Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Gaudette, Sandin, Kerfoot & Muzzin

News emanating from the Toronto Maple Leafs has been scarce recently. That makes for a very quiet lull in the action as the team’s 2022-23 training camp prepares to open. What are Maple Leafs’ fans to make of this space between team announcements?

In this edition of Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I look at one of my favorite Maple Leafs’ signings during the offseason – Adam Gaudette. Second, I’ll follow up on our post two days ago where Stan Smith and I wrote a player review for Jake Muzzin. Is there a chance the old Muzzin might show up this season? If he did, that would be really good for the team.

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Finally, I’ll review the Sandin negotiations. The lack of news on that front, coupled with the Ottawa Senators’ recent re-signing of fellow Swedish defenseman Erik Brannstrom, is just one more rock in the road Sandin’s team must move before he’s re-signed. It’s looking less likely the team will move a contract (with a real player attached to it) just so they can sign Sandin.   

Item One: Can Adam Gaudette Surprise Maple Leafs’ Fans?

When Adam Gaudette didn’t receive a qualifying offer from the Ottawa Senators on July 12, he signed a one-year contract with the Maple Leafs for $750,000 the next day. At the time, and perhaps they still do, most Maple Leafs’ fans probably just shrugged. Why would the team want Gaudette? 

Gaudette had played only 58 games between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Ottawa Senators last season; and, in those games, he hadn’t been especially productive. He’d put up only five goals and added nine assists (for 14 points).

But the Massachusetts native and former Hobey Baker NCAA Award winner then suited up for 10 games with Team USA during May’s world championships. In those 10 games, he scored six goals. Is there a chance he could see more than a fourth-line role with the team, or will he become a fill-in player and/or even a healthy scratch? 

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Having watched him with the Vancouver Canucks over the seasons – especially in 2018-19 when he scored 12 goals and added 21 assists (for 33 points) in 59 games, I think he has the potential to play well. I encourage fans to keep an eye on him. I think he’ll be a surprise.

Item Two: Don’t Look for the Maple Leafs to Move a Contract to Sign Rasmus Sandin

Other than Maple Leafs’ writers like myself writing about Rasmus Sandin’s contract negotiations (or lack thereof), there’s little news emerging from the team. That likely means Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas is waiting to see how Sandin will respond to the next line in the sand. That line is if he shows up at training camp even without a contract.

The Senators’ recent signing of 23-year-old RFA Erik Brannstrom doesn’t help Sandin’s case. Brannstrom re-signed for $900,000 on September 5. His numbers (14 assists in 53 games) were nearly the same as Sandin’s (16 points in 51 games) last season.

Rasmus Sandin Toronto Maple Leafs
Rasmus Sandin, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

There’s no reason for Dubas not to stay firm with Sandin. He’s already re-signed Timothy Liljegren for $1.4 million. And the left side of the defense is full enough without Sandin on the roster. 

The longer the situation goes, the less likely it would seem the Maple Leafs would make a trade just because they’re desperate to re-sign Sandin. There’s no desperation involved from what I can detect.

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For me, that might mean the team we see is the team that we get – especially at the beginning of the regular season.

That growing realization was why I wrote yesterday’s post speculating about the opening night lineup for the team. Like most other Maple Leafs’ writers, I sort of fell into the belief that Alex Kerfoot and Justin Holl would be moved. Now I’m leaning toward Kerfoot and Holl being on the team’s roster.

Item Three: Will Jake Muzzin Return to His Old Self This Season?

Although arranging for Jake Muzzin to waive the clauses on his contract that kept him in Toronto would seem difficult, there was much writing about the Maple Leafs moving Muzzin this offseason. Yet, Muzzin remains with the team. 

Muzzin had a tough season in 2021-22 and wasn’t near the player he’d been during the 2020-21 season. That said, the old Muzzin showed up during the Tampa Bay Lightning playoff series. 

Jake Muzzin Toronto Maple Leafs
Jake Muzzin, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

This is the first offseason over the past couple he hasn’t been rehabbing or recovering from an injury. What kind of a difference might that make to his play in 2022-23?

Yes, Muzzin is aging. Yes, Muzzin plays the kind of game where his body takes a beating. Still, he can be an intimidating force on the blue line and the team is better when he’s playing the game he can play. 

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In addition, the organization’s leadership trusts and respects him. He’s reputed to have a positive locker room voice; and, Jason Spezza’s retirement increases his value. The point of this note is that Maple Leafs’ fans shouldn’t look for Muzzin to move anywhere anytime soon.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

The player on the fringes of the Maple Leafs’ roster right now seems to be Nick Robertson. While I respect the young man’s tenacity, work ethic, and commitment to making the team, I don’t know where he might fit. At least not yet.

Nick Robertson Toronto Maple Leafs
Nick Robertson, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)

That doesn’t mean I’m betting against him or hoping the organization moves him. Quite the contrary. I hope he gets a chance for full time employment.

A number of storylines will emerge with training camp. Robertson’s will be one I watch. By the way, big brother Jason (Robertson) has not yet signed with the Dallas Stars.