In last night’s 3-2 shootout win over the New Jersey Devils, Toronto Maple Leafs’ center Tyler Bozak stole the show. The obvious way he shined was when he scored the game-tying goal with 2:06 left in the game. He took a pass in the slot and one-timed it into the top corner past goalie Keith Kinkaid. It was Bozak’s 10th goal of the season to go along with 21 assists. The 31 points would put him fifth on the Devils. He’s always been an underrated offensive player: 263 points in 424 games which is 0.62 points per game.
In addition to his huge goal, the way Bozak really stole the show was in the faceoff circle. Bozak was 24/30 in the dot good for 80% on the night and it was his faceoff win that led to his tying goal. 80% on faceoffs is impressive no matter what, but what made it even more impressive is who he dominated. Travis Zajac is by far the Devils’ best man in the circle and Bozak destroyed him winning 13 of the 18 draws they took against each other. On the season, Bozak is winning 57.8% of his draws while Zajac wins 50.4%.
Tyler Bozak demonstrated two things the Devils desperately need if they want to make a push to the playoffs – goal scoring and faceoff dominance. It’s no secret the Devils struggle to score goals. They’re the second worst team in the NHL averaging just 2.25 goals per game. Only the Anaheim Ducks are worse with 2.16 GPG. As far as faceoffs go, the Devils are also the second worst team in the league winning just 46.6% of their draws. Adding Tyler Bozak would be a big boost to both areas of clear weakness.
The question is, what would it take to acquire Bozak? I’m no GM and don’t pretend to be one, but I assume one of the Devils’ young defensemen such as Eric Gelinas or Jon Merrill plus a mid-round draft pick could get the job done. Bozak will be 30 next month and Toronto has little to no chance at making the playoffs. It makes sense that they’d move Bozak and get assets for him if a team comes calling.
As far as the Devils are concerned, that could also be an issue as they are trying to get younger as well. However, 30 isn’t that old and adding Bozak could really help out a struggling bottom six. Perhaps the biggest issue would be his contract as he has a $4.2M cap hit the next two seasons and there’s also the problem of a no-trade clause. There definitely would need to be some creativity if a deal were to get done.
Maybe Bozak has no desire to come to New Jersey. Maybe the Devils don’t have the pieces Toronto wants. Maybe Toronto doesn’t want to move Bozak at all and he’s part of their future plans. Only Ray Shero and Lou Lamoriello/Brendan Shanahan know the facts. All I know is that Tyler Bozak would be a terrific addition to the Devils in helping their two biggest areas of need. It would take a lot of things to come together for that to happen, but if they were able to, Bozak could really help.