Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Red Kelly, Matthews, KHL News, Babcock

It’s been a busy week for the Toronto Maple Leafs in terms of news and rumors. There’s also been some sad news, as former Maple Leafs coach and Hall of Famer Red Kelly died. Here are some of the other news items and rumors that have been around the team.

Item One: Red Kelly Dies

Hockey Hall of Famer Red Kelly, who was part of eight Stanley Cup winning teams during a 20-season playing career, died on Thursday at 91 years of age. He played both center and defense, and excelled at both.

Kelly started his NHL career as a defenseman with the Detroit Red Wings and played 13 seasons with them before retiring after being traded to the New York Rangers. However, iconic Maple Leafs coach Punch Imlach asked Kelly to come out of retirement to play for the Maple Leafs and move from defence to centre. Kelly accepted the invitation and became a star with the team. He was particularly successful playing with Frank Mahovlich.

The first season Kelly played with the Maple Leafs, the team lost to the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Final. His old team, the Red Wings, eliminated the Maple Leafs from the playoffs the next season. However, the third season was the charm, and the Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup in 1962. They also won the Stanley Cup in 1963, 1964, and 1967, which was the team’s most recent NHL championship. He was a huge part of the success of those teams.

Kelly won the Lady Byng Trophy in 1951, 1953, 1954, and 1961 as the NHL’s most gentlemanly player. In 1954, he was also named the first winner of the James Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman.

Related – Maple Leafs’ Rumors: Babcock, Johnsson, Marner & Moore

Kelly finished with 281 goals, 542 assists, and 823 points in 1,316 regular-season games. He also had 33 goals, 59 assists, and 92 points in 164 playoff games. After he retired, the mandatory waiting period was waived and he was immediately elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1969.

Kelly turned to coaching after retirement and coached the expansion Los Angeles Kings in 1967 and the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1969. Finally, he spent three years coaching his Maple Leafs, and led the team to the second round of the playoffs three straight times. In 1997, the Hockey News listed Kelly at No. 22 in its Top 100 Players of All Time.

Item Two: Auston Matthews Undergoes Surgery

When Auston Matthews was a 16-year-old player in the U.S. National Development Program, he broke his leg. His leg has healed, however, the screws the doctors used to hold that leg together while it healed have caused the young Maple Leafs forward chronic back pain. On May 2, Matthews underwent a surgical procedure to remove those screws.

Hopefully, removing those screws will help get rid of his back issues. The Maple Leafs organization reported that the surgery isn’t expected to cause any difficulty to Matthews’ on-ice program, conditioning, or his preparation for September’s training camp.

Matthews Tavares Andersen Maple Leafs
Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen celebrates with John Tavares and Auston Matthews. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)

However, Matthews, who is from Arizona, turned down an invitation to play for the United States at the World Championships this month.

Item Three: Andersen Chooses Rest over World Championships

Speaking of the World Championships, Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen will not represent Denmark at the event in Slovakia. As he noted, “I think it would be smart to rest up with the groin and make sure that’s taken care of 100 per cent for next year.”

Related – Frederik Andersen: Toronto Maple Leafs’ Best Player By Far

Andersen was referring to the groin injury that sidelined him for eight games around Christmas. Obviously, that injury was painful enough that he worried it might cause problems next season. It’s unusual for the big goalie not to represent his country in international events. He’s really the key to any success the Danish team might have, just as he is for the Maple Leafs.

New Maple Leaf Jake Muzzin said it simply: “He’s our No. 1 player.”

Item Four: KHL Ilya Mikheyev Is Drawing Maple Leafs’ Interest

In addition to the Maple Leafs’ recent signing of Yegor Korshkov, TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger noted on Tuesday the rumor that the team is pursuing undrafted KHL winger Ilya Mikheyev. Mikheyev is a big right-winger who led Avangard in points this season. And, when the playoffs came, he scored even scored more frequently.

He’s only 24 years old, but turns 25 in the fall. As a result, after Sep. 15 any team who wants him would need to sign him to a one-year entry-level contract.

Related – Maple Leafs Sign Korshkov: Solution or Unknown?

Item Five: Igor Ozhiganov Is Returning to the KHL

Defenseman Igor Oahiganov is leaving the Maple Leafs to return to the KHL. He apparently wanted to return because, after a so-so regular season with the team, he wasn’t part of the Maple Leafs’ roster during the playoffs. Because he didn’t want to return to his old team CSKA, his rights were traded to Ak Bars Kazan for former NHL forward Jiri Sekac.

Igor Ozhiganov Morgan Rielly Toronto Maple Leafs
Former Toronto Maple Leafs’ Igor Ozhiganov celebrates with Morgan Rielly. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)

Item Six: Is Marlies Coach Sheldon Keefe Being Groomed for Babcock’s Job?

As I posted earlier this week, Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas was less than transparent when asked to comment on Mike Babcock’s future with the team. TSN’s Mark Masters noted that because of Toronto Marlies coach Sheldon Keefs’s former relationship with Dubas, if Babcock decided to leave the team the Maple Leafs had been grooming Keefe to become the new Maple Leafs coach.

What’s Next?

On Friday evening the Toronto Marlies play Game 2 of the Calder Cup second-round series against the Cleveland Monsters. With the Maple Leafs out of the playoffs, it’s a good chance for fans to see future Maple Leaf players in action. For those interested, keep an eye out to see if new Maple Leaf signee Korshkov might play.