Things are really slowing down insofar as hockey news is going. People are responding to the call to stay home and self-quarantine in an effort to stay safe and save lives.
The NHL season is on pause; however, there are some rumors that both players and NHL governors believe it might be possible to finish the current season somewhere around late summer. That’s if the global pandemic abates. There are a number of ideas about how to complete a season that is far from complete. However, these are all – of course – speculations.
As I have been digging around, I have unearthed some of these rumors and speculations from the past week. In this post, I want to share what these are and how they might impact the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Item One: Will Denis Malgin Return to Switzerland?
Denis Malgin is a young Russian player who was raised in Switzerland. Two things make him interesting for Maple Leafs fans. First, he played with Auston Matthews during the 2015-16 Swiss National League (NLA) season with the Zürcher Schlittschuh Club Lions (ZSC Lions) – a club based in Zurich under former NHL coach Marc Crawford. Second, he came to the Maple Leafs at the trade deadline this season for Mason Marchment.
In her post yesterday for PensionPlanPuppets, Katya Knappe shared the news that, when the NLA canceled its season, each Swiss team wrote a season wrap-up article that outlined the team’s plans going forward into its next season. During that article, Malgin’s old ZCS team’s coach was asked if the team might be interested in him who, because he counts as Swiss (and each team has a cap on foreign players), would be highly coveted by any Swiss team.
The question and answer went something like this: Malgin’s on an expiring contract, would this be of interest for ZSC? The answer was a vague “I am in contact with the agents.” However, the coach also noted that, if current players stayed, the team would have filled its quota of foreign players.
Really, it’s not much of a rumor, but it does suggest that hockey conversation is occurring that might impact Maple Leafs players. I’m not even certain that general manager Kyle Dubas and the organization want Malgin back or what he might sign for if they do, but we do know that another team far on the other side of the globe would want him.
Item Two: The Campbell and Kyle Clifford Trade Isn’t Yet Completed
With the suspension of the regular season, there are all sorts of conversations about what might happen to complete the 2019-20 NHL season. If possible, the NHL would hope to engage some sort of capstone process so the league could award a Stanley Cup.
The suspended season has also impacted trades that might have been coming in the offseason, as well as trades that have already happened. Specifically, the impact of the Maple Leafs trade for goalie Jack Campbell and gritty forward Kyle Clifford remains up in the air because the season has been suspended.
The acquisition of the team’s new backup goaltender wasn’t just a player-for-player trade. It came with a condition attached to one of the third-round selections going back to the Los Angeles Kings. That is, if the Maple Leafs made the playoffs in 2019-20 and Campbell won six regular-season games, the 2021 third-round draft pick would upgrade to a second-round pick.
So, Campbell has played well, and in six games he already had three wins. If the season is canceled, he won’t get any more chances to play. The means the only way the Kings would get a second-round pick instead of a third-round pick would be if the Maple Leafs decided to re-sign Clifford.
That situation creates an interesting dilemma for the team. Do they want to keep Clifford, or do they let him walk? We’ll eventually see what happens with this one. I have every reason to believe that he is seen as valuable to the team.
Item Three: New Playoff Format Unveiled
Yesterday, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reported a rumor that the NHL has been discussing a postseason playoff format would see 24 teams have a chance to win the Stanley Cup. That format would see eight teams get a first-round bye and the remaining 16 teams playing in best-of-three series. It was also rumored that, should those series happen, the Maple Leafs and the New York Rangers would meet in one of the first three-game series.
The eight teams that would get a bye include the St. Louis Blues, the Colorado Avalanche, the Vegas Golden Knights, and the Edmonton Oilers from the Western Conference. From the Eastern Conference would be the Boston Bruins, the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Washington Capitals, and the Philadelphia Flyers.
Apparently, during the 1978 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Round 1 saw games contested over a four-day period, and this projection would match the proposed set-up. Although it isn’t a perfect solution, such a format would offer teams a chance to recoup lost revenues.
Johnston noted there’ve been suggestions of an NCAA’s March Madness-style playoff, but really who can guess?