It’s quite simple, really. Jake Muzzin is the Toronto Maple Leafs most reliable defenceman. Stabilizing the Leafs blue line is currently their number one priority. Therefore, letting Muzzin go would be a setback, and keeping him means preserving the ounce of foundation Toronto’s defence has.
Muzzin’s Solid Tenure with the Toronto Maple Leafs
The 30-year old left-handed defenceman was traded in 2019 from the Los Angeles Kings to the Toronto Maple Leafs for rights to Sean Durzi, Carl Grundstrom and a first round pick in the 2019 draft. Prior to playing with Toronto, he had 496 NHL games to his name, and a tally of 51 goals and 162 assists.
With the Leafs, Muzzin has 8 goals and 21 assists in 69 games. However, looking at Muzzin’s point production is useless, because he is a stay-at-home defenceman to the bone. Playing alongside a core of offensive-defencemen who love taking risks, Jake Muzzin is by far in a way Toronto’s most reliable blueliner.
Reviewing his advanced stats for this season highlight his strengths, posting a 53.73 CF%, a 53.09 FF%, a 54.12 xGF%, and a 53.60 SF%, according to Natural Stat Trick.
Furthermore, The Northside’s very own Brutes Battaglia pointed out in his mid-season player grades article that Jake Muzzin has played well with Justin Holl. The two have been able to shut down many of the NHL’s top lines. This earned him a ‘B’ grade on the season thus far.
By no means am I saying Jake Muzzin is an elite defender who doesn’t make mistakes. We all know every d-man on the Toronto Maple Leafs has had their fair share. However, I am confidently stating that he has been the closest thing the Leafs have had to a reliable, tough defenceman in a long time (Dion Phaneuf doesn’t count). Even from a simple eye test, you can immediately tell Muzzin can hit, block and defend within the zone at or above par with Toronto’s expectations.
While he was out with a broken foot from late December until last night, his absence was blatantly obvious. It would be smart for the Leafs brass to explore every avenue of re-signing the Woodstock, ON native, especially since his strong style of play is extremely valuable in the playoffs (see defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues for reference).
Jake Muzzin’s Potential Contract with Toronto
According to Darren Dreger on TSN 1050, contract talks are in the preliminary stages between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Jake Muzzin. Dreger said he believes “a reasonable term is in that four-five year range. I don’t know if you want to go much beyond that. I’d be shocked if the Leafs wanted to push it to six.”
Leafs GM Kyle Dubas would likely be wary of signing Muzzin beyond five years, due to age. A four to five year term would be respectable, considering his point production remains steady and both his durability and endurance are enough to keep up with the league’s best forwards. Furthermore, Jake Muzzin has been open about his hope to remain in Toronto, telling TSN that “being close to home is always nice…I’d love to stay”.
In 2016, Muzzin signed a 5-year, $20 million contract ($4 million AAV) with the Los Angeles Kings. He is a UFA at the end of this season. To re-sign Muzzin, the Leafs would be required to clear cap space, since he is due for a pay raise. In order to manage this, the Leafs will be required to ignore the fact Jake Muzzin is 30-years young and sign him long term.