HOW DOES THE JAKE MUZZIN DEAL CHANGE YOUR OPINION ON THE LEAFS?
IAN SHEPPARD: My perception hasn’t changed a whole lot since the trade. It’s a move that of course strengthened the weak spot of the team. While I do think the move can help them compete with the best competition in the East like Tampa Bay I don’t think it puts them ahead of some of the teams in the West like Calgary, Winnipeg, and even Nashville.
WYATT ZIEGER: First and foremost I think the Leafs won this trade. Toronto became a better team without question, anytime you can add a top pair defenseman without losing a roster player you’ve done well. I do still think the Leafs are a few pieces away still, another top 4 d-man and a top 9 power forward would make this team a legit cup contender.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: They went from being a really good team to being a legit Stanley Cup threat in my opinion. Muzzin really rounds up their back end and his playoff experience will be very valuable. You need a strong top pairing to win games in the playoffs and the Leafs got that. Very important that Dubas didn’t subtract from his current roster too. He’s utilizing a strong prospect pool and a wealth of cap space.
IF YOU WERE COLUMBUS, WOULD YOU TRADE BOBROVSKY OR PANARIN? OR BOTH?
IAN SHEPPARD: If the right offers came along I’d move both but I think they have to move Panarin. He’s expressed his displeasure with playing in Columbus for a while and his contract is up at the end of the year so it’s almost a given he won’t return.
The Jackets are in the last playoff spot in the East right now so holding onto Bobrovsky will help them on a run, but his deal is also up at the end of the year. I think if there’s any chance that relationship can be mended then it definitely should.
WYATT ZIEGER: If I was Columbus I would learn from the Islanders mistake and deal both while they still can.
The Blue Jackets, while a playoff team, are not a Cup threat. They still have a good core; PLD, Jones, Werenski and a promising goaltender in Korpisalo. Jarmo Kekalainen has a tough task ahead of him no doubt and may not get the return you’d expect for both players. He should still be looking to get something instead of letting them walk in free agency.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: I would be shopping Sergei Bobrovsky rather hard because I really like Joonas Korpisalo, I think he’s their future between the pipes and I think you could get a first round pick plus a really good goaltending prospect for ‘Bob’.
As for Panarin, I would like to keep him around as an in-house rental, but I would still strongly consider moving him. I would set the price very high though and see if someone overpays for him at the last minute. I’d ask for a conditional first rounder (if he resigns), a very good young roster player (DeBrusk from Boston, Beavillier from New York, that type of player), and a good prospect. If someone pays that, I’d move him then use the cap space and draft picks to improve your team this summer.
WHICH CANADIAN TEAM HAS THE BEST CHANCE OF WINNING THE CUP?
IAN SHEPPARD: The Winnipeg Jets. Right now Calgary is in the mix and possibly Toronto as well. It pains me too much to think Calgary could win a cup but I also think the Jets are the most complete team. Not just out of Canadian teams but in the West and right behind Tampa Bay for in the league.
They made it close last year and I don’t see a team in the West standing in the way of a motivated group who has a taste to win and will be getting some pieces healthy down the stretch. They’re also getting tremendous production out a guy like Kyle Connor who’s filling the void of an up and down season from Patrik Laine, who could become a force come playoff time.
WYATT ZIEGER: Today I’ll vote for the Winnipeg Jets, with all respect to the Flames and Maple Leafs.
Hellebuyck has continued his success from last year, Wheeler and Scheifele are on pace for over 100 points and the defense led by Byfuglien is solid. Winnipeg is still going to be adding come deadline time and will look to find this year’s Paul Stastny, only making them better. I don’t think Winnipeg will win this years Stanley Cup but even if you asked me before the season I would have banked on seeing them in the Cup final.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: It’s the Leafs and anyone who says otherwise is just a Toronto hater. They have every ingredient needed to go on a run: a very deep group of forwards, high-end skill, unrivaled centre depth, a pair of good defenseman, some quality vets, and a goalie who can seem unbeatable when he’s at his best. That makes them the favourite amongst the Canadian clubs.