It’s been a while since we’ve done a mailbag, so in this the beginning of the dark of void of no transactions and no hockey being played, we thought we’d reach out to you, our beautiful readers to see what’s on your mind, and what we can answer for you. Our writers were eager to answer, and I’m pretty sure everything we’ve said is 100% correct, even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff.
If Freddie wants a big raise next offseason, who’s a tendy Dubas should look at as a replacement in free agency or a trade?
— Lyle 🚽 (@InsiderLyle) October 20, 2020
Michael Mazzei: I don’t think the Leafs should be quick to search for a new goalie via trade or free agency. They have two serviceable netminders in Jack Campbell and Aaron Dell on the roster and there is a real chance that they could be the tandem heading into 2021-22. Kyle Dubas made the move to acquire Campbell in part because of his potential and also his track record of progression. We saw briefly how much his presences helped stabilized the backup position and raise questions as to whether he should be the starter. Combined with Dell’s solid numbers as a backup, and the answers to the Leafs goalie situation might just be internally.
BrianCRD: It sounds like recency bias any time someone talks about him, but Joonas Korpisalo would be the ideal target for the Leafs next offseason. He carries a $2.8 million cap hit through the 21/22 season, and with the cap staying flat, that could be beneficial. I know he gets hit with the old “Only good because of the team in front of him” argument a lot, but if the Leafs additions both on the ice and behind the bench pay off, they could be vastly improved defensively in their own right, which would make Korpisalo less of a gamble.
Mark Norman: If Andersen leaves in free agency, I’d like to see the Leafs bolster the position rather than run with a Campbell/BBB (bargain bin backup) tandem. While Campbell was above-average for the Leafs post-acquisition and has quickly become a fan favourite, there’s just 6 games to work with there so I’m not ready to anoint him the future starter. I’d look to get a goaltender who can form a platoon with Campbell so they can roughly split starts ~45/~35 apiece. One intriguing name on the free agency list for summer 2021 is Philipp Grubauer, who put up decent numbers behind a below-average Avs defence last season. He is, however, injury prone. And of course, the Leafs could always sign Andersen to a slight raise if his play next season stagnates and the flat salary cap means his salary asks start with a 5. But it would have to be short in term.
Of the lot who has the best chance of being a career Leaf ?:
Matthews, Rielly, Marner, Nylander
— Colin (@ColinBur10) October 20, 2020
Mark Norman: My first thought was Rielly, so I’m sticking with it. He’s probably the closest to marriage and kids of these four names so I can see him wanting to set down his roots here for a long time, especially since Tessa is Ontario-born. He also strikes me as a very loyal person, and seems built to handle the Toronto market. A future captain.
Michael Mazzei: Out of the guys you mentioned, Rielly seems like the most likely to remain a Leaf his entire career. I have no doubt that the other guys could very well be here for a long time, but there’s that seed of doubt that they’ll be gone in the future. Chief among them being Matthews, with the Coyotes fans clamouring for him to come home not going away. Until something changes, my answer for now is Rielly.
Jon Steitzer: I’m going to boldly stand by the idea that Matthews will be a Leaf for life. While Arizona has a lot of appeal to him, I am wondering how stable that franchise is for staying in the area through all that is going on, and I’m not sure if he has the same enthusiasm about playing in Houston. The Leafs have already shown on his last contract they aren’t shy about paying him what he wants, and that goes a long way. Also, how do you not move mountains for your star 1C? He’ll always be the priority.
What is the maximum contract you'd be fine with giving Zach Hyman next offseason?
— Will (@will__brom) October 20, 2020
Mark Norman: It starts with a 3 and probably ends up pretty close to 4. Hyman is one of my favourite players and if Real Sports ever got their act together and started putting his name on t-shirts I would be first in line for one. Hyman’s true value is sort of hard to peg, since the things he does on the ice that make him great (creating space for his linemates, winning puck battles, causing turnovers) are hard to quantify, especially with public data. What works against him is that he does not drive his own offence and will always depend on more talented linemates to produce offensively. Dubas and company are too smart to put too much stock in last year’s 20% shooting rate.
Michael Mazzei: Unlike the likes of Kapanen and Johnsson, the Leafs can give Hyman a contract around $3, or $3.5 million and I’ll be happy with it. In fact, I imagine they will do everything in their power to try and keep him on the roster because he is critical to the top-six. So long as it’s under $4 million, I’m fine with whatever the Leafs plan on offering him.
Jon Steitzer: I think the idea of keeping him under $4M is an absolute. In fact, I still have a rough time with the idea of breaking the $3M mark, as there is increasing wear and tear on a player that plays a hard style of hockey, and has a lot of potential affordable replacements coming up behind him. Short term, I’d give Hyman a couple of years at around $3M, but if he wants to be a Leaf for the long haul, he’d have to come in under $3M for me to be happy. I love him and the style he plays, but all wingers are expendable.
@ [locked] “should Mitch give up the A to Thornton for a year?”
Jon Steitzer: In my mind the C is the only real absolute on the Leafs. It’s a long time franchise that has made awarding the C something special. Whether or not Tavares has lived up to the expectations of that role isn’t something I want to tackle, because ultimately the captaincy is for the guys in the room, not the fans, not the media. So the idea of Marner giving up an A isn’t something I’d see as something that needs to be done, rather I’d just look at potentially different alternates this year. I think it’s important to keep an A on Matthews, and Rielly has shown to be a leader, but there are plenty of other candidates like Thornton, Simmonds, Brodie, and I’d suggest Hyman and Muzzin that make sense in leadership roles. While you can be a leader without a letter, I’m not sure whether Marner does anything that justifies him having a letter over someone who better exemplifies leadership. Of course, I’m not in the room, so if the Leafs players think it makes sense, stick with it. They should probably vote on it or something. I dunno. It’s a letter.
Mark Norman: I don’t think he has to, but for a guy who needs some image rehabilitation with many Leafs fans to shed the petulant/entitled mantle, I think offering the A to Thornton would show a lot of maturity and (ironically) leadership qualities. Plus, it would be one less thing on his shoulders next season as he tries to play his way out from underneath the burden of that highly-scrutinized contract. Thornton’s been around the block: he’s 14th all-time in NHL scoring and 9th all-time in games played. Who better than him to receive this honour. It would be a symbolic gesture that could galvanize the team and mend some fences. Plus, he could take it back the next year.
Michael Mazzei: While I like the idea in theory, I don’t think it will happen in practice. Joe Thornton had previously had the ‘C’ removed from his jersey and he remained on the team for six more season. I imagine he won’t mind not having a letter and instead be a vocal leader in the locker room. As is the case with players like Jake Muzzin and Wayne Simmonds, you don’t need to be an official alternate captain to establish yourself as a leader. The Leafs recognize this, which is why I think Marner will remain as one of the alternate captains.
Well, this was fun”-ish”. We look forward to another round of questions in the future, hopefully our correct answers fill you with joy.