​Having won just four of their past ten games heading into the NHL All-Star break, the Toronto Maple Leafs made the first huge move leading up to the trade deadline. While rapidly losing ground on the first-place Tampa Bay Lightning, and also just one point ahead of the Montreal Canadiens, the time was now for Toronto to flex their financial muscle and prove winning in the present is far more important than future assets.


Given their addition of John Tavares this offseason, Toronto owed their fans some action. With a relative weakness at the blue line, the Leafs made a big splash, adding ​LA Kings star Jake Muzzin.

The price tag--Carl Grundstrom, the rights to prospect Sean Durzi and a ​first-round pick in the upcoming NHL Draft realistically isn't much to acquire a former All-Star defenseman still in his prime. The 29-year-old Muzzin is expected to slide right next to Morgan Reilly on the Leafs' first defensive pairing, giving them four reliable defensemen who can move the puck and even operate on the Power Play.


Toronto's defensive depth--once a huge question--is now a strength. Leafs GM Kyle Dubas said as much in an interview with ​The Athletic.


“The key is his ability to play at the top end of our defence,” Dubas said. “Play in all situations. Play against the other team’s top players. He’s proven himself over a good career now to be able to move the puck, to excel at playing against high-quality competition and be able to contribute offensively but defensively (too). Just thought it was a great fit for us.”

Muzzin stands at 6-3 and 215 pounds, making him the Leafs' largest defenseman on the roster. Not only this, but his slapshot from the point is arguably one of the best in hockey.


The Kings are a rotting dumpster fire of a former Stanley Cup champion, which means more moves are likely to come for LA as they tear down a once-proud group. It's the eventual dystopian outcome of any regular championship contender. You can only kick the rebuild down the road for so long.


As for the Leafs--a championship-starved team which hasn't hoisted the Stanley Cup since 1967--this is a necessary and calculated risk. Muzzin is under contract through the 2019-20 season, giving Toronto plenty of time to see if he fits with their defensive pairing and can use his playoff experience to held lead this young group, headed by the likes of Tavares and Auston Matthews.

Making the playoffs is no longer enough to appease Toronto fans, which were promised greatness after an embarrassing rebuild helped them land Matthews in the 2016 NHL Draft and eventually sign Tavares, one of the most-anticipated free agents of this generation.


With potential future Hall of Famer Mike Babcock at the helm, the Leafs have no excuse to fall short of their ultimate goal. For once, Toronto ought to deliver.