For what might be a bit of a meaningless game, there’ll be a lot going on when the Ottawa Senators meet the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight in Toronto. First, the Maple Leafs will try to win their sixth game in a row. Second, Maple Leafs goalie Jack Campbell is on a franchise-leading 10-game winning streak, and he’ll try to move that streak to 11 games in a row.
From the Senators’ side, former Maple Leafs’ player and happy-to-be-in Ottawa Connor Brown will be trying to score a goal in seven straight game, which would set a Senators’ franchise record.
In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll try to help fans stay more up-to-date with news emerging from the team. There was a trade yesterday and it was announced that William Nylander’s COVID-19 protocol would be extended as further testing is engaged. But, in probably the most impactful news is that starting Maple Leafs’ goalie Frederik Andersen has been placed on long-term injured reserve. I’ll try to explain the impact of that move on how the team might act at the trade deadline.
Item One: The Maple Leafs Place Injured Frederik Andersen on LTIR
The Maple Leafs have placed goalie Frederik Andersen on long-term injured reserve (LTIR). My guess is that, given head coach Sheldon Keefe’s report that he wasn’t concerned with Andersen’s status for the season, the Maple Leafs have cleared some salary-cap space to make more trade moves possible.
There’s no doubt that Jack Campbell has taken over as the starting goalie, and that might not even be de facto in the organization’s mind. Given how well Campbell has played and how well the team’s played in front of him, it might be that Andersen wouldn’t be able to take back the net from the 29-year-old even if he were completely healthy. Certainly, on anyone’s team putting up a 10-0-0 season should give you another chance to show your stuff.
By contrast to Campbell’s perfect record on the season, a goals-against-average of 1.58 and a save percentage of .944, Andersen’s record is 13-8-2 with a goals-against-average of 2.91 and a save percentage under .900 (.897) for the season.
Today Keefe addressed the media and commented: “I think that the easiest way to describe it is just, there’s no timeline to the injury. It’s just really a matter of Fred to be comfortable with where he’s at now.”
Item Two: Maple Leafs Bring in Riley Nash from the Blue Jackets
Yesterday, the Maple Leafs traded for Riley Nash from Columbus for a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft. The condition is that, should Nash play in 25% of the Maple Leafs’ playoff games, that draft pick would move up to the sixth-round pick if Nash.
Related: How to Talk Like a Hockey Player
For Nash, the seven-day quarantine isn’t an issue because he’s currently out with a sprained knee, which he suffered last week. The prognosis is that he’ll miss four-to-six weeks. Nash, who’s an experienced, defensive-minded 31-year-old center, could add to the team’s grit during the playoffs. For now, the trade has the effect of extending the team’s LTIR space heading into the trade deadline.
Even should he not play during the regular season, Nash could become an option for the team during postseason play. He’ll be an addition to the bottom-six when he’s healthy. Nash is a smart player from the small town of Consort, Alberta, who spent three years playing NCAA hockey at an Ivy League school (Cornell University). He’s typical of the kind of intelligent player Kyle Dubas seems to pick up.
Item Three: Is Alex Galchenyuk Moving to the Team’s First Line?
In Friday’s practice, Alex Galchenyuk skated on the Maple Leafs’ top line with Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews. Zach Hyman moved to Galchenyuk’s old spot with John Tavares. The most recent depth chart shows Ilya Mikheyev as the second winger on the second line.
About Galchenyuk, Mitch Marner noted, “He’s brought it every single night and he’s got a lot of offensive chances that have just missed wide or just off by a hair, so I’m excited to see how it’s going to go tomorrow, hopefully we get chemistry going right away.” Galchenyuk has scored a single goal with three assists in 10 games so far with the Maple Leafs.
Item Four: Is Dubas Setting Up for More Trade Deadline Moves?
In an interesting article yesterday, Chris Johnston gave a learned synopsis of the creativity of the deal from a salary-cap perspective. If Andersen doesn’t play until the playoffs, acquiring Riley Nash at the same time as the team utilized the long-term-injury provision gave general manager Dubas about $5-million in salary-cap space to use heading into Monday’s trade deadline.
However, if Andersen is able to return this regular season from his lower-body injury, the team was able to add Nash (a veteran center) without any impact on its salary-cap position because Nash is injured and will be healing for four to six weeks. As Johnston describes it, the move is thinking outside the box so as to gain a potential player while balancing the team’s challenging salary-cap situation. As Johnston notes, this is a move attributable to assistant general manager Brandon Pridham who’s a salary-cap geek (for me, a term of respect).
First, the Maple Leafs didn’t place Andersen on LTIR until the series of roster moves that went along with Friday’s trade were completed. That moves the team very close to the $81.5-million salary-cap ceiling as a way to maximize its “accruable cap space limit.” Next the Maple Leafs put Andersen on LTIR retroactively, traded for Nash, and then placed him on LTIR.
As Johnston notes, this makes Keefe’s vagueness (“No update” was his repeated line) about any return date for Andersen make sense in the grand scheme of things. There are many layers to these roster moves, but they are all tied to what Dubas can now do before the trade deadline.
It’s a multi-layered issue because of Andersen’s importance to the team, but also because it’s directly tied to what Dubas is able to do before the deadline. Johnston’s expectation is that Dubas will work aggressively to upgrade his a roster. He’s already on the record that the team will seek another top-six forward or add to the team’s defensive core. However, he might also add a goalie.
I have to admit that I don’t understand the full implication and possibilities of these moves, but I do learn a great deal as something goes down and I work to understand it later.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
One issue I’m watching carefully and am pleased there’s been no more news from the team about is William Nylander’s COVID-protocol situation.
Right now, it seems as if Nylander will be sidelined until Thursday’s game against the Winnipeg Jets. Prior to that game, look for another update. What I’m pleased about is that it seems there’s been no spread to other players on the team. That’s a very good sign. Maple Leafs’ fans can only hope it stays that way.