Maple Leafs’ Swirling Rumors: Babcock, Johnsson, Marner & Moore

Of the number of swirling rumors that have followed the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Round 1 loss to the Boston Bruins, some stand out of immediate interest to Maple Leaf fans. In today’s rumor rundown, I want to catch up a bit on that swirl. What do we know and what have we heard about what’s going on in Maple Leaf land?

Item One: Will Mike Babcock Be Back as Coach?

Mike Stephens, of Editor in Leaf, wrote an interesting piece comparing Kyle Dubas’ silence on the Babcock situation to what happened immediately after the William Nylander signing. Stephens reported that Nylander, after his signing, announced to the media that Dubas assured him that as long as Dubas remained in his position Nylander wouldn’t be traded.

Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock
Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

There’s been no such news about Babcock. Dubas has gone quiet about the topic, offering only a cryptic note that generally said no one’s job was safe – including his own – and that the team would be constantly re-evaluating as it went forth. And Babcock, who often waxes eloquently about all topics, has also been quiet. Given the mood of the Maple Leafs fanbase that leaves much drama to smolder.

Stephens, in his article, suggests that the fact their neither Dubas nor Babcock has spoken about the topic is off-form for both men. One thing both Dubas and Babcock typically shared was their willingness to speak directly to issues; and, this time neither had. Stephens suggests that something might be up with the coaching situation. We shall see in the next months. 

Related – Maple Leafs’ Management: Trouble in Toronto?

Item Two: Andreas Johnsson Turns Down a Multi-Year Extension Offer

Although Dubas has already gone on record noting that signing Mitch Marner was the team’s first priority, in a rumour about the Maple Leafs other contracts, it’s rumoured that Andreas Johnsson had already turned downmulti-year extension offers from the Maple Leafs.

Toronto Maple Leafs Auston Matthews Andreas Johnsson Kasperi Kapanen
Toronto Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews celebrates with teammates Andreas Johnsson and wing Kasperi Kapanen (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)

What’s so interesting about Johnsson is that, although he was a rookie this season, he’s eligible for arbitration because he’s already 24 years old. Darren Dreger, on TSN radio, noted that the team had offered Johnsson a two-year contract worth $4.2 million and a four-year contract worth $10.4 million at the trade deadline. Johnsson’s team declined both offers.

Last season, Johnsson was the Calder Cup MVP with the Toronto Marlies. He also had an excellent rookie season, where he scored 20 goals and 43 points in 73 games. He’s a speedy left winger who looked good playing on Auston Matthews’ line. Furthermore, he provides a kind of less-expensive scoring quality the Maple Leafs need to sign because John Tavares, Nylander, Matthews, and soon Marner will make up almost $40 million of the team’s salary cap for the coming season.

Related: Maple Leafs Need to Trade Nylander to Keep Johnsson & Kapanen

I have already written a post suggesting the need for trading Nylander, regardless of what Nylander reported about Dubas’ promise not to trade him the team might sign both Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen. I believe both these young stars could probably be signed for the same number of years term and term as Nylander and would provide the Maple Leafs with the needed scoring to finally advance past the first round of the playoffs.

I’m sure Dubas doesn’t want Johnsson to go to arbitration because he could be awarded potentially more than he was reported to be offered by the Maple Leafs. Although Marner is priority one, it seems silly for Dubas not to concomitantly consider other priorities. With all the busy summer of contract negotiations, I can’t think Dubas isn’t pondering all his options – not only what Marner might sign for.

Item Three: Might Mitch Marner Be Traded?

THW Jim Parsons’ report asked if Marner might actually be traded. Parsons noted that the TSN panel suggested that the Toronto Maple Leafs should offer Marner a quality contract immediately and somewhere close to what Matthews signed for. If they don’t, the panel believed there might be problems signing Marner.

Related – Maple Leafs News & Analysis: Babcock, Kadri, Marner, Nylander & Hyman

Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos noted that “if that doesn’t happen, then I think Mitch Marner owes it to himself to take this to July 1.” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman added that, if a contract extension were not in place by July 1st, “anything’s in the air” including a trade.

Toronto Maple Leafs Mitch Marner Boston Bruins Patrice Bergeron
Toronto Maple Leafs Mitch Marner and Boston Bruins Patrice Bergeron (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

Dreger asked, ‘Who do you trade?’ He suggested there’s no way the Maple Leafs would trade Matthews and they’re not trading Tavares. That would leave only Marner or trading a good portion of the remaining lineup.

Although I am certain neither the Maple Leafs nor Marner wants to part ways, odder things have occurred over money. Furthermore, more than money seems to be involved in current contract negotiations. As I have been watching, players who offer hometown discounts because they wish to stay with their teams often are belittled by media for making those choices. Personally, I believe players would be wiser to make better long-term decisions than simply going for the most lucrative money-based contract.

Item Four: Trevor Moore Loaned to the Toronto Marlies

In one piece of Maple Leafs news, in a move similar to last season where Johnsson was loaned to the Marlies for their playoffs and went on to win the most valuable player in postseason play, Trevor Moore was loaned to the Marlies for the second round of the team’s Calder Cup Playoffs in almost the same role. Moore noted that he was “going to come in here and work hard.”

Related – Maple Leafs’ Stuff: Babcock, Marner, Game 7 History & More

In addition to Moore, defenceman Calle Rosen and goalie Michael Hutchinson were also loaned to the Marlies from the Leafs.  

What’s Next?

Obviously, Dubas will have a busy summer in Toronto as the choices the Maple Leafs make will unfold. There’s much to be completed before July 1. If not, some interesting news days will surely follow.