Yesterday was a busy day around the NHL. In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll try to help Maple Leafs’ fans stay up-to-date with current signings and trades. Although the team wasn’t as busy as some teams, they did make a number of moves. In this post, I’ll try to track some of them.
Players Leaving the Maple Leafs
Move One: Frederik Andersen Signs with Carolina
In the end, the internal negotiations amounted to naught and Frederik Andersen left the Maple Leafs to join the Carolina Hurricanes. The terms of the contract were two years at a total of $9 million. Given Andersen’s less than stellar, injury-plagued 2020-21 season, where he put together a record of 13-8-3, a goals-against-average of 2.96, and save percentage of .895 in 24 games, it’s probably a good contract.
Over the course of his Maple Leafs career as fans know, Andersen has played well. If he can stay healthy, he’s likely to see a rebound season in 2021-22. I wish him well with his new team.
Move Two: Zach Hyman Signs with the Edmonton Oilers
The hopes of many Maple Leafs’ fans were dashed when Zach Hyman indeed signed a seven-year, $38.5 million contract with the Edmonton Oilers. I’m not sure what other Maple Leafs fans think of the signing, but I think it was too long and too much and I’m pleased the Maple Leafs didn’t match it.
Still, I’ll be sorry to see him go. As fans can see on the YouTube video of Hyman speaking about his time with the Maple Leafs, he’s an intelligent, thoughtful, and straight-forward young person and a player who will be missed.
The Oilers had tried to get a sign-and-trade agreement going with the Maple Leafs, but Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas balked at the idea. As a result, the Oilers were unable to sign Hyman for the eighth year. Instead, Hyman was only signed for seven.
The question the Oilers and the 29-year-old Hyman will face how the contract ages. It’s possible no one in the Oilers’ organization really thinks Hyman will play out the contract. Furthermore, watching the Oilers’ trades and signings this offseason, it would seem that – similar to the Maple Leafs – the Oilers are in a win-now mentality. They certainly think Hyman’s skill at winning puck battles all over the ice will become a useful part of their team’s play.
Players Coming to the Maple Leafs
Move One: Josh Ho-Sang Will Sign PTO with the Maple Leafs
Maple Leafs general manager Dubas is always looking for a low-cost project. This season’s no-risk attempt will allow a once-prominent prospect another chance. Josh Ho-Sang is that prospect. Yesterday, it was announced that Ho-Sang would come to the Maple Leafs’ training camp on a professional tryout contract (PTO).
Ho-Sang was once considered a sure-fire NHL’er. He was a former first-round draft choice (28th overall) of the New York Islanders in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. He played parts of three seasons (53 games in total) with the Islanders, but his game never worked out. He’s a fine offensive talent, but his defensive game wasn’t up to snuff and cost him. He hasn’t played in the NHL since 2018-19.
Ho-Sang spent the 2020-21 season playing in the Swedish Hockey League with Orebro HK and Linkoping HC. There he scored two goals and an assist in nine games. In truth, the former 2014 first-rounder is a long-shot to make the team; however, if he shows well at all, there’s a chance he could sign a two-way contract to work on his game.
As noted, smart money suggests he won’t make the Maple Leafs; but, as a PTO signee, why not give him a chance? At one time, NHL scouts saw evidence of skills. What’s still there and can it be coached to the surface are key questions. And, the Maple Leafs always seem to be looking for a diamond in the rough. I’m wondering who in the organization’s player development area advocated for Ho-Sang?
Move Two: Michael Bunting Signs a Two-Year Contract with the Maple Leafs
As expected, general manager Dubas and head coach Sheldon Keefe brought another former Soo Greyhound home to Toronto when Michael Bunting signed a two-year contract. Bunting played for the OHL Greyhounds when Dubas was general manager there and Keefe was the coach.
The contract calls for Bunting to make $950,000 over his two seasons. Bunting scored 10 goals and 13 points in 21 games with the Arizona Coyotes last season. He also scored at the AHL level with seven goals and 12 assists (for 19 points) in 16 games with Tucson.
Bunting played only 21 games with the Coyotes during the 2020-21 season, but he played well and showed an ability to score. Maple Leafs’ fans should look for the 25-year-old left-winger to compete for a regular job, which might be Zach Hyman’s old spot on a line with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.
For Bunting to bring real value to the organization, it would be good if he could perform at the top-six level. Although he’s never had that role before over any period of time, you have to think the coaching staff at least sees that possibility. Interestingly, with the Coyotes last season, although he played less than half of the season, he averaged 16:41 TOI, which suggests he played on their second line.
Bunting’s scouting report is iffy. It notes that he’s a “proven point producer at lower levels. Can also be a responsible defensive winger. Uses his strong lower base to win loose pucks and board battles. Lacks consistency in all facets of the game, which he needs to fix in order to maximize his appearances at the National Hockey League level.”
In the final analysis, it suggests that his long-range potential is as a ‘depth winger with a little upside.” Obviously, the Maple Leafs aren’t buying it.
The note that Bunting uses his strong lower base to win loose pucks and board battles reminds me of Hyman; and, if so, again it suggests he might become a fixture on Matthew’s left-wing?
In two other notes, Bunting is from the nearby Scarborough area and recorded a high shooting percentage of 25.6%, which seems unsustainable over any length of time.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
I haven’t had a chance to check out the other new players the Maple Leafs have signed. I will do that later. The remainder of the signees include Carl Dahlstrom, Alex Biega, Kurtis Gabriel, and Michael Amadio. All these players signed for NHL league minimum. When I do more research on them, I offer a fuller report.
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf