Maple Leafs Joel Edmundson

The Toronto Maple Leafs acquired another defenceman Thursday, trading two draft picks to Washington for Joel Edmundson. Edmundson, 30 won the Stanley Cup with the St Louis Blues in 2019 and made another finals appearance with Montreal in 2021. Maple Leafs fans will remember Edmundson well for his physical style in their 2021 7-game series loss to Montreal.

This trade is very similar to the Ilya Lyubushkin deal, both in the acquisition cost and what Edmundson brings to the team. Edmundson isn’t a flashy player, but he brings size and physicality, two things Brad Treliving has prioritized. Let’s break down what to like and not to like about this trade and Maple Leafs’ defensive outlook after it.

Joel Edmundson To The Maple Leafs – What To Like


Year after year, teams with big, heavy defencemen succeed in the playoffs. The Vegas Golden Knights are a prime example of this. Yes, winning teams need defencemen who can move the puck and chip in offensively, but size helps too. Edmundson is 6’5, blocks shots, and clears the front of the net, bringing elements that Toronto lacked in previous years. He should be another addition to Toronto’s penalty kill, which is the worst among teams in a playoff position.


Edmundson brings valuable playoff experience to a Leafs group that has struggled to win the biggest games. He has played 75 playoff games in the NHL in just five playoff runs with three teams. He’s gone to the Stanley Cup twice, winning and losing on the biggest stage. Experience winning doesn’t always lead to future success, but adding a playoff veteran to the team doesn’t hurt.

Maple Leafs Joel Edmundson


Like the Lyubushkin deal, the Leafs gave up a 3rd rounder plus a late pick to add cheap depth on defence. Once again, the cost feels fair, especially considering the salary retention. Going cheap on defensive trades leaves valuable assets and cap space to add a forward before the deadline.

Joel Edmundson To The Maple Leafs – What Not To Like


Drawing another similarity to Lyubushkin, Edmundson’s recent results are somewhat worrying. In particular, his numbers show a defenceman who struggles on puck retrievals and zone exits. At this point in his career, Edmundson is probably best suited to playing in a third-pairing role with a capable puck mover alongside him.


With the addition of Edmundson, the Maple Leafs have plenty of depth on defence. The team now has at least eight NHL-calibre defencemen, six left-handed. Despite the two trades, the need for a bonafide top-four right-handed defenceman remains. Whether Edmundson is a worthwhile upgrade over Simon Benoit is uncertain. Having both in the lineup may be redundant for the Maple Leafs.

There’s a lot of value in adding Edmundson, but it’s unclear if the trade moves the needle significantly for Toronto. The Leafs will need multiple defencemen to rise to the occasion to make a serious playoff run.

Trade Grade: B-

Maple Leafs Defensive Outlook With Joel Edmundson

Maple Leafs Joel Edmundson

Who’s In The Top Four?

Other than Morgan Rielly and Jake McCabe there are questions about who belongs in Toronto’s top four. TJ Brodie, Simon Benoit, Timothy Liljegren, Lyubushkin and Edmundson are all NHL calibre players, but on a cup contender, most of them are ideally deployed on the bottom pair. It’s possible the Leafs could see players step up for the playoffs. Benoit has been solid beside McCabe for a large part of the season. Brodie has spent most of his career as a reliable top-four guy. Lyubushkin has had an encouraging start to his second stint as a Maple Leaf and could stick beside Morgan Rielly. Lyubushkin will likely get an extended look beside Rielly, with Benoit or Brodie occupying the spot opposite McCabe.

Who Are The Odd Men Out?

Barring injuries or a trade to subtract a defenceman, it seems certain that Mark Giordano will continue to be a healthy scratch. Seeing him in the press box is tough, but it’s the correct decision. Giordano has struggled to keep up this year, and he doesn’t bring as much size or toughness as Edmundson, Benoit or Lyubushkin.

Despite being one of only two right-handed shots, Timothy Liljegren could be the first choice to join Giordano as a healthy scratch. Liljegren has struggled lately, even on the third pair. Liljegren must prove he’s strong and reliable enough to maintain a regular spot in the lineup. If it isn’t Liljegren, one of Benoit or Edmundson should end up in the press box. Both players shoot left and fill a similar role, giving the puck-moving, right-handed Liljegren a natural advantage.

Ideal Defensive Pairs

Option 1: Big and Mean

Rielly – Lyubushkin

Benoit – McCabe

Edmundson – Brodie

This option gives the Maple Leafs plenty of size and nastiness throughout their d core. The top four aren’t perfect, but each pair has at least one player who can dominate physically. Lyubushkin has played well so far, earning a continued shot beside Rielly. McCabe and Benoit have been solid together all year, and Edmundson and Brodie make for a strong third pair.

Option 2: Balanced

Rielly – Lyubushkin

Brodie – McCabe

Benoit/Edmundson – Liljegren

This gives Toronto a more balanced defence, in both handedness and ability to move the puck. The viability of this scenario depends on whether Sheldon Keefe can trust TJ Brodie in a key shutdown role with McCabe. Brodie and McCabe played together in the 2023 playoffs, faring well in expected goals despite being outscored 6-3 in actual goals.

The acquisition of Joel Edmundson certainly gives Sheldon Keefe more options with his defence. Do you like the trade? Who else should the Leafs acquire? Let me know and stay tuned as Area 51 covers the rest of the NHL season.