Using the old Yogi Berra adage, “It’s déjà vu all over again,” it seems that each week goes by for Toronto Maple Leafs hockey fans without any news about favorite son, and still unsigned restricted free agent (RFA), Mitch Marner. This past week has been no different.
In the meantime, there are rumors and news items emerging from the team. In this post, I will pull together some of the items I’m reading, hearing, and watching.
Item One: Matt Read Signs PTO with Maple Leafs
On Friday, the Maple Leafs announced that they had signed forward Matt Read to a professional tryout contract (PTO) Read’s signing seems like another low-risk move by general manager Kyle Dubas to shore up the bottom forward lines or add depth to the Toronto Marlies.
Similar to the way Tyler Ennis proved last season that a low-risk signee could prosper, you never know what you’ll get when you sign an experienced player who seems to have fallen out of favor. Ennis has since signed with the Ottawa Senators, but perhaps Dubas is hoping to find a similar player who brings a surprising upside.
Although the 33-year-old right-winger only played 31 NHL games over the past two seasons, Read experienced success with the Philadelphia Flyers earlier in his career. He’s scored 20+ goals in a season two times, and he’s played 449 games and scored 188 points during his NHL career. Experience does count for something, and being hungry for another chance with a contending team can be motivating.
As a Maple Leafs fan, I understand that the elite players are the team’s bread and butter, but I also look forward to seeing who, in the spate of cheap-contract experienced players Dubas has recently signed, might do well this season. Will Jason Spezza be re-born? Which, of the new players, will pan out and become a regular part of the team? That’s part of the fun of watching this version of the team.
Item Two: Interest in Shattenkirk for the Maple Leafs Defense?
The New York Rangers caught a number of hockey commentators, including myself, by surprise last Wednesday when they bought out the final two years of Kevin Shattenkirk’s four-year, $26.6 million contract. The 30-year-old, right-handed defenseman didn’t have as good a
As I noted, I was surprised he’s on the market again. However, signing Jacob Trouba and the addition of depth offered the Rangers a chance to rid themselves of his over $5 million
That Shattenkirk’s on the market might not mean anything for the Maple Leafs, but if Spezza could be signed for under $1 million, there’s a chance Shattenkirk might sign as well. He’s certainly as good or better than any of last season’s defensemen not named Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin, or Jake Gardiner.
Even if he only planned to stay for a season, an offensive defenseman like Shattenkirk who knows how to move the puck and jump into the play might leverage even a bargain contract into a bigger deal next summer. Playing with a strong offensive team like the Maple Leafs might become
I wouldn’t be surprised if Dubas might be willing to offer Shattenkirk a league-minimum deal just to see if he might get a bite.
Item Three: Kapanen Looks Forward to Playing with Barrie
This week, when Kasperi Kapanen was interviewed during Zach Hyman’s Celebrity Classic golf tournament, he shared his excitement about the Maple Leafs new players coming in. He especially had good things to say about defenseman and teammate Tyson Barrie.
Specifically, Kapanen noted that he had played against these players and now he’s excited to play with them. Although he didn’t quite put it this way, as I watched the interview I could see he was already looking forward to a breakaway pass or two from a puck-mover like Barrie. He also noted that he believed Barrie was an underrated defensive defenseman and that Barrie was a good addition to the power-play unit.
The one troubling thing I have caught during my watching of interviews this week was how often NHL players simply accepted a system of non-stop player movement within the NHL. Kapanen said, which I heard echoed earlier this week by goalie Frederik Andersen, that players moving on-and-off rosters was “just a part of hockey.”
Item Four: Nick Robertson and Mikko Kokkonen at the World Junior Summer Showcase
Two Maple Leafs 2019 NHL Entry Draft picks are taking part in this year’s World Junior Summer Showcase in Michigan this week. This event is more of a “fun” tournament than
Robertson scored a highlight-reel goal, when he picked off a Swedish defender’s pass and then deked the goalie for a beauty. It’s worth clicking the link to watch the YouTube video.
Although the one move most Maple Leafs fans await seems no closer to happening, it seems almost every week Dubas does something surprising. I look forward to what his next surprise might be.