Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Marner, Nylander, Tavares, Depth Signings

One more week and no news about the Mitch Marner and Toronto Maple Leafs contract negotiations. My friend and true-blue-and-white Maple Leafs fan Joe even emailed me to wonder whether Marner hasn’t already been signed but that the signing hasn’t yet been announced. Such is the life of an expectant Maple Leafs fan. We simply don’t know.

Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs, Calder Trophy
Mitch Marner (Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports)

In the meantime, here’s some of the news and rumors that I have been hearing about the team.

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Item One: Marner Rumored to Miss Training Camp?

Will Marner pull a William Nylander and remain unsigned at the beginning of the 2019-20 season? In a rumor about what Marner’s plans might be for the summer, a report by French-Canadian hockey commentator Renaud Lavoie on Sportsnet 590 expects that Marner will likely miss the Maple Leafs training camp, but still believes “Marner will be a Maple Leaf for a long time.”

Lavoie believes that, although Marner won’t train with the team, that doesn’t mean he’ll actually miss any regular-season games. If this is accurate, I keep wondering what anyone learned last season after Nylander’s extended holdout.

Toronto Maple Leafs' William Nylander
Toronto Maple Leafs’ William Nylander (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete, File)

Nylander might not have missed all the 2018-19 season, but it was likely one he should have missed. Even in the games he played, he was of little value to the team, and his dismal showing lasted throughout the playoffs. Marner’s obviously not Nylander, but would he really want to take the chance of imploding on the ice in the same manner Nylander did? Furthermore, from what I’ve been seeing and hearing, Nylander hasn’t yet won his fans back. I, for one, hope Marner doesn’t miss any time on the ice – pre-season or regular season.

Item Two: Maple Leafs Sign Seven Depth Players

For those who follow the Maple Leafs, it’s interesting to see how Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas has been making signing decisions. Specifically, on July 23, he traded for David Clarkson’s contract as a way to clear salary-cap space using the long-term injured reserve (LTIR). Then, on July 25, the Maple Leafs signed seven players. All these players were signed to one or two-year contracts and were players who’ve been consistently successful in the minor leagues but who’ve not been able to translate that success to the NHL-level.

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Specifically, Cap Friendly reported that the players signed include Pontus Aberg (one year at $700,000), Kenny Agostino (two years at $737,500), Tyler Gaudet (one year at $700,000), Kalle Kossila (two years, two–way contract at $700,000), Nick Shore (one year at $750,000), Garrett Wilson (one year at $725,000), and Kevin Gravel (one year at $700,000). For those who have speculated that the Maple Leafs were destined to fill out its NHL roster with players making less than $1 million per season, the signing of these seven players is proof positive that is Dubas’ plan.

Wild forward Pontus Aberg
Former Minnesota Wild forward Pontus Aberg (Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)

Each one of these players is potentially a depth player on the team’s roster. Some might be moved to the Toronto Marlies at the beginning of the 2019-20 season.

Item Three: William Nylander Has a New Hairstyle

In a post that shows just how hard up Maple Leafs fans (including me) seem to be for news during the off-season, reported that Nylander was successful in gaining the approval of NHL Hall of Fame legend Eric Lindros about his uniform change, and has returned to his old number #88 he wore with Team Sweden. However, he’s been less successful in gaining the approval of his teammates about the change in his summer “do.” He’s been taking some mild ribbing for his latest hairstyle change.

His new hairstyle is clearly evident from this post on Twitter.

Item Four: Tavares Has Second-Best Odds to Win “Rocket” Richard Trophy Next Season reported that new odds were posted by Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook about who would win the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy for scoring the most goals during the coming 2019-2020 season. The oddsmakers listed the Washington Capitals Alex Ovechkin first, the Maple Leafs John Tavares second, and the Edmonton Oilers Connor McDavid third. The top ten players and their odds are:

Player Odds
Alex Ovechkin 7/1
John Tavares 10/1
Connor McDavid 12/1
Patrik Laine 14/1
Alex DeBrincat 16/1
Auston Matthews 16/1
Leon Draisaitl 18/1
Nathan MacKinnon 18/1
Nikita Kucherov 20/1
Patrick Kane 20/1

Last season, Ovechkin won the “Rocket” Richard Trophy for the second season in a row and for a league-record eighth time by scoring 51 goals in 81 games. In his first season as a Maple Leaf, Tavares scored 47 goals and finished third in the league behind the Edmonton Oilers Leon Draisaitl, who scored 50 goals.

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Toronto Maple Leafs John Tavares
Toronto Maple Leafs centre John Tavares (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

McDavid scored 41 goals to come in sixth (tied with five other players) and came in second to the Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov in the NHL scoring race (the Art Ross Trophy). Kucherov had 128 points and McDavid had 116 points.

What’s Next?

For Maple Leafs fans, after the 2019-20 season starts, it will be interesting to evaluate the moves Dubas made over the summer. Right now he’s making a large number of signings in what seems to many Maple Leafs fans as a bit baffling given the salary-cap pinch the team is under with Marner remaining unsigned.

Kyle Dubas, Toronto Maple Leafs
Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas
(Rene Johnston/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Personally, I’m wondering if there are things going on in the Marner-Maple Leafs negotiations that are exceedingly hush-hush and remain hidden from the public.

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Just to throw out an unsubstantiated idea, is it possible Marner’s already been signed – at least in principle – but that signing hasn’t yet been announced because all the salary-cap moves have not been made? I’ve heard no rumors that this is the case, but it might explain some of Dubas’ recent moves.

Furthermore, if that were so, perhaps that’s not such a bad thing in today’s NHL, where commentators seem so connected that fans often get news before it happens. Maybe I’m optimistic that Dubas is hiding some good news from Toronto fans without anyone getting wind of it. We’ll see.