Maple Leafs look to bolster defensemen, not goalies, by Trade Deadline

HAMILTON, Ontario — The Toronto Maple Leafs are not worried about their goaltending and are more focused on improving at defenseman before the NHL Trade Deadline on March 21, general manager Kyle Dubas said Friday.

Jack Campbell and Petr Mrazek have combined to allow 31 goals in the past seven games and have held opponents to fewer than three goals once during that span. Dubas has heard the calls from fans and some in the media that a trade for a goalie should be a priority, especially after the 5-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday, but said he is confident in what Toronto has at the position.

“My take on it is we’ve got two guys that have been good goaltenders,” Dubas said. “Jack was an All-Star this year. Petr Mrazek has played almost 300 games (289) and has been a good goaltender in his career.”

Campbell, who is 23-8-4 with a 2.55 goals-against average, .917 save percentage and four shutouts this season, is 0-1-1 in his past three starts. Mrazek, who is 9-5-0 with a 3.22 GAA and .890 save percentage, is 3-3 in his past six games (five starts).

“I think we tend to look at it a little bit game to game in this marketplace,” Dubas said. “I’m not concerned about either one of them. They both have shown themselves to be good goalies and they will be.”

The more pressing issue is at defenseman with Jake Muzzin dealing with his second concussion in two months. He was placed on long-term injured reserve Feb. 23, so he’ll be out at least 10 games and 24 days from then. Muzzin is eligible to return March 17 against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Dubas, who said Muzzin is recovering slowly, dismissed the notion that the Maple Leafs purposely could keep him on LTIR until the end of the regular season to free up space under the NHL salary cap for a trade. He said the 33-year-old, who signed a four-year, $22.5 million contract ($5.625 million average annual value) with Toronto on Feb. 24, 2020, will be back in the lineup whenever he’s healthy.

“We’re going to be cautious and slow,” Dubas said. “He’s on LTIR, so there’s not an imminent return. We have to be really careful with him. It’s two concussions in a brief amount of time. But I think, with a style of player like him, if he’s healthy and good to go, we’ll need him to get back and play before the playoffs.”

Dubas was asked how many trades the Maple Leafs would be likely to make from a salary cap standpoint if Muzzin returns.

“Unless we don’t get the news we want on Jake, then I think it will be one,” he said.

And if a trade is made, expect it to address the defensemen.

“If we’re going to focus on anything we’ll try to make the team better,” Dubas said. “But I think at this time I think it will be more on defense.”

More than any slumping players lately, Dubas said what irritates him is the points the Maple Leafs have failed to get against teams below them in the standings.

Toronto (35-15-4) is third in the Atlantic Division, four points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning and three behind the Florida Panthers, entering its home game against the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; SN, ESPN+, NHL LIVE). Dubas said he wonders how much that order would be different had the Maple Leafs not lost to the Sabres on Wednesday and at the Montreal Canadiens (5-2) on Feb. 21.

Buffalo is in sixth place in the eight-team division; Montreal is last.

“That’s four points that we have dropped,” Dubas said. “And if you look at the standings right now, you can see it’s an easy math exercise to see where those four points would have us.”

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