The second of two teams linked with the Leafs over Patrick Marleau is the Arizona Coyotes. We’ve already seen who Dubas should target from the Kings, and who he has to avoid, so here’s a look at a must-buy player for the Leafs in Arizona.
The Stanley Cup champion defenseman with the Chicago Blackhawks of years past would be the ideal fit for the Leafs to add in any deal with the Arizona Coyotes. One of the defensive leaders on the Coyotes, Hjalmarsson would take a significant sum to pry out of the desert but would be worth it for Dubas and Co.
Let’s look at his physical stature and what he could bring with his presence in the line-up. Giddy up, “the Leafs need to get bigger” crowd, because at 6’3″ Hjalmarsson brings some serious height to the team. He’s under 200 lbs which is a bit concerning, however, he uses his reach rather than stature to eliminate opponents; reach over brute force.
He threw just 45 hits last season, his second highest in a season, which isn’t really a lot. For comparison, Morgan Rielly threw 61 and isn’t known as a “hitting’ defenseman. Regardless, Hjalmarsson really does add a different dimension to the backend with his size.
Something that people may have to wrap their heads around also is that he is not an offensive defenseman. Before you click away please try to understand that a D-man’s value to his team isn’t entirely predicated on their impact on the scoresheet. Instead, as a left-shot right-side defender Hjalmarsson could be the ideal partner for a Rielly or Muzzin, allowing them to get and stay forward while he covers back.
He only nabbed 10 points last season but was still a +8 rating. He also averaged 19:42 minutes suggesting he could comfortably slot into the Leafs top-4 on the backend.
What would he cost the Leafs?
Would the Coyotes be interested in Kapanen or Johnsson? It would suck to lose them, but moving them West and addressing a roster need with a trade could be the answer to the Leafs big picture problems.
Both players are sitting in limbo with their RFA status and the Leafs will need to sign Marner before they address either or both of these young stars. Rather than hoping Marner takes a discount and bridging both players until after Marleau’s contract expires next season, the Leafs can bundle and improve on the fly.
Arizona is likely looking to pick up a B-level prospect and picks in any Marleau deal, too. The likes of Borgman, Carcone, Timashov, and even Holl would all have to be considered if not higher ranking prospects. As well, all picks other than the 2020 first round selection would likely be in play to get a deal done.
Hjalmarsson would be a really suitable fit for the Leafs. He’s 31, has 2 years left at $5 million a year and brings with him the NHL experience of winning a Stanley Cup. If the Leafs can sweeten the pot for some salary retention, Hjalmarsson becomes the perfect candidate to add to this team.
His ability to play a stay-at-home role on the right side fits the defensive hole the Dubas is trying to fill this offseason too. It’ll take some big pieces and solid negotiating, but Hjalmarsson on the Leafs is a no-brainer next step.