Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Ho-Sang, Imoo, Rielly & Galchenyuk

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll comment on a diverse number of news items that impact the organization. First, I’ll look at the potential of Josh Ho-Sang to “fit” Toronto well because of his unique cultural and ethnic background. Second, I’ll look at a hiring and firing of Dusty Imoo, who absolutely didn’t fit the ethos and the culture of the organization.

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Third, I’ll take a look at just how good Morgan Rielly has been as a defenseman and speculate that he would demand a hefty contract on the open market. Finally, I note some potentially inexpensive NHL forwards who are not yet signed to contracts and wonder whether Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas’ offseason signings are over.

Item One: Josh Ho-Sang Fits Toronto Well

I simply don’t know whether Josh Ho–Sang might or might not make the Maple Leafs’ roster after signing as a PTO. Obviously, anyone who reads my posts knows that I love a reclamation project and Ho-Sang is the very definition of that. I’d love to see him come in, do well, and provide the Maple Leafs with a viable center who could distribute the puck in the way his numbers in junior suggested he could have.

Josh Ho-Sang - Islanders
Josh Ho-Sang, New York Islanders, September 17, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

What does interest me more is that Ho-Sang is a perfect example of the ethnic diversity that the Toronto Raptors, under the direction of Masai Ujiri (who just re-upped with the team last week as their new vice-chairman and president), have embraced so well. Toronto is a wonderful city in all its diversity, and Ujiri and the Raptors’ organization have tapped the pulse of the city well. If Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas could do a similar thing with Ho-Sang – wow.

The possibility began when the Maple Leafs inked Ho-Sang to a no-risk, only-up-side professional tryout. Ho-Sang is a descendent of a rich and culturally diverse family. His mother is Jewish from Chile. His father’s from Jamaica. His mother’s and father’s families represent an even more diverse ethnic background. He’s a living example of inclusion.

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My point is that, as Howard Berger of Between the Posts noted recently, “Josh could have this city in the palm of his hands were he to straighten out whatever is curtailing his hockey career.” Again, yet another intriguing possibility signed by the always-interesting Maple Leafs’ organization.

Item Two: Dusty Imoo’s Use of Social Media Brings Him Down

In the end, Dusty Imoo’s well-documented importance to goalie Jack Campbell’s career placed second to his willingness to tweet out objectionable “political” attitudes that simply didn’t fit the Maple Leafs’ organizational ethos. This past week, in what seemed like a whirlwind of activity, Imoo was hired and fired almost as quickly as the Toronto Marlies’ goalie coach.

Imoo had come to a measure of fame for his celebrated work with current Maple Leafs’ starting goalie Campbell. The 51-year-old former goalie and now goalie coach Imoo had successfully helped Campbell pull his head and game together after it had fallen apart after Campbell was drafted by the Dallas Stars. He was expected to become an elite NHL goalie, but Campbell simply lost his way. Imoo helped him find it again, for which the Maple Leafs will ever be thankful.

But that wasn’t enough to ward off Imoo’s social media engagement. When people actually started to dig into Imoo’s social-media history, they found support for conspiracy theories, a general support of racist viewpoints and inequality, and even vocal anti-vaccine rhetoric. Such social media support just wasn’t going to fit in the current Maple Leafs’ organization where both Maple Leafs’ President Brendan Shanahan and general manager Kyle Dubas have supported and engaged inclusion and social justice. 

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To point, the Maple Leafs have hired women to prominent player development positions, have supported multicultural action in all forms, and have specifically supported inclusion for gay players in hockey and in all professional sports. Imoo’s twitter activity violated both culture and policy.

Item Three: How Good Has Morgan Rielly Been for Toronto?

To my mind, one of the most important questions Maple Leafs’ management must address is the fate of defenseman Morgan Rielly during his final contract season. When the group of strong defensemen were signed within the past few weeks, it set the financial bar pretty high for Rielly’s re-signing. 

William Nylander, Morgan Reilly
Toronto Maple Leafs Morgan Rielly celebrates with teammate William Nylander. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Hans Deryk)

In two specific examples, UFA Dougie Hamilton signed with the New Jersey Devils for $9 million and Darnell Nurse signed a contract extension with the Edmonton Oilers for an even higher $9.25 million. That begs the question of what Rielly will command on the open market and what it will likely cost the Maple Leafs to re-sign him if they choose to do so.

And, there’s plenty of reason to choose to re-sign him. For as much as some Maple Leafs’ fans have offered that Rielly isn’t that a good defenseman, the numbers beg to differ. Neither Hamilton nor Nurse has generated nearly as much offense as Rielly’s 2018-19 total of 72 points. In fact, Rielly’s second-best total of 52 points in 2017-18 also tops anything that Hamiliton or Nurse have totalled. Hamilton’s top point total is 50 and Nurse’s is 41. In addition, although to my mind Nurse is the better all-round defenseman, Hamilton is no better a defensive defenseman than Rielly for all his stated faults. 

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

The Alex Galchenyuk watch has been quiet for a while. That’s both a bit head-scratching and leads me to believe he’ll likely sign with another team. Too bad, because I liked the possibilities of his developing into a solid contributor on the Maple Leafs’ top-six. 

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The last rumor I heard was that the Montreal Canadiens, the team Galchenyuk initially played for, was expressing interest. He’s one of the players I’m watching to see where he might sign. 

Another inexpensive player I’m watching is 29-year-old Nikita Gusev, who’s an intriguing offensive left-winger. He’s still floating around without a contract. Indeed, there are NHL players still to be signed. Have the Maple Leafs’ signings ended for this offseason?