Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Knies, Gibson Rumor, Hutton & More

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll share emerging news and rumors around the team. First, I’ll take a look at 19-year-old Matthew Knies’ year and share how he’s progressing.

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Second, and I couldn’t help myself, I’ll share another – perhaps the last – John Gibson to the Maple Leafs’ consideration. Finally, I’ll share the news that a goalie in the Maple Leafs’ system (who remembered Carter Hutton?) has retired.

Item One: Matthew Knies Year in Review

At last year’s NHL Entry Draft, the Maple Leafs chose Matthew Knies in the second round (57th overall). While Knies wasn’t a high draft choice by a long shot, he’s turned out to be far better than anticipated. 

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Knies is a 6-foot-3, 210-pound, left-winger from (of all places) Phoenix, Arizona. The 19-year-old traveled north to play with the Big 10’s University of Minnesota and finished his freshman season there last season. With the Golden Gophers, he scored 33 points (15 goals and 18 assists) in 33 games. That pace put him fifth in the NCAA in points per game among all the 2021 draft picks.

Matthew Knies University of Minnesota
Matthew Knies, University of Minnesota (Image courtesy of University of Minnesota Athletics)

Although he didn’t score amazingly well in juniors with the USHL’s Tri-City Storm, he did put up 87 career points (with 31 goals and 56 assists) in 90 regular-season games over two seasons and four points (a goal and three assists) in three playoff games. He was named to USHL’s All-Rookie First Team in 2019-20 after scoring 45 points (14 goals and 31 assists) in 44 games.

Interestingly, he also had the chance of a lifetime when the NHL didn’t send representatives to the Olympic Games. Knies made the 2022 U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey roster and ended the Games with a goal and an assist in four games.

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What makes Knies stand out among Maple Leafs’ prospects is his physical play coupled with his scoring ability. He hits all over the ice, and he can use his size to dominate the opposition. The Maple Leafs currently don’t have many power-forward types on their roster (other than perhaps Auston Matthews, whose game is typically thought to be based on skill). 

Knies’ size, skill, and temperament are his keys to future success. Is there a chance, with the needs the team will likely have filling spaces in the forward ranks if the expected departures materialize, that we might see Knies in a Maple Leafs’ uniform sometime next season?

Item Two: John Gibson Scenarios Keep Re-Appearing

Yesterday, I wrote what I thought was my last John Gibson to the Maple Leafs’ rumor, because Chris Johnston reported on the podcast First Up that the Maple Leafs weren’t interested in trading for Gibson. As 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.”

Still, the idea of such a trade is interesting and writer Mike Jack of Editor in Leaf put together what he called a “reasonable” trade “if” the Maple Leafs did want to go after Gibson. Here’s the way it would look. 

Jake Muzzin Toronto Maple Leafs
Could Jake Muzzin be traded to the Los Angeles’ area? (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Ducks would get defenseman Jake Muzzin (who played several seasons in the Los Angeles area), a second-round draft pick in 2024, goalie Petr Mrazek, and Marlies’ Joey Duszak (who’s rumored to want to be traded). 

In return, the Maple Leafs would get John Gibson, Derek Grant (a 32-year-old veteran center on a reasonable $1.5 million contract for next season), a fourth-round draft pick in 2022, and a fourth-round draft pick in 2024.

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Jack goes on to explain why such a trade makes sense and could happen, and it makes some sense. Just thought I would throw it out there for interested readers.

Item Three: Maple Leafs’ Goalie Carter Hutton Is Hanging Up His Skates

If it’s a surprise that Carter Hutton was a goalie in the Maple Leafs’ system or you forgot about the trade-deadline deal last season, you’re probably not alone. Although Hutton was a separate deal, rumor has it that he apparently was a future consideration piece of the trade that brought Ilya Lyubushkin to the Maple Leafs. 

As the February 2022 trade shook out, the Maple Leafs got forward Ryan Dzingel (who quickly was snatched off waivers) and Lyubushkin, and they sent forward Nick Ritchie and a late-round draft pick to the Arizona Coyotes. Apparently, the remainder of Hutton’s contract was moved to the Maple Leafs as a financial favor to the Coyotes as part of that deal as well.

In the end, Hutton never played with the Maple Leafs. This week, he was interviewed by his hometown Thunder Bay, Ontario, newspaper the Chronicle Journal, and noted:

“Honestly, I’ve been preparing myself for hockey to be over in some aspect for a while. The NHL has evolved into a young man’s league. The average age in the league is now in the early 20s, so I knew that this job wouldn’t be a lifelong one for me.”

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Hutton also shared that he had “suffered an ankle injury in early 2021, which made the decision a lot easier for me. It restricted a lot of the mobility I needed to be as effective as I once was. This, compiled with a few other things, helped me decide on retirement.” (from “Hutton retires from the NHL, Tom Annelin, Chronicle Journal, 14/06/2022).

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

I found something compelling about Hutton’s statement to his hometown Thunder Bay paper. It spoke to the fragility of an NHL hockey career. Hutton’s career spanned 235 games and 10 NHL seasons. He retired having really never been a regular starting goalie, but he still quit with a winning record of 94-90-27, a decent 2.76 goals-against average, and an also decent .908 save percentage. 

Jason Spezza Toronto Maple Leafs
Jason Spezza had a long NHL career, and just retired from the Toronto Maple Leafs
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

While he admitted to being old in hockey years, he’s only 36 years of age. That’s still young in “human years.” NHL careers are short. 

I know I’m old and sappy, but hats off to the young men who play this amazing game at such an emotional and physical level. Last night’s Colorado Avalanche’s win over the Tampa Bay Lightning was everything a hockey fan could have hoped for.