To complete a mutually beneficial transaction in today’s NHL has become a rare, difficult task. More often than not, one team is left happier and better off than the other. However, I believe that there is a move that would benefit the needs of both the San Jose Sharks and the Toronto Maple Leafs: a player-for-player swap of Justin Braun and James van Riemsdyk.
In the wake of Patrick Marleau opting to sign a 3-year, $18.75-million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, effectively calling it quits in San Jose, the Sharks are left with a gaping hole at left wing, a position which the Sharks’ AHL affiliate San Jose Barracuda are equipped to fill— in a couple years time. That being said, it would seem to be of some importance to General Manager Doug Wilson and the Sharks to fill that spot for the next few seasons, with immediate in-the-system options being thin.
Although the Maple Leafs added an invaluable veteran presence to groom their young stars, they are left still with a gaping hole of their own on the right side of the blue line. Out of seven roster defenseman, two are right-shooting: Nikita Zaitsev and Alexey Marchenko. To add, Marchenko would likely be the 7th D for the Leafs, serving as an injury call-up. If the Leafs wished to address their situation on D this offseason and be considered real contenders, they had better trade for a proven right handed D-man. A likely candidate is the San Jose Sharks’ Justin Braun.
Braun, 30, has spent his entire career with the Sharks, mostly as Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s partner on the shut-down first defense pairing. He played in 81 games last season, collecting 4 goals and 9 assists for 13 points and a +1 +/- rating. In 6 playoff games he added an assist and was -1. Braun is a steady, stay-at-home defenseman, which has become quite coveted these days. However, if there is one thing the Sharks have a hefty supply of it is defensive defenseman. An immediate replacement for Braun could be the AHL affiliate Barracuda’s Tim Heed, who played in 55 games last year and collected 14 goals and 42 assists for 56 points, finishing with a +14 +/- rating.
The Leafs could place Braun on the top pairing with Morgan Rielly, which would make for a great shut-down first pairing, something the Leafs lacked last season and in the playoffs. Going the other way to San Jose would be James van Riemsdyk, 28, who was as good as ever with 29 goals, 33 assists and 62 points in 82 games last season. JVR also, however, carries a cap hit of $4.25-million, while Braun sits at a lower hit of $3.8-million.
The Sharks have near $10-million in cap space, whereas the Leafs are just above $1-million over the cap. A contract like that of JVR would be beneficial for Toronto to move now, needless to say in the long run when they have to sign the likes of Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner to big contracts, to name a few.
A Justin Braun for James van Riemsdyk swap would not only make sense for both teams money-wise, but would also boost both their teams’ skill and fill desperate holes in their roster. It remains to be seen whether either team will make another big move this offseason, but this is one I believe would be mutually beneficial.