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Barrie is key piece Maple Leafs needed, Muzzin says

Fortunate to add defenseman who 'sees the ice well, skates well, shoots well'

by Dave McCarthy / Independent Correspondent

TORONTO -- Jake Muzzin is more familiar with Tyson Barrie than most in Toronto, having faced him frequently when they played in the Western Conference.

Because of that familiarity, Muzzin said he cannot wait to see what Barrie will be able to add to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"He's a skilled, very, very high-end skilled defenseman," Muzzin said Tuesday. "He sees the ice well, skates well, shoots well, he does a lot of things very well. He's a piece I think we needed on our back end. We're lucky to have him."

Barrie was acquired by the Maple Leafs in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche on July 1 with forward Alexander Kerfoot and a sixth-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft for forward Nazem Kadri, defenseman Calle Rosen and a third-round pick in the 2020 draft.

Barrie had 116 points (28 goals, 88 assists) in 146 games over the past two seasons, sixth in the League among defensemen, but despite that, Muzzin said he does not think people around Toronto are aware of just how good he is.

"There's a lot of guys like that in the West," Muzzin said. "A lot of the media and everything is out East here, so you don't see as much about what guys are doing in the West. But people are about to see it. We're excited to have him, a piece that we needed, and we got him."

Video: Maple Leafs firm up defense this offseason

Muzzin got to see how good Barrie was when he played with the Los Angeles Kings from 2010 until he was traded to the Maple Leafs on Jan. 28, and watching Barrie in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with Avalanche last season before they lost Game 7 of the Western Conference Second Round to the San Jose Sharks, he said Barrie stood out as a vital part to the success of the team.

"Well, he's obviously a really good player, but there's things you might not notice about him unless you've really seen him a lot," Muzzin said. "His competitiveness and his willingness to win, it was clear to me in the playoffs where games really mattered, he was a guy stepping up and making plays to help them succeed. He was a leading piece on their team."

Along with Cody Ceci, who was acquired by the Maple Leafs in a trade with the Ottawa Senators on July 1, Barrie will be a key part of Toronto's revamped defense following the departures of Ron Hainsey, Nikita Zaitsev and Jake Gardiner.

Video: Tyson Barrie joins Maple Leafs after a career season

Coach Mike Babcock has not given an indication of what the defense pairs will look like to start training camp, but Muzzin said he expects the new faces to be able to acclimatize quickly.

"We've changed a little bit, we picked up two good players in Barrie and Ceci and we've lost three, but we have other guys in the organization stepping up and ready to take spots," Muzzin said. "I like where our D-corps is at right now though, I'm excited to get to work with them. Throughout camp, we'll get to know each other, and that's what camp is for now. We'll play some exhibition games together, go through some practices and travel together, so that's when you get to know new teammates and styles of play. A lot of teams play similar systems, similar styles, so there is not much to learn there."

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