Since the Leafs season ended in disappointment in a round one loss to the Montreal Canadiens, it has left many fans and management wondering and questioning what can be done to improve this roster? With the cap constraints as a result of the flat-cap, and the star forwards of this team, it will be interesting to see how the Leafs tackle on signing free agents of the team or what changes are made. Additionally, another X factor is the Seattle expansion draft this year.
A name that has been thrown around in regards to a change has been Morgan Rielly as a result of his upcoming free agent status after the 2021-22 season. It has been said that the Leafs should target Dougie Hamilton in free agency, but recent news has shown that he may use Pietrangelo's contract of $8.8 Million with the Las Vegas Golden Knights as a bargain tool. Other names have included Jamie Oleksiak of the Stars, and an article even went as far as Vince Dunn from the St. Louis Blues.
While those names are great and could be a fit with the Leafs, after doing some research of my own and digging into some stats, I am here to throw a name that would be a dark-horse fit with the Leafs should it become possible to have him in Blue & White. A former player from a rival team of the Atlantic Division could potentially replace Rielly's offensive skill and would answer some bells on that abysmal powerplay. The Leafs powerplay struggled near the end of the season and in the playoffs and I also noticed that not enough point shots were taken during the powerplay. The player I am talking about now plays for the St. Louis Blues and his name is Torey Krug.
While, you may say that I am out of my mind or that is a crazy thought, but let me place the evidence before you and then it may show you why I name Torey Krug as someone the Leafs could or should look at, should they wish to replace Morgan Rielly. Torey Krug, who is 30 years of age is signed for $6.5 Million until the end of 2026-2027 season. He would have to agree to be traded as a player because of his NTC in the contract but here is the evidence of why it would be a great fit.
Since his inaugural season in 2013-2014 Torey Krug has been a consistent 40 points three times (2013-14, 2015-16, 2019-20) and 50 points three times (2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19). The offensive ability to create plays out of his own zone as a offensive defenseman is present in Krug and throughout his career in 573 games, Krug has 69 goals and 300 assists for a total of 369 points and an average of 0.64 points per game. As for the powerplay, Krug has a rocket of a shot from the blueline, which would also provide a threat on the powerplay. In my opinion, the Leafs lacked that dman with a cannon shot that provided a threat from the blueline. Yes, you might say but Krug is a small statured dman which would be useless on the Leafs. On the contrary, Torey Krug has 463 hits and 564 blocks through his career, so for a dman who is 5'9 186 pounds he is not afraid to throw his body around. As a bonus, despite his size Krug is also not afraid of throwing his gloves and get involved in fisticuffs as he has shown the tenacity to defend his players with the Bruins by dropping the gloves with Blake Coleman of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Patrick Hornqvist during his time with the Penguins and Andrew Shaw during his time with the Canadiens just to name a few.
Moreover, Krug has been played over 20 minutes average ice time dating back to the 2015-2016 season, as a first and second pair on the Bruins playing along side players such as Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk, Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo. Not only does that show experience, but in recent years Krug acted as a leader amongst the younger players in the locker of the Bruins amidst injuries. Not to forget, he would bring experience on the team from deep playoff runs to the roster which would be extremely beneficial
With a pending free agent in Morgan Rielly, and just over $20.5 million in offseason cap-space as per pensionpalpuppets, should there be a chance to have a player like Krug in the Leafs roster, it would be a smart move to replace the offensive skill and ability of a defenseman such as Morgan Rielly, but also checks off the boxes to provide a threat on the powerplay for the Leafs with a cannon of a shot.