Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Rielly Trade Rumor, Andersen to Penguins?

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at a trade rumor involving Morgan Rielly that’s out there but that makes no little sense to me. I’ll also look at a rumor that goalie Frederik Andersen might have a suitor in the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Item One: Is a Morgan Rielly Trade Likely?

Although I read most of the so-called hockey insiders, the two I consider most trustworthy are Elliotte Friedman and Chris Johnston. So, it was both odd and interesting to read Johnston’s comments during a Steve Dangle Podcast that there was “going to be like one player on this roster on opening night that is going to get everyone excited. I’m talking like a big name, a big promise player and no one’s gonna see it coming.” 

Morgan Rielly Toronto Maple Leafs
Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Obviously, although on one hand it seems a bit overly dramatic, it also heightens my interest in two ways. First, I care who’s coming. Second, I care who’s leaving. As always, it seems, the biggest issue facing the Maple Leafs this off-season is salary-cap space. To make something exciting happen as Johnston suggests it might, the team will have to trade a core player with an expensive contract.  

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Which Internal UFAs Will Dubas Re-Sign?

Because general manager Kyle Dubas has stated he won’t trade Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, or William Nylander, to me there’s only one player on the roster who fits the criteria to be traded and that’s Morgan Rielly.

Why Rielly Makes Sense as a Trade Commodity

Rielly makes sense because (a) he has a big enough salary to make a difference, (b) he’s on an expiring contract that puts Dubas and the organization behind the eight ball insofar as options goes, (c) he’d likely garner interest – especially after a relatively strong playoff series, (d) there’s some thought that it’s time the Maple Leafs promoted from within (which likely means Rasmus Sandin is seen as ready).

Conversely, it’s tough to let someone like Rielly move. He’s been nothing but a good citizen and a person I thought was likely to be captain material. He’s also a darn good player.

Why the Rumors of Rielly for Kane Rumors Don’t Make Sense

What makes no sense to me is the rumor that Stanley Sweeney from nhltraderumors put forth that the Maple Leafs are talking to the San Jose Sharks and that the two players involved are Rielly and Evander Kane. Although that rumor is ascribed to a “source close to the Leafs,” not much about this rumor makes sense to me.

Evander Kane San Jose Sharks
Evander Kane, San Jose Sharks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

First, there’s no doubt that Kane is a good hockey player; however, by reputation, he’s exactly the kind of player the Maple Leafs haven’t gone after – I believe – as a matter of policy. The Maple Leafs seek character players who fit more the mold of a Nick Foligno. Kane doesn’t seem from that same mold.

Second, not much about the money makes sense – at least right now during the flat salary-cap squeeze brought on by the pandemic? The only contractual thing Kane offers the team now is term. He’s signed through the 2024-25 season.

Still, as a Player, Kane Is Attractive

Still, the narrative is that Maple Leafs’ management is after some killer instinct and needs to become even harder to play against. It also makes sense that Dubas is after a left-winger who plays a “heavy game;” and, given those desires, Kane might fit the bill from a hockey perspective.  

Related: ‘Mr. Hockey’ Gordie Howe

As a player, Kane would fit the Maple Leafs’ second line of John Tavares and William Nylander. And, regardless of his multiple off-ice issues, even with the Sharks Kane never stopped scoring. Putting up 49 points in 56 games last season on that Sharks’ team strikes me as quite a feat. The Maple Leafs would be bringing in about 30 goals each season based upon Kane’s recent body of work.   

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

Although this trade makes no sense to me because it’s Kane coming in, I can see Rielly being moved before he’s gone via free agency. Sadly, that part of the rumor I can buy.

Item Two: Is Frederik Andersen Moving to the Pittsburgh Penguins?

Dan Kingerski, of Pittsburgh Hockey Now, named Frederik Andersen as a goalie the Pittsburgh Penguins will be looking at. It’s always interesting to read about players who are on the Maple Leafs’ roster from non-Toronto media sources. Kingerski spins Andersen’s strong body of work and notes that, although Andersen was less than stellar in the regular season, he does have solid postseason numbers.

Related: Penguins Should Focus on Maple Leafs Roster for Upgrades

Andersen’s likely to move somewhere, and the fact that the Penguins’ general manager is former goalie Ron Hextall and that Brian Burke is part of the brain trust in Pittsburgh might be a boon to Andersen’s attractiveness. Certainly, Burke has been critical of the way the Maple Leafs’ have gone about building this team, so he might see Andersen more as a victim of Maple Leafs’ organizational ineptitude than a cause of the team’s playoff series’ losses. In that case, it would be the system rather than the goalie.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

With the NHL’s regular season schedule returning to the conference and divisional pattern used prior to the pandemic in 2021-22, next year’s regular season will be no walk in the park for the Maple Leafs or for any of the Atlantic Division teams. Even making the playoffs will be tough.

This season, in addition to the Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens, the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Florida Panthers made the playoffs. Next season, the Ottawa Senators should also be a rising team. Competition is good for the NHL, but it’s going to make the Maple Leafs’ Stanley Cup quest even more difficult.

Related: Zach Hyman Won’t Be Leaving the Maple Leafs or Toronto

It’s hard not to think that the team was one lucky puck bounce away the from being in the final four. I’m not one to embrace pessimism; however, it’s tough not to see this 2020-21 season as a missed opportunity for the organization.

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