Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Muzzin, Kadri, Robertson & Dubas

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at Jake Muzzin and why I believe he should be valued as a player. It’s been an all-over-the-place offseason for Muzzin in the media. Second, I’ll report that Nazem Kardi has generously donated $1 million to a London, Ontario, surgical unit.

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Third, I’ll remind fans of Kyle Dubas’ invitation to a group of Toronto Marlies’ forwards about open roster spots on the team. Fourth, I’ll share my thoughts about one Maple Leafs’ player I’m particularly rooting for this season – that’s Nick Robertson.

Item One: Imagine the Lineup If the Maple Leafs Wanted to Trade Jake Muzzin

I’ve been thinking about Jake Muzzin a bit over the past weeks. I admit that, over this offseason, I assumed the team might be better off if Muzzin were moved. In fact, I admit that I jumped in like many others to write about where he might wish to be traded if the team could convince him to waive a clause or two. I feel now I was premature going there. 

Jake Muzzin Toronto Maple Leafs
Jake Muzzin, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

In yesterday’s post, I noted that this was the first off-season since before the Maple Leafs played the Columbus Blue Jackets in August 2020 where Muzzin has been healthy. Since then, he always seems to be healing or rehabbing an injury. I have to think coming into the season healthy will make a difference in his play in 2022-23.

One thing that convinced me to change my mind on Muzzin is the line up of teams who’d be interested should the Maple Leafs put Muzzin on the market. He was back to his intimidating ways against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the postseason. When he’s healthy, he’s a keeper.

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For heaven’s sake, the Columbus Blue Jackets signed 30-year-old Erik Gudbranson to a $4 million contract during the summer and the Detroit Red Wings signed 31-year-old Ben Chiarot to a $4.75 million contract – both defensemen through the 2025-26 season. I think Muzzin is every bit as good as these players when he’s healthy. 

If he is, it could be a season-changer for this team. I took him for granted until he wasn’t his old self. My bad.

Item Two: Nazem Kadri Donates $1 Million to London Hospital

Like him or not, or think he’s a good player or not, you can’t fault Nazem Kardi for a lack of generosity or community spirit. In the news yesterday, it was announced that Kadri had given back to his hometown London, Ontario, by donating $1 million to the London Health Sciences Centre.

The donation was earmarked to go to the Ambulatory Surgical Centre, which will now be renamed the Nazem Kadri Surgical Centre in his honor.

Kadri noted that, “as a kid growing up in London, Ontario, my community was very important to me and my family.” 

Kadri added, “As I got older, I felt the need to contribute back to the community that raised me. I’m honored to give back to my community by establishing the Nazem Kadri Surgical Centre.”

The newly renamed Nazem Kadri Surgical Centre offers services for low-risk and less complex surgeries. In August, Kadri had celebrated his Stanley Cup win by sharing the Cup itself with the community at the London Muslim Mosque.

As fans know, this offseason Kadri signed a seven year, $49 million contract with the Calgary Flames.

Item Three: Remembering Dubas’ Message to the Toronto Marlies

There’s an interesting question for fans to consider as the Maple Leafs’ training camp begins. Which Toronto Marlies’ players will make the Maple Leafs opening night roster? 

After the 2021-22 season had ended, Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas met with a number of Marlies’ forwards (Nick Robertson and Joey Anderson, among others) to deliver news that there would be open roster spots on the Maple Leafs. Obviously, he wanted to encourage these players to fight hard to make the team.

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The news Dubas delivered, in his own words, was about opportunities that would be available during training camp. Dubas noted, “We do need those players to begin converting from being good prospects and Marlies to being good players for the Leafs.”

Dubas also added that “There are guys who may not have as high a profile but can play specific roles and provide specific elements, whether it is speed, physicality, power, or presence. A Bobby McMann, Curtis Douglas, Joey Anderson — players in that mould — in addition to the Robertsons and the like. That is where the focus will be for sure.”

Bobby McMann Toronto Marlies
Bobby McMann, Toronto Marlies (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Such a message had to be encouraging, but it also is necessary. Similar to many other NHL clubs, the team’s pay scale structure would greatly benefit if they could receive solid production from a Marlies’ forward (or two or three) who earns less than $800,000. 

As an aside, if fans think the Maple Leafs are in trouble, they should look at what’s happening in the Nevada desert with the Golden Knights. That team seems to be dismantling.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

In yesterday’s post, I noted that I couldn’t see where Nick Robertson fit into the Maple Leafs’ lineup. But that doesn’t mean I think he should be moved out or his work diminished. Quite the contrary. 

If I could grant wishes to certain Maple Leafs’ players this season, I’d focus on those who are recovering from injuries. Those include Muzzin, who I noted previously, and players like Adam Gaudette, who suffered a debilitating stomach malady that caused him to lose strength and weight. 

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In that group, I include Robertson. His work ethic has been so diligent and his determination so pronounced that I can’t help but hope he gets a chance to make the roster. He’s a fighter, and I appreciate fighters. 

No gifts for Robertson, just a season where he remains injury free and has a chance to grow in his abilities – whatever those might be.