Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Goalie Lottery, Kadri, Gibson & Varlamov

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at some of the news emerging that might be interesting to Maple Leafs fans, both from within the team and with former players. First, I’ll look at the possibility that Nazem Kadri might actually be able to play in this year’s Stanley Cup Final.

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Second, I’ll share the insights of one of our THW regular readers, William Bignell, about how Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas is conducting his business in a bit of an unusual way. Third, I’ll share more news about the Maple Leafs’ goalie situation and might be and probably isn’t on the team’s radar. 

Item One: Former Maple Leafs’ Player Kadri Might Play in Cup Final

For those Nazem Kadri fans who read Maple Leafs’ posts, there’s a chance you’ll see the former Toronto center in this year’s Stanley Cup Final. At first it looked as if Kadri would be unable to play for the Colorado Avalanche. However, after his surgery on his injured right thumb, it might not take long for Kadri to return. 

Colorado Avalanche Celebrate
Nazem Kadri, Josh Manson, Samuel Girard, and Gabriel Landeskog of the Colorado Avalanche celebrate Manson’s game-winning goal against the St. Louis Blues in Game One of the Second Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs
(Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

A report from Denver was that Kadri’s already back in the gym and should be back on the ice during the coming days. Although accurate injury information is generally tough to find at this time of the postseason, even if Kadri is not 100 percent sure it looks as if the Avalanche are anxious to use him. 

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Kadri has become a high-impact player for his team. No doubt, Colorado believes it has a better chance to win when he’s playing than when he’s sitting. If his injury allows Kadri to play, you can bet he will. 

Stay tuned.

Item Two: Maple Leafs Different Ways to Find Young Players

William Bignell, one of our regular commentators, added a note about a recent post. Although a lot of people complain bitterly about Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas’ trading away draft picks, Bignell thinks a case could be made that Dubas has offset any lack of quality draft choices with his many signings of young free agents from Europe or US colleges.

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Bignell then provides a list of some of the young players who’ve become NHLers or prospects. Here’s his list: Ilya Mikheyev, Erik Kallgren, Dryden McKay, Bobby McMann, Braeden Kressler, Alex Steeves, Pavel Gogolev, Curtis Douglas, Max Ellis, Alex Barabonov, Kirill Semyonov, and Teemu Kivihalme.

Ilya Mikheyev Toronto Maple Leafs
Ilya Mikheyev, one of the Maple Leafs best un-drafted signees
(Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Good insight. That’s a dozen young prospects and suggests there are more ways to find good young hockey talent than through the NHL Entry Draft. Obviously, there’s no argument that drafting well is crucial to any NHL team’s success. However, I want to say thanks to William for providing a sense of how the Maple Leafs are working as an organization to build its pipeline of strong prospects.

Item Three: Is All the Noise About Gibson Just Noise?

A lot of Maple Leafs’ writers, and that includes many of us – me included – at The Hockey Writers have spilled metaphorical ink writing about the possibility of a trade with the Anaheim Ducks for goalie John Gibson. However, in a recent podcast hockey insider, Chris Johnston, suggests that it ain’t necessarily so.

Related: Ducks News & Rumors: Miller, Gibson & More

If Johnston is correct, it appears that any interest the team might have had in Gibson is either inaccurate or was fleeting. Johnston reported on the podcast First Up that the Maple Leafs are not really interested in trading for Gibson. 

Johnston noted, “As far as I can tell, the Leafs don’t have interest in Gibson. I suppose that could change; but, for one reason or another, I don’t actually think this is one of the guys they are looking at.”

For what it’s worth, Johnston added that, with goaltending being the biggest focus for the team, there’s no clear sense of the direction the Maple Leafs are heading. He mentioned that talks with Jack Campbell’s agent remain unchanged, then he listed Darcy Kuemper, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Ville Husso as free agents the team might look at as July 13 approaches. 

Marc-Andre Fleury Minnesota Wild
Marc-Andre Fleury’s last team, the Minnesota Wild (Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)

Johnston’s more-recent list did not include his earlier speculation that the Maple Leafs could be interested in two-time Stanley Cup winner Matt Murray. Johnston had noted possible interest, either if Murray were bought out by the Ottawa Senators or via trade if the Senators retained part of his salary or took back a contract like Mrazek’s as part of a trade. 

There’s no chance Fleury is from Mississauga and wants to come home on a team-friendly deal, is there?

Item Four: Another Goalie Speculation: Semyon Varlamov

Just to make things interesting, yesterday Mike Augello from HockeyBuzz threw another name into the Maple Leafs’ goalie lottery. That name was New York Islanders’ veteran Semyon Varlamov.

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Augello noted that the 34-year-old veteran has played 560 games in the NHL with the Washington Capitals, the Colorado Avalanche, and now with the Islanders. Although Varlamov missed the first part of last season rehabbing off-season knee surgery, he was able to play 31 games as a backup to Ilya Sorokin with the Islanders. Although he had a not-so-inspiring record of 10-17-2, his goals-against-average was 2.91 GAA and save percentage was .911. That’s decent.

Although his days as a starter might be over, Varlamov has playoff experience and might be best-suited to be a tandem partner during the regular season. With Ilya Sorokin as the primary goalie and his team on a bit of a rebuild, might the Islanders be willing to retain a portion of his $5 million contract to move him with a year left on his deal? 

Buffalo Sabres Sam Reinhart New York Islanders Josh Bailey Semyon Varlamov
Buffalo Sabres Sam Reinhart is hit in the back by a shot as New York Islanders right wing Josh Bailey and goalie Semyon Varlamov look on. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

We do know that Varlamov has has a 16-team no-trade list and is reported to have blocked a trade to the Edmonton Oilers before the trade deadline. Even if there were interest; and, I have to think this is mostly a wild rumor, there’s no way to know if Varlamov has the Maple Leafs on his list of destinations he won’t go. 

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs? 

The week after July 13 is going to be fun for Maple Leafs’ fans. There are so many decisions up in the air; however, right now all seems quiet on the Maple Leafs front. I just don’t expect that’s the case.

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One commenter on a post believed the Maple Leafs weren’t doing anything about their goalie situation. I can’t imagine that’s true. The team usually keeps things under wraps until the first day of action. But, given how many decisions are to be made, I imagine that some have already been taken to the bank and deposited. 

We just can’t know yet. In less than a month, we’ll probably have a much better sense of where the team is going. For us oldies, as Arte Johnson used to say on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, “verry interesting.”