The Toronto Maple Leafs acquired defenseman Jake Muzzin from the Los Angeles Kings on Monday, significantly boosting his fantasy value. Muzzin (63 percent owned in Yahoo), 22nd among defensemen based on standard category performance prior to the trade, is a must-add player in all fantasy formats.
[MORE FANTASY COVERAGE: 2019 NHL Trade Deadline preview | Tracker]
Muzzin goes from the Kings, who have scored the fewest goals per game in the NHL (2.26) and have the sixth worst power play (15.3 percent), to the Maple Leafs, who rank fourth in goals per game (3.55) and ninth with the man-advantage (22.1). Toronto has four elite skaters in centers Auston Matthews, John Tavares, right wing Mitchell Marner and defenseman Morgan Rielly.
Muzzin is one of five defensemen with at least 20 points (21) and 100 hits (111) this season; the others are Drew Doughty, Rasmus Ristolainen, Jeff Petry and Darnell Nurse. Muzzin was plus-10 in 50 games this season with the Kings but did not see as much power-play usage (1:08 per game) or time with Doughty compared to previous seasons (at least 2:15 per game on power play in each of six full seasons).
Playing with Doughty at even strength and/or on the first power play for much of his NHL career, Muzzin has the second best Shot Attempts ratio among defensemen since entering the NHL in 2010-11 behind Doughty and had at least 10 power-play points in four straight seasons (two PPP this season). For fantasy purposes moving forward, it's unclear how much of Muzzin's past success can be attributed to Doughty.
Even though Doughty has not been playing as often with Muzzin this season, this trade could have a negative impact on Doughty's fantasy appeal for the rest of the season. Doughty (137th in Yahoo) is on pace for an NHL career-worst rating (minus-16 through 50 games) and has scored more than half of his points (28) on the power play (15). The Kings have the fewest points (44) in the Western Conference and could make more moves prior to the NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 25.
But Muzzin, a potential unrestricted free agent in 2020, will at least surpass Maple Leafs teammate Jake Gardiner, a potential 2019 UFA, in NHL.com's fantasy defenseman rankings this week. Gardiner has more points (24 in 47 games) than Muzzin but has underachieved based on preseason fantasy expectations (Yahoo rank: 241; average draft position: 129.6) despite being on a much better team than Muzzin.
Gardiner has missed the past two games with a back injury and may lose value considering Rielly and Muzzin are expected to play together on the top pair. Muzzin could debut for the Maple Leafs when they visit the Detroit Red Wings on Friday.
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