The Toronto Maple Leafs roster will be reconstructed this offseason. Obviously, as a way to address the team’s salary cap limitations, general manager Kyle Dubas will likely trade some players (Nikita Zaitsev might be one), or simply not sign players to new contracts (Jake Gardiner and Ron Hainsey are the most likely).
As well, a number of RFAs need new contracts. Mitch Marner, Dubas announced, is the team’s first priority. However, Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen have shown enough potential that they will draw interest from other NHL teams and Dubas must make decisions about the team’s supporting cast. There’s speculation Johnsson and/or Kapanan might be traded. Certainly, what the duo commands elsewhere in salary might prohibit the team from signing them.
Obviously, many unknowns surround the team. This news and
Item One: Will Pierre Engvall Become a Two-Way Center?
The Toronto Marlies are battling in the Eastern Conference Final against the Charlotte Checkers. This series sees a number of Maple Leafs prospects in action. One is Pierre Engvall.
Engvall is a 22-year-old Swedish player drafted in the seventh round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Because of his size (he’s 6-foot-4), he was projected to become a big-body, scoring winger. However, Marlies coach Sheldon Keefe has been playing Engvall as a two-way
This season, Engvall played about half his games at centre. Recently, he’s played between Dmytro Timashov (who’s in his third season with the Marlies) and Egor Korshkov (who signed an entry-level contract with the Maple Leafs on May 1).
The line is producing offensively, and Engvall notes that it’s “a more … fancy line.” _(from ‘Marlies test bigger plans for Engvall in Calder Cup run’, The Star – 5/21/19)_
Engvall notes: “I like to be a centre. I feel like once I get the puck, I can use my speed even more. I like to carry the puck, too. I get to do that more
If the experiment works, the Maple Leafs need more size and depth at
Item Two: Should the Maple Leafs Trade Andreas Johnsson?
In his The Leafs Nation post, writer Drag Like Pull outlines why he believes it would be good for the Maple Leafs to trade Andreas Johnsson this offseason. Such a move would allow the team to take advantage of the difference between Johnsson’s “perceived” value to other teams and his “actual” value to the Maple Leafs.
He believes Johnsson’s season was a positive aberration, and his scoring will likely come back to Earth next season if he remains in a Maple Leafs uniform. However, after his successful 2018-19 season, Johnsson’s trade value might be as high as it will ever be. If that’s so, the Maple Leafs would be wise to move him at a time when other teams over-value him and might offer more in return than Johnsson’s actually worth.
Certainly, Johnsson has been
Item Three: The Toronto Marlies Lose Game 3 at Home
Their success was too good to last. After eight straight wins in the Calder Cup Playoffs, the Toronto Marlies now have lost two games in a row. They completely fell apart to lose 5-3 after taking a three-goal lead in a Game 2 loss to the Checkers in Charlotte. Then, they did little in a 5-1 Game 3 loss on home ice. They trail 2-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Neither Marlies goalie (Kasimir Kaskisuo or Michael Hutchinson) played well in Game 3. Until these games, Kaskisuo had been strong throughout the playoffs. However, Hutchinson will likely become the starter when the team plays Game 4. He had a stronger regular season.
Item Four: Who Might Become the Maple Leafs Captain?
In his May 22 post, my THW colleague Alex O’Reilly wrote a thoughtful piece about who he believes should become the Maple Leafs’ next captain. He noted that it’s been over three years since Dion Phaneuf was traded to the Ottawa Senators, and the Maple Leafs haven’t named a captain since.
He believes three players have a realistic shot at being the Maple Leafs’ next captain: Auston Matthews, John Tavares, and Morgan Rielly. Although Tavares seems an appealing option because he’s been a captain before with the New York Islanders and thrived in the job, O’Reilly believes Matthews and Rielly make more sense because they’ve been with the team longer.
I agree with his post; and, I’d like to add the possibility of considering Marner as captain once he’s been signed. In my mind, as the New York Yankee’s Reggie Jackson is credited to have said, Marner’s “the straw that stirs the (Maple Leafs) drink.”
Item Five: William Nylander’s Scoring Success at the World Championships
The Maple Leafs William Nylander is currently tied for the scoring lead at the 2019 World Championships. After seven games, he has five goals and 12 assists for 17 points. That ties him at the top of the leaderboard with Nikita Kucherov (Team Russia and the Tampa Bay Lightning) and Jakub Voracek (
Although Sweden lost to Russia 7-4 on Tuesday, Nylander added a goal and an assist. He’s scoring at a pace of almost 2.5 points per game. And, as I noted in an earlier post, Nylander seems to be getting his swagger back. That’s good news for the Maple Leafs.
I’m anxious to see what happens with the Marlies and the Checkers in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Final series. However, I’m also anxious to see what happens after that series has been completed.
I can’t know this for a fact, but I’m guessing Dubas is both watching the Marlies play and regularly negotiating with Marner’s agents. I might also guess that no announcement with salary cap implications will be made until this series has been completed. Maple Leafs fans will soon see.