Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs: Should They Look Into The Adam Fox Situation?

It was reported on Tuesday that Carolina Hurricanes prized defence prospect Adam Fox will not sign with the Carolina Hurricanes, opting instead to return to Harvard for his senior year, after which he will be granted free agency. But, what does this mean for the Toronto Maple Leafs?

Adam Fox was one of the main pieces going to Carolina in the draft-day deal that sent Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm to the Calgary Flames in exchange for Fox, Dougie Hamilton, and Micheal Ferland. Fox was, and still is, highly coveted by the Hurricanes. The Flames selected the young defenseman in the third round of the 2016 draft out of the U.S. National Development Program, but after incredible freshman and sophomore seasons at Harvard, he shot up prospect rankings. The Flames tried to get him under contract before the 2018 draft, but Fox declined in favour of going back to college for his junior year. This December, prohockeyrumors.com reported that the Hurricanes were “very confident” that he would sign with them at the end of the season. Now, Jeff Cox of the New England Hockey Journal says that he may shun them as well.

Why would he not sign with the Hurricanes?

The Hurricanes are a team with lots of defensive talent. This is evident in a quick look at their statistics this season. The Hurricanes rank top-10 in goals allowed (T-8), shots on goal allowed (3), CF% (shot attempts for) (2), and xGF% (expected goals for) (1). Their defensive pairings are so stacked with talent that they have to leave a prospect like Jake Bean in the AHL. Their pairings are as follows:

Jaccob SlavinDougie Hamilton
Brett PesceJustin Faulk
Calvin de HaanTrevor van Riemsdyk

Their fifth and sixth defensemen, de Haan and van Riemsdyk could play higher in the lineup on most other teams. Thus, this logjam of defensive talent could block a prospect like Adam Fox from receiving lots of minutes. This may be why he chooses to forego signing his contract this year and wait to sign with a team of his choice.

Precedent for the Leafs

Jimmy Vesey

Leafs fans have seen a situation like this before. The Nashville Predators selected Jimmy Vesey in the third round of the 2012 draft. Vesey, like Fox, played for Harvard. However, when GM David Poile offered him a spot for the end of the 2015-16 regular season and playoffs, Vesey declined, wanting to pick his own team instead. The Leafs spoke with Vesey and were finalists in the sweepstakes. Unfortunately, Vesey ultimately chose the New York Rangers—a team that undoubtedly had less talent than the Leafs, but significantly more minutes and a larger opportunity.

This example shows that the Leafs could have a realistic shot at signing the young defender when he reaches free agency for reasons I discuss below.

Zach Hyman

The Florida Panthers selected Zach Hyman in the fifth round of the 2010 draft. Amid concerns regarding the Panthers’ chances of signing him, the Leafs traded for Hyman’s rights, giving up AHLer Greg McKegg in return. Of course, Hyman’s situation is different from Fox’s because Hyman was born in Toronto. This situation could be indicative of Fox going to a team other than the Leafs. Fox is a native of Jericho, New York, and it is rumoured that he may be interested in signing with the New York Rangers.

The Leafs and Adam Fox

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Fox, a 21-year old, is a right-handed-shot—an organizational need for the Leafs. In 32 games this year, he has tallied 9 goals and 39 assists for 48 points. He is a serious contender for the Hobey Baker Award, which goes to the best NCAA player. In 2017-18, he scored 6 goals and got 22 assists for 28 points in 29 games. He has played in the last two World Juniors with Team USA, the last one coming as an assistant captain.

The Leafs, unlike the Hurricanes, have very little talent on their blue-line, and all of it comes from left-handed shots. This summer, Jake Gardiner and Ron Hainsey’s contracts will expire, leaving two open spots in the lineup. Additionally, Nikita Zaitsev is often a target of trade rumours, and will likely be gone if Kyle Dubas can get a team to take his $4.5 million contract off his hands. Martin Marincin, Justin Holl, and Igor Ozhiganov are nowhere close to having guaranteed spots in the lineup next year. This leaves only Morgan Rielly, Travis Dermott, and Jake Muzzin—all left-handers—with the only guaranteed spots in the lineup for next season.

If Adam Fox signed with the Leafs, he would join an instant contender. Given the lack of talent on the right side, Mike Babcock would give him lots of minutes, likely in the top four. Calle Rosen, who is expected to be called up to the Leafs this week, Rasmus Sandin, and Timothy Liljegren, who may still need more work in the AHL are the only other legitimate candidates to make the roster next year. Simply put, the Leafs and Adam Fox are great fits for each other, and they would be silly to not consider agreeing to a contract should the defender reach free agency.

Fox is also good friends with two American Leafs prospects, who could influence his decision in free agency.

Of course, the Leafs will be very close to the salary cap after this summer. However, Fox’s first contract would be an entry-level deal, which is less than $1 million per year. For example, Jimmy Vesey’s contract with the Rangers was a two-year ELC worth $925,000 annually against the cap. It’s not guaranteed that Fox will reach free agency, or that Fox and Dubas will be in contact with him, but it would be prudent for Dubas to at least try, whether it be through free agency or a trade to acquire his rights. On the surface, at least, the two seem like a perfect fit.

 

All stats are from theScore, Corsica Hockey, and Elite Prospects.
Salary information obtained from CapFriendly

Featured Image Photo Credit – Josh Tessler

Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs: Rasmus Sandin Has Been Impressive

Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Rasmus Sandin has looked impressive and should be great addition to the Leafs blue-line down the road. 

As a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs it is so nice to see a prospect pool that is both deep and talented. The Toronto Maple Leafs farm system is stacked with many great prospects including Timothy Liljegren, Jeremy Bracco, Calle Rosen, Andreas Borgman, Pierre Engvall, Trevor Moore, Carl Grundstrom, Sean Durzi, Rasmus Sandin and many others. But, the one prospect that has really caught my attention has been defenseman Rasmus Sandin.

World Juniors

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I was very impressed by his play for Team Sweden at the 2019 IIHF World Juniors. Sandin was part of an excellent Swedish team and was among some of the best Swedish defensive prospects including Adam Boqvist and Erik Brannstrom. 

Unfortunately the Swedes didn’t medal, but Sandin still had a great tournament. He was able to pick up 2 Goals and 2 Assists for 4 Points and a +4 rating in 5 games at the WJC.

In addition, Sandin showed at the international stage that he’s very good at protecting the puck and controlling the play both in his own end and in the offensive zone.

Toronto Marlies

Sandin has also been having a great regular season in North America.

So far this season, Sandin has spent his time playing in the AHL with the Toronto Marlies (the Toronto Maple Leafs minor league affiliate). In 18 games played with the Marlies, he has 5 goals and 5 assists. It is worth nothing that 3 of his 5 goals have been on the power-play. In addition, Sandin has the second highest Points/Game for a defenseman on the Marlies. At the moment, he’s averaging 0.56 points per game. 

Unfortunately, at the moment, Sandin is listed as being out of the Marlies’ lineup for 4-6 weeks with an elbow sprain that he sustained at the World Junior Championship. But, this injury shouldn’t slow down his development and Sandin should hopefully be back in the AHL by mid-February.

Evaluating Rasmus

There are a couple of things that stand out for me when I watch him play. His ability to move the puck quickly, his vision and his ability to protect the puck.  On October 26th, 2018 he scored his first AHL goal using his great vision to shoot the puck from the Syracuse Crunch (Tampa Bay Lightning AHL affiliate) blue line through 4 or 5 players and beating Syracuse goaltender Eddie Pasquale.

Next season, I can see Sandin playing either top minutes for the Marlies or being the 6th defenseman at the NHL level. It’ll mostly depend on his showing at training camp, but if he has a strong camp then there is chance that he could be on the Maple Leafs blue-line to start the 2019-2020 season.

There is still a lot of season left to play and while he’s a bit banged up at the moment, it’s been a great season for Sandin and the Marlies.

stats from theAHL.com

featured photo image credit – Josh Tessler

 

 

 

 

Toronto Maple Leafs

What Should The Toronto Maple Leafs Give Up For Alex Pietrangelo?

Ever since Nick Kypreos of Rogers Sportsnet mentioned the Toronto Maple Leafs being potential suitors for Alex Pietrangelo, there has been a lot of speculation in across Leafs Nation about who Kyle Dubas should give up in a trade.

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In this post, I will be examine possible trades that would be fair for both, the St. Louis Blues and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Trade Option #1

St. Louis trades Alex Pietrangelo to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto trades a 1st round pick, 2nd round pick, Nikita Zaitsev and Kasperi Kapanen or Andreas Johnsson to St. Louis.

This deal would be a steal for St. Louis. Getting a young star like Kapanen or Johnsson plus Zaitsev and two decent picks would be an outstanding return. It’s be a great haul as Doug Armstrong, the general manager of the Blues would be trading a defenseman who has two years left on a contract for players with upside. It would easily improve the future of the Blues.

As for Toronto? It just doesn’t make sense to trade away a major contributor like Kapanen or Johnsson when you don’t have a viable replacement for either of them. The clear winner of this trade would be the Blues.

Trade Option #2

St. Louis trades Alex Pietrangelo to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto trades a 1st round pick, 2nd round pick, Timothy Liljegren and Nikita Zaitsev to St. Louis.

I don’t hate this deal. Rasmus Sandin has proven to be a better player than Timothy Liljegren and will crack the Toronto Maple Leafs lineup before him.

As for Zaitsev? He’s got an awful contract. Zaitsev is on the books for the next five seasons. I’m not sure I can stomach having Zaitsev on the team for the next five years. Getting rid of his contract is something should be near the top of Dubas’ priority list. I know Pietrangelo makes more than Zaitsev but only for this season and next.

This a fairly even trade for both teams. While I don’t love Zaitsev, he does have a lot of upside. Liljegren also has upside and could be solid top 4 defenseman. All-in-all, the Blues will acquire a pretty good package.

In terms of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Pietrangelo could very well be the piece that pushes them to the top of the pack. All this team is missing is a top right-handed defenseman and Pietrangelo is exactly that.

Recap

If this trade is going to happen the Toronto Maple Leafs should refrain from trading any roster forwards, which I know will be very difficult considering what St Louis is asking for. Kapanen and Johnsson are a big part of the future of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Trading them for a defenseman with 1.5 years left on his deal would be a bad idea.

If you are a fan of the St. Louis Blues, the package consisting of Zaitsev and Liljegren would be a good haul. However if St. Louis is determined on acquiring a forward, then these two teams don’t match up together.

featured image photo credit – Josh Tessler