Congratulations to Toronto Maple Leafs’ goalie Jack Campbell for setting the franchise record at ten wins in a row to start the beginning of the season. It hasn’t been an easy season for Campbell; he’s been suffering from a nagging knee injury that’s kept him yo-yoing in and out of the lineup.
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Still, given the difficulty nursing that injury and the workload management that’s come with it, he’s certainly been a valuable player on the Maple Leafs’ roster. Without his presence in net given Frederik Andersen’s injury, it’s not likely the team would currently be experiencing a first-place cushion in the all-Canadian North division of the NHL.
In this edition of Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at some of last night’s game action as well as news coming from the organization. William Nylander’s situation is one that should be watched carefully. Given the situation with the Vancouver Canucks roster, any COVID-19 team issue with the could become a dire situation. William Nylander missed last night’s game under COVID-19 protocol; and, although the initial word speculates that he hasn’t been infected, it’s wise to see how this situation unfolds.
Finally, I’ll take a look at the Maple Leafs trade deadline and speculate about a Taylor Hall to the Maple Leafs’ possible trade.
Item One: Jack Campbell Sets Maple Leafs’ Franchise Record
Jack Campbell played well – especially during a second period when his own team was pushed hard by the Canadiens’ offense. In the end, Campbell stopped all but two of 34 shots on net in Wednesday’s 3-2 win over Montreal. Campbell came into the game having won all nine games he’d started with the team this season, which had tied him for the Maple Leafs’ record for consecutive victories at the beginning of the season.
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He went on to set the new franchise record with this victory. But, it wasn’t easy. The Canadiens came into the game having won four of their past five games and had averaged almost four goals (3.8) in those games. As I noted, Campbell stood tall during a second period when the Canadiens threw a huge volume of shots (17 in all) on net.
Campbell only gave up two scores during the game, both in-close goals by NHL-veteran Corey Perry. It would have taken a miracle to have stopped either goal. On the season, the 29-year-old career-backup goalie now sports a perfect 10-0-0 record with a goals-against-average of 1.58 and a save percentage of .944. On top of that, he’s now the proud possessor of the Maple Leafs’ franchise record for the longest winning streak for a goalie (10 games).
Congratulations to Campbell both for the record and for helping to carry the team in the absence of Andersen.
Item Two: T.J. Brodie Finally Scores His First Goal of the Season
T.J. Brodie has played exceedingly well this season, but he hadn’t scored until last night. He recorded his first goal of the season in the 3-2 win. Brodie snuck in from the point to deposit a loose puck past Jake Allen to give Toronto a 2-1 lead early in the third period.
The first-year Maple Leafs’ player averaged about seven goals a season when he was with the Calgary Flames, but he won’t reach that mark this season. That said, I don’t know any Maple Leafs’ fan who thinks he hasn’t added value to the team’s lineup.
Item Three: Auston Matthews Just Keeps Scoring
Auston Matthews just keeps on scoring. He added both his 28th goal and an assist to his season’s total on Wednesday. It didn’t take long for Matthews to get that first goal, scoring less than a minute into the first period. Matthews also had the first assist on Zach Hyman’s eventual game-winning goal in the third period.
The 23-year-old Matthews has scored in three games (including four goals) in succession and in six of his past seven games. He now has 28 goals and 48 points in 37 games on the season. He currently is first in NHL goal-scoring and fifth in NHL points with 46 in 36 games. Can he score again on Saturday against the Ottawa Senators?
Item Four: William Nylander Didn’t Play and Is Under COVID-19 Protocol
As the Maple Leafs reported, William Nylander was exposed and had close contact to a possible positive case outside the team. As a result, he was put on the NHL’s COVID protocol list and sat out the game for precautionary reasons. Nylander’s situation will be re-evaluated today and he’s isolating in the meantime pending further tests.
Item Five: Are the Maple Leafs Interested in Taylor Hall?
Given that the NHL’s trade deadline is in four days, and with Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas suggesting that (a) he’s in the hunt for forward help, (b) would trade a top prospect to make a “significant” deal, and that (c) this is the season for going after a pure rental instead of a player with term left on his contract, is there something to the rumor that Taylor Hall might be on the Maple Leafs’ radar?
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Hall certainly fits all the items on the list above. Is there a chance that the Maple Leafs would bring Hall to the team as a rental? In an article written last night, it was announced that Hall was held out of the line-up anticipating a trade and that the Maple Leafs were to be one of the teams rumored to be involved in those talks.
Personally, this is a deal I really hope the team doesn’t make. First, I don’t think the Maple Leafs need a top-six winger. Second, one likely candidate to move would be Alex Kerfoot; and, although removing his $3.5 salary-cap hit would solve a problem for the team both this year and into the future, I’m a Kerfoot fan and I’d love to see him stay on the team.
The question is what the Maple Leafs would have to move if they were after Hall. Last season in December, the Arizona Coyotes traded for Hall as a pure rental and moved out three prospects, a first-round draft choice, and a third-round draft choice to make that happen. That was good return for Hall, but it isn’t likely that the Buffalo Sabres would be able to demand that kind of a high return. He hasn’t had a good season and it seems like a buyer’s market this season.
If yesterday’s trade between the New Jersey Devils and the New York Islanders is any indication, it’s a buyer’s market this season. In that trade, the Devils moved rentals Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac for a first-round pick, a conditional fourth-rounder, and two mid-range prospects (A.J. Greer and Mason Jobst, who’s a 27-year-old AHL player).
Neither of the players the Devils moved was that notable and former-Maple Leafs’ general manager Lou Lamoriello was able to pick up two solid NHL players in return. Should the Islanders, who are again going all-in with this team, win the Stanley Cup, that would be a great trade.
Hall is a former NHL MVP, but he’s had a poor season by his standards with the Sabres. Furthermore, given the Sabres’ season, the organization must be anxious to move him. He does fit the Maple Leafs’ needs, especially as outlined by Dubas at the mid-season. However, the Sabres would likely be holding out for a first-round pick in return for him.
Would Dubas move a first-round pick to the Sabres? He’s been hesitant to do so and has quietly began to replenish the team’s stockpile of prospects in the system. As I say, moving someone like Kerfoot would help the team gain the salary-cap space to bring in someone like Hall and I can see the Maple Leafs doing that.
However, as I suggest, I hope this trade doesn’t happen.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
The Maple Leafs play the Senators on Saturday. Can Campbell extend his record of 10 wins in a row? Can Matthews score again? Can the Maple Leafs go 9-0-1 and further extend their lead in the North Division?
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Everything seems to point to the fact that the run has to end sometime, and it could on Saturday. The Senators are not a bad team and have been getting better all season. But they are a young team who’s struggling with – as are the Maple Leafs – goalie injuries. One difference is that they don’t have Campbell. That matters.