In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Notes, I’ll take a look at the news that Mark Giordano has signed with the team for really good value. I’ll also look at the possible ripple effects of that signing.
Third, I’ll look at a list of players who might not be in Blue and White uniforms next season. Fourth, I’ll wonder about how Maple Leafs’ fans might feel now that the Tampa Bay Lightning are running away with their second-round series and might be on their way to a third straight Stanley Cup win.
Finally, I’ll also comment on whether the play of the Edmonton Oilers against a favored Calgary Flames team might inspire the Maple Leafs’ elite players.
Item One: The Price of a Stanley Cup for Mark Giordano
There’s a celebration in Hogtown today. Mark Giordano is staying home in Toronto and has signed for a huge hometown discount. The Maple Leafs announced yesterday that they had inked the one-time Norris Trophy defenseman (he won the Norris in 2018-19) for two years at an AAV of $800,000 for those seasons.
Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas said about Giordano’s signing that “Everything (Giordano) does is done to help the team win, and that includes a tremendous sacrifice in this contract negotiation.”
And a sacrifice it was. If Maple Leafs’ fans believe the salary speculations, on the open market Giordano’s contract value would have been something like $6.3 million per year according to The Athletic’s Dom Luszczyszyn. Giordano’s previous salary-cap hit was $6.75 million.
Listening to Giordano being interviewed after the postseason had been completed, he admitted he was looking to sign with a team that allowed him a chance to win the Stanley Cup. Putting two and two together means that Giordano was willing to bet millions of dollars (about $11 million actually) that the Maple Leafs could be winners over the next two seasons. The contract calls for Giordano to play with the Maple Leafs until he’s 40 years old.
Related: Vladislav Tretiak: Goaltending Guru
Giordano, who’s a native of Toronto, scored 35 points in 75 games last season and had solid underlying analytics – especially on defense. With this signing, the Maple Leafs now have five defensemen signed for next season – Giordano, Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin, T.J. Brodie, and Justin Holl. They also have three defensemen – Rasmus Sandin, Timothy Liljegren, and Ilya Lyubushkin who are free agents. Can they all stay?
Item Two: Is It the Best Time to Trade Jake Muzzin?
It seems certain that Giordano’s signing will produce ripple effects throughout the Maple Leafs’ roster. Specifically, although Jake Muzzin played a lot better during the playoffs than he did during the regular season, with a contract of $5.625 million a year and regular injury concerns, might it be time to move him?
Two things might make Muzzin easy enough to move right now. As far as Muzzin’s play is concerned, he’s again proved he’s a playoff warrior. As far as his salary is concerned, he’ll receive a $2 million signing bonus on July 1st, which makes him “cash cheap” against his salary-cap hit.
Cash-wise, he’d have $6 million remaining over the last two years of his contract. Moving Muzzin might be easier now than later and significantly reduces the Maple Leafs’ salary-cap issues.
Item Three: Someone (or Two or Three) Will Be Gone Next Season
For some reason, when I was thinking about the possible moves the Maple Leafs will make prior to next season, the Sesame Street song – “Which of These Things Belong Together?” – came to my memory. A number of players on the Maple Leafs’ roster won’t be returning.
Which of the players on the following list won’t be a part of the 2022-23 opening night Toronto roster? Goalies Petr Mrazek and/or Jack Campbell. Forwards Ilya Mikheyev and/or Alex Kerfoot. Defensemen Muzzin and/or Justin Holl. Even if half this list left it would represent a pretty big turnover.
Item Four: Maple Leafs’ Fans, How Do You Feel About the Lightning Clobbering the Panthers?
Last season, the Florida Panthers won the President’s Trophy by scoring the most points in the NHL (with 122 points). However, they’re currently being crushed in their second-round series to the Tampa Bay Lighting three games to none. The Lightning won both games in the Panthers building and then their first game on home ice.
Given that the Maple Leafs could have/should have won the sixth game in Tampa Bay if it were not for a couple of iffy high-sticking penalties and (now) the same team they could have beaten is dominating its next opponent, does that make you re-think your frustration with the current Maple Leafs’ team?
As an old friend used to say, “Just sayin.”
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
I’m not sure if Maple Leafs’ players are watching hockey these days or not. Although all the different second-round series have their moments, I’ve been watching the Battle of Alberta; and, it’s by far the most exciting of the series right now.
As my often collaborator Stan emailed me this morning, seeing Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl perform as they have in the playoffs could inspire players like Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner to take that next step in their development.
McDavid is playing a different game at a different speed than anyone else on the ice. For my money, he’s the best of the best.
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