What's next for the Leafs' Defence? By Luke Garrison (Monday July 23rd, 2018)
Photo by www.prohockeyrumours.com
TORONTO—Although the Maple Leafs won the John Tavares sweepstakes, a top-four shutdown defenceman remains their biggest need.
The Leafs finished last season with 105 points; however, a mountain of mistakes during the playoffs showcased their inconsistent defence corps.
So the question remains, who’s available? And more importantly, who’s available for a reasonable price?
Barring a trade, they most likely won’t find a legitimate top-four defenceman during this off-season.
With that being said, there are still a couple of options out there that could provide value without breaking the bank.
Hamhuis is definitely passed his prime; however, there’s still a lot to like about the 35-year-old and what he brings to the table.
He averaged 20:11 TOI over 80 games and posted 24 points last season; therefore, he can still log significant minutes while even chipping in a bit offensively.
His 50.4 CF% was encouraging given his 59.6 dZS% last year as well, which is also the highest dZS% of his career. He can still be relied upon to drive play in the right direction.
Not to mention he only had 30 giveaways last season. Considering the Leafs’ usual top-four of Jake Gardiner, Morgan Rielly, Nikita Zaitsev, and Ron Hainsey combined for 345 giveaways last season, 30 looks incredible.
Hamhuis is coming off a 3.75mill AAV contract and considering his age, he’s most likely looking for a two-year deal in the ballpark of 2.5-3mill AAV (maybe even less?).
Not a bad bargain, and certainly better than Roman Polak.
Enstrom is two years younger than Hamhuis and could potentially be a steal; however, there’s still some risk in signing him.
He only played 43 games last season due to injury and he’s played 60 games or less in three of the last four seasons. His health is unfortunately light years away from when he first entered the league and he quickly fell out of favour with the Jets’ brass as he was a healthy scratch during Winnipeg’s last playoff series.
He also doesn’t contribute nearly as much offensively as he once did. After posting 32 or more points in each of his first five NHL seasons (2007-2012) he has only managed to rack up 30 points once in the past six seasons (30 on the dot, during the 2013-14 season).
With that being said, there are still elements of his game that could benefit the Leafs. He has managed to maintain a CF% of 51.1% or higher in four of his last five seasons; thus, he can be counted on to be a solid possession player.
He is also generally good at not coughing up the puck as he has only averaged 33.7 giveaways per season throughout his career while playing around 22:45 each game. He can eat minutes while not being a big defensive liability.
How much he expects to earn remains to be seen but it will certainly be a far cry from the $5.75 million AAV he made over the last five seasons. At $2-2.5 million over two or three years, he would be worth taking a chance on.
Ideally, he’ll take a one-year deal at $1.5 million in order to prove that he’s still worth a real contract next season. That way, the Leafs would only be committed to him for a year and could have more time to make a real decision on him/see what they have in him.
If a player like Andrew Nielsen, Calle Rosen, or Timothy Liljegren proves to be ready in another year, Enstrom will have been a good, cheap, stop-gap option while the Leafs’ internal blue line prospects continued to develop in the minors.