Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Kapla & Johnston Sign, Marner, Kadri

Another day without news from the Toronto Maple Leafs and unsigned restricted free agent (RFA) Mitch Marner. Although the negotiations are on every Maple Leafs fan’s mind, there is other news about the organization. Here is some of what I’ve been reading.

Item One: Toronto Marlies Sign Michael Kapla and Ryan Johnston

It’s always good to have extra defensemen in the organization. This week, the Toronto Marlies added two defensemen through minor league deals: Michael Kapla (left-shot) and Ryan Johnston (right-shot).

Ryan Johnston, when he played with the Montreal Canadiens.
(Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports)

Kapla is a 24-year-old who moved from the New Jersey Devils to the Minnesota Wild last season, when he had two goals and 22 assists in 66 games. Although he’s getting a bit old for a prospect, because some defensemen mature later, he’s not a bad pick up. The team seems interested to see if he might develop into a solid defenseman.

The Marlies also signed the 27-year-old Johnston, who scored 22 points in 50 games last season with Mora IK, a Swedish professional ice hockey club from Dalarna in the middle of Sweden. The forward played ten games for the Montreal Canadiens from 2015-2017 but didn’t score. He too has probably been signed to add depth, in case defensemen from the Marlies make the big club.

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: All About Marner

Item Two: Mitch Marner Won’t Attend Training Camp if He’s Unsigned

Dave McCarthy of reported that Marner stated that he’ll skip training camp if he hasn’t signed to a contract by then. There’s still about two months left before it begins, so we’ll see what happens in that time.

Skipping training camp is standard behavior for unsigned players. It’s risk to play without a contract in case of injury. If that happened, there’s no compunction on the Maple Leafs part to sign an injured player.

Still, the thought of Marner repeating William Nylander’s terrible season is intolerable. As Maple Leafs fans know too well, Nylander’s holdout had dreadful results. His only redemption came during the 2019 World Championships, where he led the tournament in scoring.

Mitch Marner (Photo taken by Katie Whitty.)

I can’t imagine that Marner would pull a Nylander and risk similar struggles. Furthermore, I can’t imagine the fans would be patient with such a risky move by one of their favourite sons. It’s a tricky negotiation for both sides and whenever Marner is interviewed, he repeatedly notes that he’s letting his agent run the process.

Item Three: Nazem Kadri Tried Hard to Stay with Maple Leafs

Nazem Kadri was traded to the Colorado Avalanche in a blockbuster deal that brought star defenseman Tyson Barrie back to Toronto. However, Kadri resisted that trade as long as he could. During a recent interview with Jim Tatti and Carlo Colaiacovo on TSN’s 1050 radio, he shared the process he went through as he learned he was leaving the Maple Leafs:

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“Probably a week before July 1, things really started to pick up. I figured there might be a chance that I wouldn’t start the season with Toronto but I also figured, you know, there’d be a chance I would. I tried to do everything I could to stay in place and wanted to be part of the Leafs and I felt like I had a lot more to give them. But ultimately they made a decision to move me and I’m just excited to join my new team.”

Listening to Kadri, it’s hard to deny he wanted to stay; however, he now says he’s looking forward to the change of “scenery.” One thing he noted, is that Colorado is the second-sunniest state in the United States. He’s also offering suggestions for his new team. Ever the Canadian, he’s pushed the Avalanche to bring back the Quebec Nordiques jerseys the team wore prior to moving to Denver.

Quebec Nordiques Jersey (THW Archives)

Kadri is looking forward to playing with Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Mikko Rantanen and also suggested that Denver “was one of my favourite road cities to travel to.”

Item Four: Goalie Ian Scott Is Moving Up Maple Leafs’ Depth Chart

Ian Scott, the 20-year-old goalie prospect, is looking forward to playing with the Marlies next season. The 6-foot-3, 170 pound Scott, who was selected in the fourth round (#110 overall) during the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, helped lead the Prince Albert Raiders to the Western Hockey League championship last season with a 38-8-2 record and a 1.83 goals-against average and .932 save percentage.

Scott noted during the Maple Leafs’ development camp, “I want to play with the Marlies and make the transition to professional hockey.” It looks as if the organization believes he’ll continue to move up the ladder towards the Maple Leafs roster.

Team Canada and Toronto Maple Leafs prospect goaltender Ian Scott
Team Canada and Toronto Maple Leafs prospect goaltender Ian Scott. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)

Scott represented Canada at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championships and became friends with 21-year-old Joseph Woll, another Maple Leafs goalie prospect he met at the team’s development camp. Woll was chosen during the third round (# 62 overall) of the 2016 NHL Draft.

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Woll believes Scott is “a tremendous goalie” and a “spectacular person to be around as well.” He enjoys engaging in “friendly competition.” And, because both want to play for the Maple Leafs, they’ll be “constantly pushing each other.”

What’s Next?

Who knows when there’ll be more news about Marner? Until then, general manager Kyle Dubas continues to make small moves that fortify the team and its chances to compete well next season.