This is a difficult time for the Toronto Maple Leafs. The organization has brought veterans and prospects together, each hoping to find a place on this season’s roster. There are only 20-23 spots available.
In this edition of Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll share some of the recent news emerging from the team about those cuts. I’ll also share news about some of the “injuries” around the team and who might be ready for Wednesday’s opening game against the Montreal Canadiens.
Item One: Wayne Simmonds Is on the Market
Professional sports can be a tough life. That’s especially true if you’re a veteran who wants to play another season. This morning, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman tweeted that the Maple Leafs are trying to move veteran forward Wayne Simmonds in a trade.
Over the past few seasons, Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas – say what you want about him – has tried to take care of his players when it seems they won’t make the team. For example, when it became obvious there was no place on the Maple Leafs’ roster for Josh Leivo, Dubas moved him to the Vancouver Canucks in early December 2018. Last season, he also moved defenseman Travis Dermott to the Canucks in March for a third-round draft pick.
It would seem he’s trying to look out for Simmonds in a similar way by moving him ahead of roster cuts. It’s pretty obvious that, with the Maple Leafs having one of their deepest forward groups in several seasons, Simmonds won’t be making the roster.
As Friedman suggested, the Maple Leafs are more interested in doing well by their hometown Simmonds, rather than looking to land something big in return.
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It also seems clear that this is an indication that Zach Aston-Reese is seen to offer the team the physicality it had with Simmonds – perhaps, even more. Good luck to him, wherever he might land. Simmonds has been a character guy and is solid in the dressing room.
Item Two: Justin Holl Played Saturday Night
Justin Holl had been out with, of all things, food poisoning. However, he took part in the team’s optional morning skate on Saturday and then played in the game last night. It seems that Holl is ready for opening night.
Holl is looking to have a better season than he had in 2021-22. Much of that depends upon how his regular partner Jake Muzzin is feeling. When Muzzin and Holl are on their games, they’re a good shutdown unit. When they are not, they struggle. Last season, they struggled.
This season, Holl is projected to once again play alongside Muzzin as the Maple Leafs’ second pairing.
Item Three: Two Maple Leafs Players Put on Waivers
The Maple Leafs’ last cut down was deep. Although the Maple Leafs were able to move many of its prospects to the Toronto Marlies, they had to expose two players to the waiver wire. Those players were 24-year-old defenseman Mac Hollowell and 24-year-old forward Joey Anderson.
Both players were waived by the team on Saturday. Hollowell hasn’t yet played an NHL game. He’ll rejoin the Toronto Marlies if he’s able to pass through waivers. He isn’t likely to be picked up by another NHL team, and will probably stay with the Marlies for the season. Of the organization’s depth on defence, Hollowell is not near the top.
Anderson, on the other hand, might be an interesting pickup by another NHL team. He has a physical streak and he showed last season with the Marlies that he can generate offense. He also saw action in five NHL games with the Maple Leafs last season. With the Marlies in 2021-22, he scored 26 goals and added 16 assists (for 42 points) in 56 games.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
The Maple Leafs are in an interesting position with two players who have looked good this preseason. Those players are Denis Malgin and Nick Robertson. The issue is that both of them seem to fit best in a top-six unit because they’re smaller players with offensive skills.
It’s easy to see a space on the left-wing with the second line, but what happens with the other player? Is it possible that there’s a trade coming from the Maple Leafs?
The usual suspects are Holl and Alex Kerfoot, but I’m not sure that’s who I’d trade. Although I like him as a player, it would seem that Pierre Engvall might be a player who could bring some return. Engvall had a career season in 2021-22 and his size and reputation for being physically-fit are attractive.
Look for something to happen in the next few days.
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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