Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Gardiner, Marleau, Gilmour, Prospects

Another day went by without news regarding the Mitch Marner negotiations. That said, there are news items and a number of rumors seem to be floating around the Toronto Maple Leafs. In this post, I will recap what I’m reading and hearing about the team.

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Gardiner, Kerfoot, Rielly, Schmaltz

Item One: Is Jake Gardiner Coming Back to the Maple Leafs?

Jake Gardiner remains unsigned, which seems a surprise to me. I just cannot believe there isn’t a team willing to take a chance on the speedy defenseman. There’s even been some talk about the possibility of Gardiner returning to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Is there a chance he might?

If Kyle Dubas has his way, there’s a chance. Gardiner’s just the kind of puck-moving, stretch-passing, speedy defenseman Dubas loves on his team. What an addition he would be with a revamped defense that now includes Morgan Rielly, Tyson Barrie, Travis Dermott, and Jake Muzzin.

Of course, there’s one problem — that darn salary cap. Unless restricted free agent Marner makes good on his veiled threats (would he really go to Switzerland?) to leave the team, there’ll be little salary-cap space left if Marner actually signs.

Despite recent reports that Gardiner might be waiting for the situation in Toronto to clear itself up, Sportsnet’s hockey commentator Elliotte Friedman doesn’t believe that’s the case. Friedman believes his logical move would be to try to showcase his talents (I think that means collecting big scoring numbers) so he can leverage a stellar season into a lucrative contract down the road.

Jake Gardiner, Frederik Andersen
Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner congratulates goaltender Frederik Andersen (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP /David Zalubowski)

However, given the situation in Toronto, Friedman believes he simply won’t be able to get enough ice time — even if he’s completely healthy. Here’s why. Given the current defensemen with the Maple Leafs, Friedman thinks the best Gardiner would do is to get third-pairing minutes and limited power play time. Not having quality offensive opportunities would deflate his numbers and make him less attractive to other teams in the near future.

Related: NHL Rumors: Gardiner, Hall, Wild, Penguins, More

However, Friedman might be completely wrong about the playing time he would get with the Maple Leafs. Coach Mike Babcock has shown that he trusts Gardiner, and even when he’s been injured — he was playing with a bad back for much of the last half of the season — he’s had ample ice time. Given that relationship history, if he is playing well, he’ll continue to have plenty of time on the ice (TOI). Specifically, last season, after Morgan Rielly’s average of 23:07 TOI per game, Gardiner was second with an average of 21:13 TOI.

Friedman also believes Gardiner has other options. He thinks Arizona is interested and Buffalo might be if they move Rasmus Ristolainen, as they are rumored anxious to do. However, he believes the contract won’t be as lucrative as Gardiner hoped it would be.

Item Two: Might Patrick Marleau Move to the Edmonton Oilers?

THW rumors writer Jim Parsons reported an odd bit of news out of Edmonton. Edmonton-based hockey commentator Kurt Leavins tweeted that he believed Patrick Marleau checked all the boxes for a team like the Edmonton Oilers, who hope to bring in a veteran winger on a short-term, value contract.

Jaroslav Halak, Patrick Marleau
Boston Bruins’ Jaroslav Halak makes a save on former Toronto Maple Leafs’ Patrick Marleau (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)

Although it’s likely true that Marleau would be a benefit to the team, one would think that Marleau (a player who wanted to move his family closer to his California home) would think more than twice about signing on in Edmonton for a season. Growing up in rural Saskatchewan, he probably wouldn’t be afraid of the Edmonton winters.

However, as Parsons noted, he’s likely to sign with the San Jose Sharks, perhaps even after the season begins.

Item Three: Doug Gilmour Weighs in on Being Maple Leafs Captain

Late last week, during an interview with TSN’s Mark Masters, Doug Gilmour shared his memories about becoming captain of the Maple Leafs 25 years ago. He was named captain when Wendel Clark was traded to the Quebec Nordiques in 1994-95.

Gilmour certainly had earned the honor — he was one of the most popular players on the team and served as a spokesman for the National Hockey League’s Players Association. He also was great with the media and did a fair amount of charity work within the city. He was also well-known for his milk commercials, one which included his wife Amy.

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During his interview, Gilmour said that it was a great honor to be Maple Leafs captain. He also noted that, as captain, he learned from people above him what leadership was — especially the work ethic that was necessary to lead.

The Toronto market, he believed, differed from other NHL markets because of the pressure involved. When he was wearing the “C,” he thought you had to be “the hardest-working guy in practice.” He tried to be.

Related: Wendel Clark for Mats Sundin: 25 Years Later

When asked if he had any insights into the player the Maple Leafs should name as a captain, he didn’t bite. His only comment was that the team would choose wisely.

Item Four: Maple Leafs Announce Their 2019 Prospects Tournament Roster

On Aug. 26, the Maple Leafs announced their 32-man roster for the 2019 Traverse City Prospects Tournament at Centre ICE Arena in Traverse City, Michigan. The roster includes 18 forwards, 11 defensemen, and 3 goaltenders.

This year will be the first time the Maple Leafs compete in the eight-team tournament. They’ll play prospects from the Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild, New York Rangers, and St. Louis Blues. 

Mikhail Abramov of the Victoriaville Tigres
Maple Leafs Draft Pick Mikhail Abramov of the Victoriaville Tigres
(Denis Morin/Victoriaville Tigres)

Notable players on the Maple Leafs roster are two 2019 NHL Entry Draft picks (Nicholas Roberston and Mikhail Abramov), four 2018 draft picks (Semyon Der-Arguchintsev, Mac Hollowell, Filip Kral, and Riley Stotts), 2017 draft pick Ian Scott, two 2016 draft picks (Egor Korshkov and Joseph Woll), and 2015 draft pick Jesper Lindgren

What’s Next?

September is coming, and it’s almost time to see who’ll end up on the regular-season roster. My colleague and fellow Maple Leafs commentator for The Hockey Writers, Peter Baracchini, wrote a good post projecting how the team would stack up, line-by-line. It’s worth a read. Just follow the link below.

Related: Maple Leafs’ 2019-20 Projected Lineup