So there are no guarantees in life, but today isn’t a bad day to turn on notifications for insider tweets, and to hit refresh on the @LeafsPR all day long instead of doing actual work. Thanks to the 14 day quarantine required for players crossing the border from the United States, this is one of the windows that results in the fewest number of games to that would be missed by said player in joining the Leafs. A second window like this occurs after Saturday night’s game against the Flames, but with the exception of these two occurrences, the Leafs new player would miss six games minimum in joining the club. There’s also something to be said for making moves sooner rather than later, a concept that Kyle Dubas has been fond of in the past.
What are the Leafs shopping for?
Well, the consistent leading item on the Leafs wishlist according to insiders has been a middle six forward, more or less a second line winger seems to be the target, but perhaps someone who could elevate the third line is more the reality of it. Of course this is what the ongoing rumours have been, and to Elliotte Friedman’s point, the Leafs seem to be in on everyone, including some defensemen like Mattias Ekholm, who is exactly the kind of target you do leg work on when he’s made available.
Ongoing rumours aside, the Leafs do have a pressing need emerging, and even goaltender apologists are going to need to warm up to the idea that Frederik Andersen simply doesn’t cut it anymore. With a week of rest on the horizon perhaps Jack Campbell will be ready to take the reigns in the short term until the new goaltender arrives from state side, and Hutchinson can handle the backup duties. You can probably tell that in this scenario I’m counting on the Leafs needing to move Andersen’s salary out in order to get someone worth feeling good about in net.
So now that we’ve narrowed the needs to absolutely everyone, and the Leafs considering everyone who hits the market, it probably makes sense to ask the next question…
At this point the list of sellers is probably Ottawa, Buffalo, New Jersey, Detroit, the Rangers, Nashville, San Jose, Arizona, Los Angeles, and Anaheim. So roughly a third of the league should be considering them out of it at this point, but arguably some of these teams are still holding out some hope. If we were to narrow the list there really are three teams that are actively putting themselves out there as selling…
Nashville has been a constant in the Leafs trade rumour world as Mikael Granlund has emerged as the most likely target for the Leafs, but there are definitely some vanity pieces on Nashville that Toronto fans want more. Mattias Ekholm, Filip Forsberg, and Viktor Arvidsson are all attractive additions, and if we are going to look at the pressing need of goaltender, Juuse Saros is another target to watch for. Since Saros is just getting over an injury as well, the two week quarantine would suit him just fine, and perhaps he can find his decent game of the previous two seasons.
Buffalo might not want to deal with Toronto, and Toronto might be apprehensive as well considering it is all now but certain that they’ll be back in the Atlantic Division together next season. Okay, Kyle Dubas has never seemed to care about dealing in division and Buffalo is going to be resetting yet again, so they aren’t going to worry about Toronto becoming more competitive.
Leafs fans would like to consider Taylor Hall, but I don’t think that’s being to honest about the salary cap realities, and would likely limit what Toronto does this season to acquiring Taylor Hall and calling it a day. That said, that’s a pretty big move to hang your hat on. There have been some Eric Staal rumours, but he’s done a pretty good job of shutting those down himself by saying he doesn’t want to hit pause for the 14 day quarantine, and that leaves interesting names like Sam Reinhart, mega gambles like Jeff Skinner, and crappy goaltenders like Linus Ullmark as the other options. It really does seem like Hall or bust here, and I’m guessing we get anything this exciting today.
Anaheim is the team I want to believe will give us something interesting to talk about today. At the very least Troy Terry represents a new name being available that could fit in with the Leafs attempt to play a little grittier and he’s cap hit doesn’t involve a lot of shuffling for the Leafs. He might not be the top six option, but he might be a good now option while the Leafs pursue a bigger target. Rickard Rackell is a go big or go home target floated by Pierre LeBrun this week, but his price tag of Rodion Amirov is probably a little too high. A couple of names that are interesting on the Ducks that haven’t had rumours specifically attached to them and the Leafs are Max Jones, who could be a great addition as an agitating bottom six presence, and certainly a cheap one. He hasn’t materialized as a top six regular for the Ducks yet, and might take a younger prospect in exchange for him. The other name that needs to be said is John Gibson, who would require a ransom be paid, but could very well be the biggest gamebreaker the Leafs could hope to bring in. The Leafs may never have a chance to buy this low on him again.
Well, I’d have to imagine it’s more about who isn’t going anywhere, and the safe bets for remaining Leafs are Matthews, Tavares, Marner, Nylander, Thornton, Hyman, Simmonds, Spezza, Robertson, Brodie, and Muzzin. I’d have to imagine that anyone or anything after that has a price tag associated with it. The salary cap situation dictates that Alex Kerfoot should probably have his bags packed, and if it wasn’t for the recent success of the Hyman, Engvall, and Mikheyev line, Pierre and Ilya should probably consider their modestly more expensive contracts put targets on their backs as well. Most of what is going to be asked for from the Leafs will likely be pick or prospect based, but some roster pieces will have to go to make the cap situation work.
If big names are coming in and big salary needs to be move out, the names to watch are probably Morgan Rielly and Frederik Andersen, although I don’t think Rielly is someone Toronto truly wants to part with yet, even if his style of play seems somewhat like a luxury where there are more glaring needs on the roster.
As for now, it’s the waiting game. As much as it feels like something should happen on a four day break following a bad couple of weeks including a loss to the Senators, there’s no guarantee that anything happens. The Leafs might look at this week as a chance to get their internal options in order. Wayne Simmonds is close to returning, Jack Campbell should be back as well by the weekend, and Alex Galchenyuk, and Nick Robertson are interesting recall options from the Marlies as well. Still someone like Taylor Hall or John Gibson would go a long way in making me feel better about the current state of the Leafs.