Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas resisted the temptation to make significant changes at the NHL trade deadline.
He's hoping adversity makes his slumping team stronger.
The Leafs, coming off a 6-3 loss to 42-year-old emergency goaltender David Ayres and the Carolina Hurricanes, made only three minor deals prior to Monday's 3 p.m. ET trade deadline.
Toronto's biggest move Monday was an internal transaction, signing defenceman Jake Muzzin to a four-year contract extension with an average annual value of just over US$5.6 million.
“It isn't a zero-sum thing where we're no good or we're great,” said Dubas, whose team is clinging to the final playoff spot in the Atlantic Division. “It's in the middle and we're trying to get to that point where we're great every night. The only way I know we're going to get there is we're going to have to go through this and come out with great lessons learned.”
The Leafs did receive some good news Monday as defencemen Morgan Rielly (foot) and Cody Ceci (ankle) both skated. With both now nearing returns, the Leafs will be pressed against the salary cap.
“That kind of complicates the amount you can bring in without a big amount of dollars going out,” Dubas said. “We didn't feel compelled to really act on any of the things that were out there.”
Dubas acknowledged he received offers for defenceman Tyson Barrie, but opted to keep him in the fold.
The Leafs GM did ship goalie Michael Hutchinson to the Colorado Avalanche for defenceman Calle Rosen, who returns for a second stint with Toronto.
Hutchinson, 29, appeared in 15 games with the Leafs this season, posting a 4-9-1 record, a 3.66 goals-against average and an .886 save percentage before the club acquired Jack Campbell from the Los Angeles Kings earlier this month to help with the troublesome backup role behind Frederik Andersen.
Acquired by Colorado from Toronto as part of the trade that saw Nazem Kadri/Barrie trade back on July 1, Rosen recorded two assists in eight games for the Avalanche this season.
The 26-year-old was originally signed by the Leafs to a two-year entry-level contract in May 2017.
“It's a big help knowing the player and the person. We didn't really want to give him up in the first deal, but we did,” Dubas said.
The Leafs also played a role in a three-team trade with the Chicago Blackhawks and Vegas Golden Knights. The Leafs acquired goaltender Robin Lehner from Chicago in exchange for forward Martins Dzierkals, who is playing in Finland. Lehner was then dealt to Vegas, with Toronto getting the Golden Knights' fifth-round pick in 2020. Toronto also will retain a portion of Lehner's salary.
In a trade of minor-league players, Toronto acquired forward Matt Lorito from the New York Islanders in exchange for defenceman Jordan Schmaltz.
The 30-year-old Muzzin has 22 points in 52 games with the Maple Leafs this season, and 38 points in 82 games since joining Toronto in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings on Jan. 28, 2019.
In 578 career regular-season NHL games, Muzzin has registered 251 points (61 goals, 190 assists) while adding 22 points in 57 playoff games. He helped the Kings win the 2014 Stanley Cup.
Muzzin, with a plus/minus rating of plus-11, provides some stability on a troubled Toronto defence which has surrendered 210 goals this season, tied for fourth-most in the league heading into Monday night's action.
The Maple Leafs confirmed the new contract, which had been rumoured for weeks, 15 minutes after the 3 p.m. ET trade deadline.
“It ends up being a deal that I think will be very fair for both,” Dubas said. “Jake's importance here, I think as a lot of people have seen especially when things haven't gone well, is immense on the ice and off. It was very apparent when he was out of the lineup we missed him deeply.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2020.