potential was no more than a bottom six NHL forward. So far to date, that appears to be true. In parts of four seasons with the King's, Grundstrom has 35 career points in 126 games. This year, he has 14 points in 51 games. At 24, it is still possible he could improve, however it looks like Grundstrom will be a bottom of the lineup forward, one that is easily replaceable in the free agent market.


With the first round draft pick, the King's selected Swedish Defensemen Tobias Bjornfot 22nd overall. Bjornfot is in his second season now with the King's but has yet to break out. In 105 career NHL games over the past two seasons the 21 year old has posted 1 career NHL goal and 14 points. At 21, it is too early to tell what Bjornfot will be. But given he earned a roster spot at 20 years old, the Kings are obviously happy with his growth and development.

Then we come to Jake Muzzin. Since acquired, Muzzin has played 181 games for the Leafs', scoring 80 points and averaging 21 minutes and 18 seconds of ice time per game. Muzzin has served as a shutdown defensemen who can make a good first pass who adds some physicality. But Muzzin has developed a pattern of injuries over the past few years. In the last two playoffs, Muzzin missed games due to injuries. Given that the playoffs start in under two weeks and Muzzin is currently injured, it seems possible that he will miss playoff games this year as well. Perhaps part of it is due to the physical brand of hockey Muzzin plays. Perhaps it is simply bad luck, or some combination of both. But at the time of the trade, Muzzin had no significant history of injuries.

So with all this being said, was the Jake Muzzin trade worth it? Yes, it was. Here's why. The Leafs have been in a "win-now" window since the trade. They acquired a legitimate top four defensemen who can move the puck and play key shutdown minutes and without question has made them a better team over the past three seasons.

When evaluating a trade, you need to account for what was fact at the time of the trade. At the time of the trade, you didn't know what Sean Durzi would be. And while some prospects work out, some don't (remember Jeremy Bracco?).

So while it was a steep price to pay, if you want to acquire a defensemen of Jake Muzzin's pedigree you are going to pay. And while the King's have gotten great value from the prospects received, given what the Leafs were working with at the time and what the team needed, the deal made sense. And if Muzzin can return to full health and help the Leafs make a deep playoff run this season it will feel all the more worth it for Leaf fans.
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