Now that the Toronto Maple Leafs have been eliminated from postseason play and have left the bubble, the real fun begins. It’s that time of the season when speculations and conversations about what the team should do become constant conversations between Maple Leafs fans and hockey commentators.
In this edition of Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll pass along some of the rumors I’ve been hearing as well as offering news about the players within the organization. Although the team’s been ousted from postseason play, there’s news to share.
Item One: Would the Maple Leafs Trade John Tavares for Shea Weber and Brendan Gallagher?
John Scott, who played one game for the Montreal Canadiens in 2015-16, had some interesting stats during his NHL career. In total, he played 286 games over nine seasons with seven different teams (Minnesota Wild, Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers, Buffalo Sabres, San Jose Sharks, Arizona Coyotes, and the Canadiens). In those 286 games, he scored five goals and six assists for 11 points. However, he also had 544 penalty minutes. He was, if you haven’t guessed, an enforcer.
Today Scott does a regular podcast every Wednesday and Friday titled “Dropping the Gloves,” which can be insightful – especially some of his NHL stories. Two days ago he tweeted a radical idea about a Maple Leafs and Canadiens trade possibility.
In this trade, the Maple Leafs would send captain John Tavares to the Canadiens for their captain Shea Weber and forward Brendan Gallagher. Both teams would get a top-six center and the Maple Leafs would get their shutdown defenseman.
I have three thoughts about this trade. First, it’s a true blockbuster that Maple Leafs fans would talk about for years. Second, it’s really quite clever and not altogether crazy. Third, it won’t happen.
First, Tavares would have to approve the trade because he has a full no-movement clause in his contract. Second, Tavares signed with Toronto because he was coming home. He’s the little boy who slept in a bedroom designed with Maple Leafs blue and white. Third, Tavares has a bit of a “dig-in” streak in him. He must be chafing with all the criticism of “his” team, and given this was his first season as captain, I bet he truly sees the Maple Leafs as “his” team. He’ll stay with this ship until it sinks or the lifeboats come.
But think of it: just watching Weber play during this postseason shows he’s one of the best NHL defensemen currently playing the game. Maybe even Morgan Reilly isn’t as good. And, Gallagher’s a great and deeply motivated hockey player. He might even be the heart and soul of the Habs. Plus, he’s a regular 30-goal scorer.
Salary wise, the trade would almost be a wash. Tavares’ salary cap taps out at $11 million, and Gallagher has another season at $3.75 million, with Weber at $7.875 million for the next six seasons. Only the 35-year-old Weber’s age is an issue.
Item Two: Jesper Lindgren Loaned to the SHL’s Modo
In an occurrence that’s happening more often recently with the anticipated later starts of hockey leagues in North America for the 2020-21 seasons, the Maple Maple Leafs loaned another player to a European team. This time Jesper Lindgren was loaned to Modo of the Swedish Hockey League.
Lindgren spent the 2019-20 season with the Maple Leafs AHL affiliate Toronto Marlies, scoring 9 points in 31 games. The 23-year-old defenseman will likely be recalled before the AHL’s next season begins. However, as noted, no one knows right now when that might be, so, why not let these prospects play?
Item Three: Filip Kral Loaned to HC Prerov of Czech Second National Hockey League
Maple Leafs’ PR also tweeted on Wednesday that the organization had loaned Filip Kral to HC Prerov of Czech Second National Hockey League. The 20-year-old left-shooting defenseman had played the 2019-20 season with the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs, scoring 12 goals and 49 points in 53 games.
Kral was a fifth-round choice (149th overall) in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft and he’s probably a few seasons away from trying to crack the Maple Leafs roster.
Item Four: Tyson Barrie Is on the Mend
The news on Tyson Barrie is that he’s feeling better. Barrie, whose injury was listed as “undisclosed,” was clearly dealing with concussion-like symptoms after hitting his head on the ice in Game 5.
“I banged my head on the ice pretty hard and had some headaches. They’re pretty careful with the concussion stuff. Thankfully I’m feeling pretty good right now but I had to take care of it.”
Now that the Maple Leafs have been knocked out of the postseason, rumors see Barrie moving on. He’s unsigned for next season and needs a new contract somewhere.
Although Barrie didn’t play to his usual standards this season, he’s sure to have choices about where he plays. It was his first down season after three straight seasons scoring 50 points. With Colorado, he quarterbacked the Avalanche’s first power-play unit. It’s likely that, if the 28-year-old defenseman could get similar work with another team, he’d probably put up the bigger numbers he was used to before moving to Toronto.
Item Five: Jake Muzzin Will Be Ready for 2020-21
Who knows what the Maple Leafs might have done had Jake Muzzin stayed in the lineup? Muzzin’s injury might have been the straw that broke the team’s back during their best-of-five series against the Blue Jackets. He’s that important to the team.
During Game 2, Muzzin was crosschecked (not that hard actually), lost his balance, fell awkwardly, and hit his head on Oliver Bjorkstrand’s knee. He missed the remainder of the qualifying series. His injury was freaky-scary for everyone, but I’m sure his family must have been freaking out when he was stretchered off the ice.
The good news is he’ll be ready for 2020-21, whenever the season might start. When asked about his injury Wednesday, Muzzin reported that it was “kind of a freak play, an accident. All things are looking towards a full, healthy recovery.”
When next season starts, it will be interesting to see who his defensive partners might be. Some current teammates will likely be departed.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
Critics suggest that Dubas has no choice but to trade one of his big four (Tavares, Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, or William Nylander) for defensive help. I don’t see it. I also don’t think there’s much panic inside the organizational braintrust, which probably panics the Maple Leafs’ faithful.
I’m anxious to see what Dubas does as soon as the Zambonis are parked after the playoffs. I think the team’s core will stay pretty intact, but I can’t know for sure.
We will all see together.