The 2015-16 season for the Toronto Maple Leafs is almost at an end. It started with pain and numerous losses, which was to be expected. After the trade deadline is when things really started to turn around. The organizations younger players were called up and given the reins of the team, in order to demonstrate to management, the coaching staff and the fan base that there was hope for the future.
The baby Maple Leafs have done just that. Buoyed by the likes of William Nylander, Zach Hyman, Connor Carrick and many more, the Buds have looked great. I had the pleasure of attending their recent game against the Anaheim Ducks. The Leafs looked great for stretches against a legitimate western conference powerhouse.
Hyman was getting under the skin of opponents, Nylander had some excellent rushes and shooting opportunities and Connor Brown got his first NHL goal. The future appears to be bright for the Maple Leafs. In order to get better however, they will need to be looking to make moves and improve their roster. That’s where this edition of Maple Leafs News will pick up. If you missed the last piece, it can be found right here.
Maple Leafs Pursuing Zaitsev… and Radulov?
It’s no secret that the Leafs are looking to change and grow their roster in order to become more competitive for the future. In order to do that they need to draft smartly, develop their prospects and also look for unconventional avenues as a means of finding new talent.
In that spirit, the Buds have turned their eyes to Russia and have found a strong and mobile defenseman named Nikita Zaitsev. The young Russian visited Toronto last year and was impressed with what he saw. He then returned to his home country to honour the final year of his contract with CSKA Moscow, who is currently deep into the KHL playoffs.
Zaitsev would be a nice addition to the Maple Leafs’ blueline. He’s young and should come at a relatively cheap price. In addition, he is a right-handed shot, has a laser of a shot from the point, and plays a solid two-way game. He also has valuable KHL experience and should be able to step right into the Leafs lineup next year.
It was also reported that the Leafs are potentially negotiating with the very controversial Alexander Radulov. The talented winger has left the NHL twice and has earned the ire of fans and teams for his antics. If fans of the Maple Leafs don’t like this move, you can breath a sigh of relief because Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman believes that Radulov will not be making the move.
I don't believe the Radulov part is accurate. Zaitsev's arrival is expected. https://t.co/0IUBUPXrwX
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) March 28, 2016
Keeping an Eye on Jimmy Vesey
Jimmy Vesey is an interesting case. He’s a 6-foot-1 forward from Harvard University was a third-round pick by the Nashville Predators in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Despite being able to probably make the Predators roster, Vesey decide to finish his college career before making a decision on his hockey playing future.
Was an honor & privilege to wear Harvard across my chest for 4 yrs. I'm sad it's over but grateful for everything it gave me #ForeverCrimson
— Jimmy Vesey (@19Vesey) March 26, 2016
The Harvard Crimson’s season is now over after a loss to Boston College. The speculation on his next move will now begin in earnest. Here’s how it breaks down. Nashville owns his rights, as they are the team that drafted him. They can offer playing time for the rest of the regular season as well as the upcoming playoffs, which will burn off a year of his contract.
The Preds would love to do exactly that, as they believe Vesey is a player who can step into their lineup and contribute right away. If he opts to not sign with them however, things get a little bit more interesting. Many NHL teams have cited their interest in the power forward including the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Leafs employ his father as an amateur scout and have also drafted his brother Nolan, who is currently playing for the University of Maine. The Buds would have to wait until August 15th to make any moves, because that is when Vesey would officially become an unrestricted free agent and would be free to sign with any team he wanted.
It’s a situation that many teams will be keeping a very close eye on. If a Vesey decision regarding Nashville doesn’t come up in the near future, expect the speculation and rumours to continue heating up.
Jimmy Vesey will not be signing with the Nashville Predators. He has informed the team that he will exercise his right and become an unrestricted free agent. He will be eligible to sign with any team as of August 15th.
Representatives for Jimmy Vesey today informed NSH their client will be exercising his right to unrestricted free agency on Aug. 15. #TSN
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) March 29, 2016