The Maple Leafs have made a second move to bolster the depth of their defense ahead of the trade deadline, acquiring Joel Edmundson from the Washington Capitals.

The Leafs have sent the Islanders’ third-round pick in 2024 and Chicago’s fifth pick in 2025 back in the trade. That leaves Toronto without a second or third-round pick this upcoming draft, but they thus far have retained their 2024 first-rounder — which would seemingly only be in play for longer-term help on the blue line — and they currently have seven total picks in 2024.

Similar to the Ilya Lyubushkin add, the Leafs were able to secure 50% retention, and it is on a $3.5 million AAV contract that has already been 50% retained by Montreal in the initial trade to Washington, bringing the cap hit on Edmundson — who is a rental — down to $875,000. That leaves the Leafs with around $370k in LTIR space remaining.

The 30-year-old, 6’5 defenseman has played 521 games in the league, won the Stanley Cup with the St. Louis Blues in 2019, and went to another Cup finals with the Montreal Canadiens in “that” season.

Since that second Cup finals appearance, Edmundson has battled many injuries, including back problems that allowed him to play only 85 games in the two previous seasons. This season, he started the season on LTIR after fracturing his hand.

Prior to his injuries, Edmundson was a legitimate top-four defenseman capable of logging second-pairing minutes. He never put up points — his career high is 20 — but he matched up well and provided some physicality.

This season in Washington, he has played just 16:26 a night while pairing primarily with Nick Jensen, a duo that has been slightly underwater on a bad team, getting slightly outshot and outscored at 5v5. He has been a second-unit PK guy for the Capitals and has a long history of contributing as a big net-front defender and shot blocker while shorthanded.

Edmundson is a left shot and would appear to bump Benoit to the team’s #7 when the blue line is fully healthy, making the Leafs that much deeper at the position for the playoffs. After hitting the ground running as soon as he received his opportunity in early November, Benoit — while still a very handy depth piece for this team — had been showing some cracks in recent weeks and is relatively inexperienced in the league at age 25 and 185 games played.

Edmundson, with over 500 games in the league and over 75 playoff games, provides a similar player type in terms of size and gumption but also has played credible top-four minutes on a Cup finals team. He was in more of a bottom-pairing role for St. Louis during their 2019 Cup win (16:32) but ate 23:23 per night for Montreal during their 2020 run.

Notably, Edmundson played under now-Leafs defense coach, Mike Van Ryn, during their championship win in St. Louis. He could slot in next to Jake McCabe, but there is also the option to re-unite Brodie and McCabe, a shutdown pairing for Sheldon Keefe in last year’s playoffs, one which didn’t crush its minutes but reasonably kept the puck out. Given Edmundson likely provides a more credible option in tougher matchups than Benoit, it could make Edmundson-Liljegren a feasible combination.

This also fits the profile of Brad Treliving defensive additions both in Calgary and Toronto, which shows a clear preference for rearguards who are large/long, tough, and make it difficult to get to the team’s net. Between Benoit, Lyubushkin, McCabe, and Benoit, there are more than a few big, strong, physical defensemen on the roster for the Leafs to go to battle with in the postseason against the likes of Florida and Boston.

The famous old saying from Brian Burke is that a team needs 10 NHL defensemen to survive a deep run in the playoffs. While the Leafs will need to do some roster trimming at some point — and recouping a pick or two for a goalie and/or a defenseman may be on the table before 3 p.m. tomorrow — with Joel Edmundsson, Simon Benoit, William Lagesson, Conor Timmins (LTIR for now), and Mark Giordano in the organization and all but one outside their (healthy) top six at the moment, they boast that type of depth.

Update (1:32 p.m.):

They aren’t going to be able to lean on one elite pairing by any means, but there is a reasonable balance and depth over three-plus pairs and a clear added emphasis on killing cycles and making the Leafs’ net front a more difficult place to play and access for the opposition.

The potential question marks: This hasn’t always been a team that breaks out cleanly on its own half of the ice this season, and this is a defense that is now shaping into a bit more of a chip-and-chase, glass-and-out style unit under a head coach that places an emphasis on possession play (regroups, D-to-D plays, breakout passes through the middle).

The other question worth asking is whether or not this package of assets — two thirds, a sixth, and a fifth — for Lyubushkin and Edmundson move the needle as much as Chris Tanev, as a true shutdown top-four right-handed defenseman, would’ve at a higher price point/acquisition cost. We know Treliving pursued both Tanev and Nikita Zadorov in Calgary and settled on Lyubushkin and Edmundson, but whether Tanev was truly available to Toronto at an equivalent price to the one Dallas paid for him remains a big unknown in this discussion.