Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Gardiner, Wideman, Pride, Marleau & More

There are many rumors currently swirling around the Toronto Maple Leafs, and many of these stem from general manager Kyle Dubas’ suggestions that the team would be looking for both forwards and defensemen who might want to either revive their careers by playing in the Toronto market where there’s lots of attention or engage in a legacy-move where they might have a chance to have a last crack at winning the Stanley Cup.

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In this edition of Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I will explore some of that news and even add a speculation or two about what might happen with the team.

Item One: Two Teams Interested in Jake Gardiner

Elliotte Friedman reported on Sportsnet 590 that Jake Gardiner is being wooed by two teams specifically. One was the Montreal Canadiens and the second was the Minnesota Wild. As a Gardiner fan, I am hoping the defenseman goes home to Minnesota. He lives close to the Wild’s arena and spends his off-seasons in the area.

Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Jake Gardiner speaks to reporters after a locker clean out at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, on Thursday, April 25, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

Friedman’s advice to the Gardiner camp was to sit back and see if a team panics now that so many defensemen have already come off the board. As I have reported, since Gardiner was booed so regularly by Maple Leafs fans, he would never return to the team anyway. So this rumor isn’t a surprise.

Related: Why Jake Gardiner Will Leave the Toronto Maple Leafs

Friedman said: “We’ve heard Montreal’s name with him. We’ve heard Minnesota’s name with him. I have a feeling there is something we are missing on him in terms of who is interested. I know the dream is that Toronto can work it out. I am not expecting it.”

Item Two: Is “Bad Boy” Chris Wideman a Low-Cost Pick Up?

If the Maple Leafs are looking for a right-shot defenseman with something to prove, perhaps they should look no further than Chris Wideman. Wideman was a regular on the Ottawa Senators blue line for two years, although last season he played for five different teams (the Senators, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, AHL Springfield Thunderbirds, and ending with the AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins).

Senators Defenceman Chris Wideman
Former Ottawa Senators defenceman Chris Wideman (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Wideman admits it was a wake-up call for him after his hockey-playing tour of Canada and the United States. He became infamous as part of a group of Senators who were videoed talking about their team’s woes and mocking one of the team’s coaches when they rode in an Uber during a road trip to Arizona. After the incident, Wideman manned-up, apologized, and took full responsibility for his part in the video.

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Whether he was exiled because of that incident or not, who knows? The point is that, after his awful season, he says he wants to dedicate himself to getting in shape this year and back on track. I’m not Dubas, but I’m thinking he might be a low-cost project I would be interested in.

Item Three: Dubas and Morgan Rielly March in Toronto’s Pride Parade

Editor in Leaf commentator Peri Gallacher noted that two members of the Maple Leafs organization made news by marching in the Toronto Pride parade last week. Support for Toronto’s LGBT community is especially important this year for the team because, as Maple Leafs fans recall, during the 2018-19 season Morgan Rielly was accused of making an offensive comment on the ice.

Although it was later proved that Rielly did not make the comment, the incident caused quite an issue in the Toronto community and the press. Both the Maple Leafs and the Toronto Argonauts have been active in their support of the LGBT community in recent years. That both Dubas and Rielly walked in the Toronto Pride Parade on Sunday shows how serious the team is in their support.

Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs
Morgan Rielly of the Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

For his part, Rielly specifically noted that he has long been a loud and proud supporter of the LGBT community. Dubas marching was no surprise because he has marched in the parade in past years.

Item Four: Would Valeri Nichushkin Be Worth Looking At?

I have heard no rumors that there is any Maple Leafs interest in the young right winger, but when I saw Fox Sports’ Andy Strickland’s tweet that the Dallas Stars were placing Valeri Nichushkin on waivers so the team could buy him out, I wondered if he might be a possibility for a cheap depth forward for the team.

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Last off-season, Nichushkin signed a two-year contract at just under $3 million AAV, but didn’t score a goal in 57 games this past season. Although that isn’t at all good, the 24-year-old right winger has size at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds. And, he was picked at #10 in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. So, obviously he’s shown skill.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he returned to Russia to play, but if he didn’t he might be another Tyler Ennis-type prospect to come in, play well, and revive a now moribund career.

Item Five: Could Patrick Marleau Re-sign with the Maple Leafs?

Here’s a huge “what-if.” Now that the Maple Leafs have traded Patrick Marleau to the Carolina Hurricanes and divested themselves of his contract, would it be possible that Marleau might actually re-join the team?

Toronto Maple Leafs Patrick Marleau Andreas Johnsson
Former Toronto Maple Leaf Patrick Marleau celebrates with Andreas Johnsson (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)

Specifically, he has moved his family back to the family home in the San Jose area and has clearly stated that he wants to play with his old team. But, what if the Sharks aren’t interested? Would it be beyond the realm of possibility that he signs a league minimum contract with the Maple Leafs?

Marleau seems to have a strong relationship to the team’s young stars, and in a role as a depth player, he might bring something valuable to the team.

I know this is a really long shot, but is it impossible in today’s weird and wonky NHL?

Item Six: 10 More Cheap Contract Possibilities for the Maple Leafs

It seems as if everyone is trying to help the Maple Leafs by speculating what NHL players might come back as league minimum players. In the June 29 issue of The Athletic, Ian Tulloch listed 10 cheap, value players who might fit the team’s needs.

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This list includes: Brandon Pirri, Kenny Agostino, Brandan Leipsic, Dmitrij Jaskin, Tyler Ennis, Sven Andrighetto, Ryan Carpenter, Marcus Kruger, Tim Heed, and even Patrick Marleau (from ‘Tulloch: Finding the next Tyler Ennis — 10 bargain options in free agency’, The Athletic – 6/29/19)­.