In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at some of the players the team might want to move or might have to move in its quest to grasp the Stanley Cup. Easing the salary-cap burden is an issue for many NHL teams, but it’s a particular issue for the Maple Leafs.
Given the re-signings that the team has already committed to (Morgan Rielly) and the need to re-sign goalie Jack Campbell or find another starter, contracts will likely have to be moved. Who are these players?
In exit interviews after the team was eliminated from the postseason, the word was that the Maple Leafs would stay the course with its core players. Still, that doesn’t mean Maple Leafs’ fans won’t see huge changes to the lineup that begins the 2022-23 regular season. What will that lineup look like?
Item One: Moving Petr Mrazek: Are the Blackhawks Interested?
By and large, Maple Leafs’ fans believe general manager Kyle Dubas simply must find a way to dump Petr Mrazek’s $3.8 million contract. The question is, does he have to sacrifice a prospect or a draft choice in the trade to make said exorcism occur. Or, can he get a return for the oft-injured goalie?
Probably the answer depends on the team Dubas trades with. If he has to dump a prospect, the team included would certainly determine which prospect moves. If a team has a need, the Maple Leafs might even pull in some return for Mrazek.
Rumor has it that the Chicago Blackhawks are interested in Mrazek. Entering the offseason, the Blackhawks have no NHL goalies under contract for next season. As a result, one part of the rumor about the Blackhawks’ interest makes sense.
There are other reasons the rumor might have legs. Logically, Mrazek fills the Blackhawks’ needs. The Blackhawks, according to rumors, are even trying to trade first-line left-winger Alex DeBrincat. That team is going through a retool or a rebuild (call it what you will). Even if everything went swimmingly, they won’t be ready to compete for a Stanley Cup for at least a couple of seasons.
Related: ‘Mr. Hockey’ Gordie Howe
In the meantime, the Blackhawks need a goalie who’s good enough to be competitive, but not so good as to elevate the team into a situation where it drafts too low to make a viable difference in their future. Logically, Mrazek might just be that kind of goalie.
Mrazek isn’t a bag of pucks; and, save for injuries, he’s had a respectable NHL career. Still, he’s not elite enough to rocket a so-so team to the top of the standings. In addition, his contract expires in two more years, which is a timeline that fits the Blackhawks’ plans for icing a competitive team.
In addition, if the Maple Leafs can add a player like defenseman Justin Holl to the trade, they’d move out even more salary-cap stress. The Blackhawks already know they’ll be sellers at the trade deadline next season, so a body to move for prospects at that time isn’t a bad idea. Might that be Holl?
With the Blackhawks, there might even be a return. If so, the Maple Leafs would be looking for a young player who carries a modest salary-cap hit. The Blackhawks also have three third-round draft choices. Might one move? (from “Can the Blackhawks solve the Maple Leafs’ Petr Mrazek problem?, Jonas Siegel and Scott Powers, The Athletic, 07/06/2022).
Item Two: Joey Anderson vs. Wayne Simmonds
What to do with veteran Wayne Simmonds? He’s a good guy who’s under contract for another season; however, he didn’t add much to the team’s success last season. Furthermore, with the Maple Leafs probably looking to promote internally from its AHL affiliate the Toronto Marlies, a number of potential candidates jump to mind.
Specifically, 23-year-old Pontus Holmberg has been a pleasant surprise after being chosen by the Maple Leafs in the sixth round (156th overall) of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. He even played for Team Sweden in the 2022 Olympic Games.
Then there’s 23-year-old Joey Anderson, who scored 26 goals last season with the Marlies. He plays with a bit of an edge, and might also be ready for prime time. Either, it seems, could earn a roster spot if they show well at the team’s training camp. As much as I like Simmonds as a stand-up player, it might be time to replace him with younger players.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
I can’t even begin to imagine what’s going on behind the scenes with the Maple Leafs’ brain trust. There’s a new goalie coach coming in, and that decision might wait until the goalie situation is more settled than it is right now.
Readers know that I’m a great Jack Campbell fan, as I was a great Zach Hyman fan. But, given Campbell’s demands (which I don’t quibble with), I can’t see him being retained by the team. The same was true with Hyman. He was great for the Maple Leafs and good luck with the Edmonton Oilers. As much as I liked him, I wouldn’t have re-signed him for what Oilers’ general manager Ken Holland gave him.
I can’t see a situation where I’m not watching both these two favorite Maple Leafs’ players become favorite former-Maple Leafs’ players.
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