TORONTO (Mar. 20) — The Maple Leafs made a prudent acquisition from Seattle today in veteran defenseman Mark Giordano. Though on the back nine of his career, he’ll provide the club some of what it lost with Jake Muzzin on Long Term Injured Reserve. Sadly for the Leafs, however, Giordano does not come with goal pads.
As of late this afternoon, general manager Kyle Dubas was still grasping at straws with the most–critical position in the sport. Waiving Petr Mrazek had to be a major comedown after the free agent joined the Leafs last summer for $11.8 million over three years. Whether or not Dubas made the move on his own — or it came from above — is immaterial. At least the club saw the light. Finally. I’m sure Dubas is praying that another National Hockey League GM takes leave of his senses and claims Mrazek. Otherwise, the veteran will clear waivers and be sent to the Toronto Marlies, thereby saving a bit of necessary cap space. Still, there is nothing close to stability between the pipes. Erik Källgren came up unexpectedly big and won a couple of games last week. The dreamers in the mainstream media jumped the gun, as usual, and wrote that Källgren had “rapidly” stabilized the crease. Dubas responded by signing Finnish stopper Harri Sateri, who won gold at the Winter Olympics in Beijing and also needs to clear waivers. Perhaps a goalie with a future but certainly not one you’d want, as a Maple Leafs fan, going up against Sergei Bobrovsky, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Igor Shesterkin or even “Soft Goal Freddie” in the playoffs.
As such, I will repeat what I’ve written in this space: The only reasonable chance the Leafs have of goaltending backbone in the Stanley Cup tournament is for Jack Campbell to play his way out of the second half slump and regain much of his earlier form. The Leafs have given up on Mrazek. They have to maintain modest expectation for Källgren. And, there’s no immediate likelihood that Sateri will lead the club through four playoff rounds. For the moment, let’s conveniently overlook that the ubiquitous one, Michael Hutchinson, is still with the organization.
Nothing but Campbell regaining his poise, swagger and confidence can provide the Maple Leafs the slightest chance for goaltending balance in a match–up with the Panthers, Lightning, Rangers or (gulp!) Hurricanes.
Clearly, that’s the way it stands on the eve of the NHL trade deadline.
Colin Blackwell, a center also acquired from the Kraken, could step in if Alex Kerfoot is dealt over the summer. Blackwell had a goal and assist against the Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena on Mar. 8 in the 6–4 Toronto victory.
Giordano was once among the NHL’s top defensemen, putting up a career–best 74 points for Calgary as recently as 2018–19, when he won the Norris Trophy (the same year Morgan Rielly had 72 points for Toronto). At 38, however, Giordano has slowed considerably. A Maple Leafs optimist would suggest that he’ll bring leadership and a bit of structure to the Toronto blue line. A cynic would say it’s merely the latest example of a washed–up Toronto native wanting to finish his career at home. We’ve seen it over and over through the years.
With still a few hours before the trade deadline, the Leafs remain the equivalent of a good football team without a competent quarterback. Until goaltending becomes stable, all other acquisitions are window dressing.