Let’s hope Kyle Dubas likes to use speaker phone because if not, you have to worry about his cheeks this time of year. The Toronto Maple Leafs’ general manager (GM) has been busy working the phones, looking for ways to clear cap space and make room for some fresh talent. While a number of different players have been linked to the Maple Leafs these past few weeks, recent reports of the team being in contact with the San Jose Sharks certainly caught my eye. Let’s test the waters to see if we can make sense of all the ripples.
Maple Leafs Love Sharks Bruising Defenseman
According to Pierre LeBrun of TSN, Dubas and Sharks GM, Doug Wilson have been in contact regarding defenseman Jacob Middleton. The asking price is a package that must include a second-round pick and either another mid-round draft pick or a prospect as Middleton’s stock has skyrocketed this season. The 6-foot-3 native of Stratford, ON has played a career-high 42 games this season, his previous high was 10 back in 2019-20.
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Middleton has managed to find his game this season as he’s become a physical presence for the Sharks top-four. Playing alongside the likes of Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson, the former seventh-round pick of the Los Angeles Kings has been laying bone-crushing hits and blocking close to two shots a game. Don’t expect much offense out of the 26-year-old pending restricted free agent who is making $725,000 against the cap, he’s only tallied three goals and nine points so far this season.
The lack of offense doesn’t matter anyways as Dubas and the Maple Leafs would love to insert him into the left-side of their blue line to help keep the puck out of their own net and to add a little bit of nasty the Leafs so desperately need. Middleton isn’t afraid to stick up for his teammates and throw hands, racking up 62 penalty minutes so far in 2021-22, including eight fights! His opponents include the likes of 6-foot-7 Winnipeg Jets defenseman Logan Stanley, and most recently against Luke Kunin of the Nashville Predators, Leafs Nation fall in love with players who don’t back down and love to throw their weight around, so it’s likely he could easily become a fan favorite. The fearless attitude is something the Leafs have been looking for more of, ever since Zach Bogosian went back to Tampa Bay
Maple Leafs Goaltending Options Include James Reimer
As wild as it sounds, James Reimer’s names been linked to the Maple Leafs recently and perhaps it was the talks of Middleton that sparked the conversation. The 34-year-old netminder who spent six seasons in Toronto is under contract through next season at $2.25 million. He holds trade protection against five teams of his choice, however, even though there’s history here to say the very least, Reimer would likely be open to a reunion.
The veteran netminder is currently in his second stint with the Sharks as remind yourselves the Maple Leafs dealt him to San Jose back in 2015-16 for forward Ben Smith, goaltender Alex Stalock and a third-round pick that turned into prospect, Riley Stotts. Smith only played in 16 games for the Maple Leafs then made his way to the Colorado Avalanche, Stalock played three games in the minors and Stotts is currently playing university hockey in Canada without an NHL contract. Needless to say that deal didn’t work out for Toronto. Thinking now that he could potentially be the goaltender to lead the Leafs to a first-round series win is completely baffling. Like Lloyd Christmas being robbed by a sweet old lady on a motorized cart, I didn’t see this coming.
As for what kind of numbers Reimer is putting up these days, his save percentage (SV.%) on the season is .916 which ranks him top-20 in the NHL. Compare his 15-12-6 record and 2.85 goals-against average (GAA) to Petr Mrazek’s 3.46 GAA and .884 SV.% and it seems to be an upgrade and that’s not mentioning the fact Mrazek is signed for two more seasons at $3.8 million. The Maple Leafs netminder does hold no-trade protection against 10 teams of his choice, getting a shot at the number one job in San Jose is likely something he’s interested in.
Are Reimer and Jack Campbell the new Toronto tandem? Or will the Maple Leafs hold off now that Erik Kallgren has shown them he’s more than capable. Interesting times in Leafs Nation as some familiar faces are linked to the hockey club as the trade market is running wild across the NHL. So far, no word on if Tyler Bozak, Phil Kessel or Joffrey Lupul are available.