In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll try to help fans keep up with at least one rumor about a trade possibility. I’ll also share one actual trade that happened late yesterday. In addition, I’ll note a few more player movements as the Maple Leafs work to get ready for tonight’s third game of their series against the Winnipeg Jets.
Item One: Should the Maple Leafs Be Interested in Rickard Rakell?
In an article in The Athletic yesterday, Pierre LeBrun dropped a rumor that “The word from sources around NHL front offices is that the Leafs have let it be known they’re poking around for a middle-six or top-six forward with a two-way game who is hard on the puck. James Mirtle made the case this week for the Leafs to go all-in with a trade.” (from “Trade fits these 6 contenders should explore ahead of NHL deadline,” Pierre LeBrun, The Athletic, 12/03/21).
Then LeBrun moved right to the point for Maple Leafs’ fans by suggesting that Rickard Rakell, the 27-year-old Swede who’s now playing his ninth season for the Anaheim Ducks, should be someone the team looked at moving in. LeBrun noted that Rakell isn’t being shopped by the Ducks, but that he’s an “ideal fit” for the team and that the team might be willing to go “all-in” prior to this season’s NHL Trade Deadline. Or, at the least, LeBrun suggests the team should be willing to go all-in.
You’ll get no argument from me with LeBrun on the Rakell’s quality as a player. I’ve also heard his name thrown around in connection to the Maple Leafs, mostly with positive thoughts as in “that’s a good idea.” But I’ve also heard the name Mikael Granlund as the player the Maple Leafs might want. In fact, there were even rumors that the Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, who announced on the Tim and Sid Show that he’d written the name of a “mystery forward” on a piece of paper, was thinking Granlund.
LeBrun believes that, although Granlund might be an easier pick up because he’ll be a UFA at the end of the season, Rakell’s a better fit for the Maple Leafs in the long run. As LeBrun explains his logic, “They would be getting at least two possible playoff runs out of Rakell and in the event they can’t get Zach Hyman re-signed, they would have already found his replacement. If Hyman re-signs, then they’ve got the offseason to juggle the cap and figure it out.”
Both players have similar salary-cap hits: Rakell is at $3.79 million and Granlund is at $3.75 million. However, Maple Leafs fans know that general manager usually likes to trade for players with extra years on their contracts, Rakell has an extra season on his deal and that’s the kind of bonus Dubas likes.
LeBrun cautions that, because the Ducks aren’t actively shopping Rakell, it might take a really good deal for the Ducks if the Maple Leafs are to land him. LeBrun thinks the Maple Leafs would have to offer the team’s 2020 first-round draft choice – Rodion Amirov – and build from there. Is that something Dubas would be willing to do?
Item Two: Backup Goalie Jack Campbell Is Back Skating on Friday
Jack Campbell was skating again on Friday, and the word from Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe is that “his concern level for Campbell’s status is “low.” That’s an encouraging sign for fans.
Campbell has had a run of hard luck with injuries this season. He’s been great when he’s played, but it seems that every time he returns to game action (for example on Feb. 27) he’s injured and has to sit out a few more games.
Item Three: The Maple Leafs Trade Defenseman Mikko Lehtonen for Goalie Veini Vehvilainen
In a move that came out of the blue, the Maple Leafs traded defenseman Mikko Lehtonen to the Columbus Blue Jackers for goalie Veini Vehvilainen. Vehvilainen has suited up for one game with Columbus this season, one game with the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters, and 13 games with JYP of Finland’s Liiga.
Vehvilainen was presented with the Urpo Ylonen Award, which is given to the Liiga’s best goaltender. He was also named to the Liiga All-Star Team in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons when he played for Karpat.
Vehvilainen was the Blue Jackets’ 2018 sixth-round choice in the NHL Entry Draft. Last season with the Monsters he was in the net for 33 games and recorded a goals-against-average of 2.76 GAA and a save percentage of .901. Because he’s coming from the United States, he’ll have to go through a long mandatory quarantine when he lands in Toronto, so fans should not expect him to be on the ice any time soon.
Item Four: Kenny Agostino Moved Down to the Maple Leafs’ Taxi Squad
Kenny Agostino played just over four minutes in Thursday’s 4-3 overtime win over the Winnipeg Jets, but yesterday he was moved down to the team’s taxi squad. He might be called up again for tonight’s game, but would likely suffer the same fate – low minutes in a depth role for the team.
Item Five: Joseph Woll Moved Back to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies
With Jack Campbell on the mend, Joseph Woll was moved to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies on Friday. Interestingly, with all his movement up and down between the NHL’s taxi squad and the AHL, Woll hasn’t played in a single game either in the AHL or the NHL. He’s unlikely to see NHL action this season unless something very bad happens to the team in terms of injuries.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
It’s fun for me to watch the young players the Maple Leafs bring in to the team. For example, Alexander Barabanov had played in 11 games with the Maple Leafs but hadn’t scored a point. On Thursday he was moved to the Marlies and immediately scored three points (a goal and two assists) in his new team’s 4-3 win over the Laval Rocket on Friday.
It will be good to see Barabanov get some regular playing time. He scored 11 goals and nine assists (for 20 points) in 43 games for St. Petersburg SKA of the KHL in 2019-20. The previous season he’d scored 17 goals and 29 assists (for 46 points) also with St. Petersburg SKA.
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf