Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs: Reviewing Their Draft Weekend

The 2019 National Hockey League Entry Draft started out quiet for the Toronto Maple Leafs as they had no 1st round pick to use on Day 1 due to the Jake Muzzin trade last season. 

 

Day 2 on the other hand started off with the Maple Leafs trading away Patrick Marleau and his entire $6.25 Million cap hit to the Carolina Hurricanes. 

The Trade:

The belief is that Carolina will indeed be buying out Marleau’s contract, which would allow Marleau to then sign a cheap deal with the San Jose Sharks as an Unrestricted Free Agent on July 1st. 

When a player over the age of 35 is bought out, the team which buys him out doesn’t receive any cap relief.  This was the issue that Maple Leafs General Manager Kyle Dubas had to work with while trying to find a trade partner for Marleau.  In order for this deal to happen, Toronto had to sweeten the deal by adding a 2020 conditional 1st round draft pick and a 2020 7th round draft pick.

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The condition for the 1st round pick is that if it becomes a top 10 pick then Toronto will keep it and Carolina will get Toronto’s 1st round pick in 2021 instead, regardless if it’s top 10 or not.  This trade also involved Carolina’s 2020 6th round pick coming to Toronto.  The biggest benefit to Toronto in this trade was freeing up $6.25M in cap space without having to take back any salary or give up any active roster players or prospects.

 

The Draft: 

When the Maple Leafs did eventually get around to drafting they stuck with the same formula that they used in last year’s draft and that is skill, skating ability and hockey IQ before size, strength and toughness.  With the way the NHL is progressing, it’s not a bad formula to be using.  Some fans are noticeably upset with the lack of size with this year’s Maple Leafs selections, but some of these 5’10” or 5’11” boys could still grow into 6’0″-6’1″ men.   The Maple Leafs Director of Amateur Scouting John Lilley gave a brief evaluation on this year’s selections.

#53 – Nick Robertson

“Robertson is a highly skilled type of player that we are looking for moving forward. He’s a highly motivated young man. Very, very serious.”

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“We met with him on several occasions and did the background. He’s driven. That’s part of what we like about him, aside from the skill and hockey sense, this kid lives, breathes and eats hockey. That’s all he does.”

#84 – Mikko Kokkonen

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“Kokkonen Is very smart and a good defender. He can still improve his foot speed, but like a lot of these kids, they all have work to do.”

#115 – Mikhail Abramov

“Mikhail is skilled. Very skilled. He had a good Ivan Hlinka (tournament) this summer, a good year in Victoriaville. A good play maker who works hard. He had a good year on a young team.”

#124 – Nick Abruzzese

“Abruzzese is under-developed for a ’99. When you look at him, you’d think he is an ’01. He’s an older kid, but he still has room to grow and mature physically.” Lilley said. “He’s an intelligent human being and hockey player.”

#146 – Michael Koster

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“Michael had a great Ivan Hlinka in the summer. He went head-to-head with a lot of the top players against Canada and Europe.” Lilley said. “Koster is a very smart player who moves the puck well. Highly skilled. Just the type of player we were looking for. We were very excited to get him where he was.”

#204 – Kalle Loponen

“Ari Vuori, our European scout, really liked him in the late rounds.” Lilley said.  Loponen moves the puck well. He can skate. He is just another guy who is just going to get physically stronger. It’s probably his biggest hurdle right now.”

The Biggest Surprise

The biggest surprise for me in this draft was Toronto being able to get Nick Robertson at pick #53. Robertson was predicted to go in the 1st round somewhere between 17th – 20th overall. I hope that him slipping down into the 2nd round turns out to be a steal for the Maple Leafs. Looking forward to watching him develop over the next three to four years.

stats from eliteprospects.com

featured image photo credit – Josh Tessler

Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs: Right Handed Defensive Options In The 2nd Round

At this year’s NHL Draft in Vancouver, the Toronto Maple Leafs will have to wait until Day 2 of the Draft before they make a selection. But, they’ll still be able to strike gold on Day 2.

Unless the Maple Leafs make a trade for a 1st round pick, they currently don’t have one. Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas dealt the 1st round pick to the Los Angeles Kings along with Sean Durzi and Carl Grundstrom for Jake Muzzin back in January.  As of right now, the Maple Leafs will be drafting with a pick somewhere between #51 – #54 and with the team’s need for right shooting defensemen, I’ve selected the two prospects I believe best fit that need.

Kaedan Korczak, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

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After reading the various scouting reports about Korczak, I’ve came to the conclusion that the Yorkton, Saskatchewan native would be a great fit in Toronto. 

Korczak is currently listed as 6’3″ and weighs 192 Lbs, but at only 18 years of age, he still has time get a bit bigger and to better fill in to his frame. 

Scouts have listed him as a good solid defensive defenseman.  You’ll likely never see him on the power play, but most scouts see him as a reliable penalty killer and a player coaches would want to put out on the ice late in a game to defend a one goal lead.  Korczak has also been described as having good mobility. He’s great when passing the puck out of his zone. Zone exits are crucial and Korczak can be trusted to get the puck out of his zone without mistake. In addition, he doesn’t panic under pressure or get caught out of position.

Korczak is currently projected to be a 2nd pair defenseman, but that could all change depending on how he develops.

Antti Tuomisto, Ässät U20 (Jr. A SM-Liiga)

Born in Pori, Finland, this 6’4″ 190 Lbs right shooting defenseman is seen as a power play quarterback, who looks for the simple and safe pass with less risk of a turnover. 

Although his acceleration and straight line speed are a bit slow, his lateral movement is better and his ability to anticipate plays helps him avoid getting caught out of position too often.

Just like Korczak, Tuomisto has a big body with room to fill out and is known for using his big body to rub out opponents along the boards.  Just like other big men in hockey, Tuomisto uses his big stick to his advantage to cover passing and shooting lanes.

He’s got a hard shot and good accuracy which is what makes him a good quarterback for the power play.

The biggest thing that Tuomisto needs to work on is his foot speed, but he still has plenty of time for that.

Who I’d Lean Towards

Although both of these players would be a nice addition to the future of the Toronto Maple Leafs, I would select Kaedan Korczak with the Leafs’ 2nd round pick as he is the better defender and has more of what the Maple Leafs need. 

We’ll have to wait until Day 2 of the NHL Draft in Vancouver on June 22nd to find out if either of these players becomes a Maple Leaf.

Stats and Scouting reports found on thehockeynews.com and finnprospects.com

Featured Image Photo Credit – Josh Tessler

Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs: Wind of Change

While Carolina Hurricanes fans in Carolina are singing ‘Rock you like a hurricane’, Toronto Maple Leafs fans will be singing another classic song by the Scorpions – ‘Wind of Change’. 

Another season in Leafs Nation has ended with another Game 7 first round loss at the hands of the Boston Bruins.  This season’s early exit stings more than last season and rightfully so.  Toronto had more talent, more depth and yet finished with the same result. 

It hasn’t taken Leafs fans very long to start playing the blame game as for who’s responsible for this season’s failure and the list is longer than you’d think.  Personally I think that if there is more than two or three people to blame, then you just weren’t good enough to begin with.

Sure, it was great to see guys like Morgan Rielly, Mitch Marner and John Tavares have stellar seasons, but regular season achievements mean nothing come playoff time and in the playoffs you need your best players to step up when the games really matter. Auston Matthews had a great first round, but guys like Mitch Marner, John Tavares, Morgan Rielly and Freddie Andersen although good, were not good enough. They all had their great moments in certain games, but they were almost invisible in other games. Some will blame head coach Mike Babcock for not giving his stars more ice time or for not mixing up lines, but in the end you play as a team, win as a team and lose as a team.

What’s Next?

It’s almost a certainty that both Jake Gardiner and Ron Hainsey have played their last game as a Toronto Maple Leaf, but what other changes can Leafs Nation expect from Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas?  With the salary cap close to maxed out for next season, one would assume that trades will have to be made, but who gets traded?

Nazem Kadri

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Although Kadri provides good depth as the teams’ 3rd line center, it doesn’t make sense in the salary cap era to have a 3rd line center making more than $4 Million ($4.5 Million).

Connor Brown

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After the dreadful season that Brown had, it’s hard to fathom why he’s making $2.3 Million.  He barely scores goals and spends most of his time playing on the 3rd line and killing penalties. $2.3 Million is a bit much for a “plugger”.

Patrick Marleau

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With his lowest goal total (16) since his rookie season (13) in 1997/98, it seems that father time has finally caught up to Patrick Marleau. With one more season left on his contract worth $6.25 Million, that’s a large amount of cap space to be using on an aging player whose production is slipping.

Salary Cap

As of right now the Maple Leafs only have $4.49 Million available in Cap Space for the 2019/20 season.  It is believed that the NHL salary cap will go up from $79.5 Million – $83 Million for next season.  With that increase the Maple Leafs would have $7.54 Million in cap space which is still not enough space if they plan on resigning Marner, Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson.  If Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas were able to trade all three of Kadri, Brown and Marleau, that would free up another $13.05 Million and give the team a total of $21.04 Million in cap space.

Who Fills The Void?

Forwards

I believe that Kyle Dubas intends to keep Nic Petan and Trevor Moore, but I would also think it’s very likely that Toronto Marlies players such as Jeremy Bracco and Mason Marchment get a long look at training camp. Depending on cap space I also wouldn’t be surprised if Tyler Ennis is resigned.

Defense

With Gardiner, Hainsey, Martin Marincin all gone as Unrestricted Free Agents and Igor Ozhiganov likely returning home to play in Russia this summer, the Maple Leafs will have a few holes to fill on their blue-line.  The main four candidates from within the organization would be Justin Holl, Rasmus Sandin, Callie Rosen and Andreas Borgman. If a defenseman is brought in through Trade or signed as a UFA, then only three of the four players mentioned would have a chance at making the team in training camp.

Goaltending

Who will be the backup for Andersen next season? Will the Maple Leafs resign Michael Hutchinson or keep Garret Sparks? Garret Sparks did not look good this season and was not able win enough games. He looked very shaky or uncertain most of the time. I don’t think Babcock or the players had faith in him when he was in the net. Hutchinson didn’t have great numbers, but he has more experience at the NHL level and looked more confident in net. The other option is prospect Joseph Woll who was signed on March 24th to a three-year deal with an Annual Average Value of $800,000.

Summer Breeze 

This summer could be full of many changes for the Toronto Maple Leafs and the team will for sure look different next season. Whether those changes help them get past the first round in the playoffs, we’ll have to wait and see.

stats from hockey-reference.com

cap research from capfriendly.com

featured image photo credit – Josh Tessler

 

Toronto Maple Leafs

Looking At The Toronto Maple Leafs’ Goalie Depth

Do the Toronto Maple Leafs have good depth at goaltender?

The short answer is yes.

The long answer is yes, but that depth is in the developing stages. 

Sparks

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This season the Toronto Maple Leafs took a big hit to their goaltending depth. They lost both, Calvin Pickard (Philadelphia Flyers) and Curtis McElhinney (Carolina Hurricanes) on waivers. This was a result of Toronto deciding to keep Garret Sparks as their backup for Frederik Andersen this season.  After the amazing season Sparks had last season in the AHL with the Toronto Marlies and winning the Calder Cup Championship, keeping Sparks seemed like the best move that Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas could make.

With only 8 wins in 15 starts and 18 total games played, it has unfortunately not been a great first full season in the NHL for Sparks. He has a record of 8-7-0-1 with a high 3.16 Goals Against Average (GAA) and mediocre 0.903 Save Percentage (SV%).  With just 5 games remaining in the 2019 regular season, it is expected that Sparks will get at least 2 more starts before Andersen takes over for the Playoffs.

Sparks & Hutch

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With injuries to both Andersen and Sparks in the first half of the season, the Maple Leafs were forced to acquire another goaltender who could step in and play at the NHL level. That goaltender was Michael Hutchinson. In his short stay with the Maple Leafs, he posted a record of 2-3-0-0 in 5 starts and had a GAA of 2.64 and a SV% of 0.914 before being sent down to the Toronto Marlies.  In his 21 games played with the Toronto Marlies, Hutchinson has played very well and has a 13-4-1-0 record with a GAA of 2.62 and SV% of 0.911.  It’s expected that Hutchinson will be the Marlies starter for the AHL playoffs.

Good Young Talent In the System

The Maple Leafs have two good young goaltender prospects in their system. Joseph Woll and Ian Scott are both 20 years old and still require more development, but they could be studs one day at the NHL level.

Joseph Woll

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Selected by the Maple Leafs in the 3rd Round (64th overall) in the 2016 NHL Draft, Woll has spent the last 3 seasons playing at Boston College in the NCAA. In each of his 3 seasons with Boston College, his GAA and SV% stats have continued to get better. His GAA stats have gone from 2.64 in 2016/17 to 2.41 this season and his SV% stats have gone from 0.913 in 2016/17 to 0.919 this season.

Recently, he signed an Entry Level Contract (ELC) with the Maple Leafs for $800,000 a year. It is expected he’ll be fighting for the starting goaltender job with the Marlies next season.

Woll has also done well on the international level. At the World Junior Championships, he helped Team USA win Gold in 2017 and Bronze in 2018.

Ian Scott

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Selected by the Maple Leafs in the 4th Round (110th overall) in the 2017 NHL Draft, Ian Scott has spent the last 4 seasons playing for the Prince Albert Raiders in the Western Hockey League (WHL). 

This season has seen both his GAA and SV% stats drastically improve. His GAA has gone from 3.10 in 2017/18 to just 1.83 this season and his SV% has gone from 0.897 in 2017/18 to 0.932 this season. These improved stats show why Scott had such a great regular season this year with a record of 38-8-2 in 49 games played.  Scott just helped Prince Albert advance to the 2nd Round of the WHL Playoffs with a 4 game sweep over the Red Deer Rebels. Scott allowed 7 goals on 82 shots in those 4 games giving him a 1.75 GAA and 0.915 SV% so far in the 2019 WHL Playoffs.

The Future Is Bright In Toronto

The future in net for the Maple Leafs looks bright, we’ll just need to have some patience to find out what the future holds.

 

Thanks for reading.

Jeremy Ridgewell

stats from capfriendly.com, hockeydb.com and whl.ca

featured image photo credit – Josh Tessler

Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs: What’s Going To Happen This Summer?

As the NHL Playoffs inch closer, it’s not too early for teams to start thinking about what they need to do this summer including the Toronto Maple Leafs. 

Right now, the NHL salary cap is listed as $79.5 million (United States Dollar). That leaves Toronto with just over $6 million in cap space (per capfriendly.com). It is expected that the salary cap will be going up. According to Sportsnet.ca, the expected cap limit will be set at $83 million which would give Toronto just over $9.5 million to spend.

Number One Priority

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Now this summer’s number one priority for Toronto is to get Restricted Free Agent (RFA) Mitch Marner signed to a new deal. The problem that Toronto faces is that Marner’s new deal will most likely take up most of the team’s $9.5 million in cap space. In addition, Toronto also has RFA’s Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, Nic Petan and Igor Ozhiganov to worry about this summer. This means it’s very likely that Toronto will have to trade away some salary in order to make room for as many of their RFA’s as possible.

Dealing Brown and Zaitsev For Cap Space

The leading candidates for being traded will likely be Connor Brown ($2.1 million) and Nikita Zaitsev ($4.5 million). The interesting thing about Nikita Zaitsev’s contract is after July 1st he has a Modified No Trade Clause (NTC), so if Toronto is looking to trade the young defenseman it would be better for them to do so before July 1st. If both of these players do indeed get traded, it is assumed that they’d be traded for lower round draft picks (4th – 7th round) and thus freeing up an additional $6.6 million in cap space.

If we expect that Mitch Marner signs for $9.5 million and both Connor Brown and Nikita Zaitsev being traded for draft picks that leaves Toronto with just the $6.6 million to sign the rest of their RFA’s. It is expected that Kasperi Kapanen will be next on the priority chart.  It is very likely that Toronto will sign Kapanen to a bridge deal of two to three years for roughly $3 million a year.  With only about $3.6 million left, it seems likely that Toronto will be forced to trade Andreas Johnsson and fill the forward positions with cheaper options such as Nic Petan, Jeremy Bracco and Trevor Moore.  Toronto might also try to bring back Tyler Ennis if they can make the money work.

Spending on Defense?

On defense, I don’t see Toronto making any big changes for the 2019/2020 season as there just isn’t enough cap space.  Once the $6.25 million contract for Patrick Marleau expires next summer then I think Toronto will attempt to add another Top 4 defenseman.

Projected Lines

Based on everything that I have mentioned above, I believe that this is what the 2019/2020 Toronto Maple Leafs will look like.

Zach HymanJohn Tavares – Mitch Marner

Kasperi Kapanen – Auston MatthewsWilliam Nylander

Patrick Marleau – Nazem Kadri – Trevor Moore

Nic Petan – Frederik Gauthier – Jeremy Bracco

Tyler Ennis (13th forward)

 

Morgan RiellyJake Muzzin

Travis DermottCalle Rosen

Rasmus Sandin – Justin Holl

Andreas Borgman – Igor Ozhiganov

 

Frederik Andersen

Garret Sparks

 

Thanks for reading!

 

stats from hockey-reference.com and NHL.com

salary cap research – capfriendly.com and Rogers Sportsnet

featured image photo credit – Josh Tessler