Here we are in the home stretch. So long old roster full of bad memories, hello new roster full of… well… pretty much the same guys, but a few new role players and a fancy new 1B goaltender. Still, with change comes hope, and right now Leafs fans need hope almost as much as they need a 3rd line center, top six forward, and goaltender who can share the workload with Jack Campbell.
Given that we’re in the final hours of rumour mongering and we can soon switch over to overanalyzing new players, roster construction, etc, we’ll take a look at as much as we can for what’s out there for the Leafs at the moment.
Nick Foligno, #Leafs still talking
— Kevin McGran (@kevin_mcgran) July 26, 2021
So that’s somewhat to be expected. If the NHL was to follow the rules (they aren’t) the only team that Foligno could talk to right now would be the Leafs. The Leafs obviously attach value to Nick Foligno, as they traded a first round pick for him. They didn’t get to see a lot of him in a Leafs uniform, and with the departure of Zach Hyman, the need for a player like Foligno is just as important as it was at the trade deadline.
I was looking back at some of my old Rumours posts prior to writing this one, and I certainly wasn’t a fan of bringing Foligno in, but have warmed up to the idea that he has a place in this lineup even if he’s not going to be one of my favourite players. The Leafs need practical toughness/physicality that doesn’t look out of place in the top nine, and with a lot of the practical toughness being offered north of $5M AAV contracts, going with an older option like Foligno who will come in around $3M makes a lot of sense.
Foligno has also heavily been rumoured to the Minnesota Wild to play with his brother, and it seems entirely possible that Columbus would like to get their captain back as well.
Am told Zach Bogosian won't be returning to the #Leafs . …
— Kevin McGran (@kevin_mcgran) July 26, 2021
Zach Bogosian has pretty much been stating this himself for the past couple of weeks, so this confirmation is just that. The Leafs will miss his toughness on the blueline, and that’s not really something the Leafs have in house with Sandin and Liljegren being next in line for Bogosian’s icetime.
I don’t think it was crazy of Michael Mazzei to suggest Luke Schenn as an option yesterday:
The trade market is still percolating. The Avalanche and Maple Leafs viewed Kuemper as a primary target but the acquisition price was high.
There are already red flags on Kuemper. He’s coming off some injuries. He’s only got a year left on a contract that isn’t as cheap as we’d probably prefer. And then you add in the fact that the asking price is high on Kuemper. While Darcy Kuemper is a good goaltender (with a bit of a down year), there’s no denying that the Coyotes are going all in on futures, and the Leafs probably shouldn’t be shelling out more draft picks and futures for someone who would essentially be a rental.
Pierre LeBrun was also floating the Leafs as being interested in Kuemper, but also added that Toronto is in on Petr Mrazek. That’s an option that resonates a bit more since he had a better season last year, and could potentially come in at a lower cap hit than Kuemper.
Mrazek, like pretty much every goaltender available this summer spent a good amount of time on the injured reserve last season. He managed to get in 12 games last season, but he had a .923 save percentage in those games. The Canes then opted to not use Mrazek as much as Nedeljkovic in the playoffs and Mrazek’s numbers took a dive. There’s still some risk associated with Mrazek, who doesn’t have anything like his 12 game small sample season over the rest of his NHL career and his previous seasons, where he played 40 games, he had .915 and .904 save percentages respectively.
Mrazek, at the right price, is certainly an option, but not a premium goaltender. It will be interesting to see what the market dictates on Mrazek, and if he is somehow available for less than $3M, he could be the best bet.
Interestingly enough, LeBrun is floating the idea that the Carolina Hurricanes want to let Mrazek walk partially because they want to bring in Freddie Andersen. If that happens I will probably owe Michael Mazzei an apology because I can’t for the love of me figure out why the Canes would give up on Nedeljkovic, and the Mrazek to bring in a huge question mark with Andersen, but I guess a team that has cycled through former Leafs goaltenders, and could be bringing in Bernier this season is going to be all over Freddie.
Rounding up the rest
Zach Hyman is going to be an Oiler tomorrow, but today is the last chance for Ken Holland and Kyle Dubas to find middle ground on a deal that would allow the Oilers to lower Hyman’s cap hit. Dubas has made it clear that a 6th round pick doesn’t get it done, so it will be interesting to see if either side flinches. Probably not.
Alex Galchenyuk seems like he’s going to be an after thought for the Leafs. I think Toronto wouldn’t mind having him back, and I think Galchenyuk is truthful when he says he likes playing in Toronto, but I wonder if Galchenyuk wants to be paid for who he could be, and while the Leafs like him, it’s questionable that he’s a fit for the roster that Dubas is trying to construct.
We haven’t heard a damn thing about Joe Thornton so far this summer. Seems like he’ll take his time on deciding what he wants to do next season and then either wind up on a league minimum deal in San Jose or Toronto if he doesn’t retire.
Who could be Leafs targets?
Perhaps it’s too greedy to expect the Leafs to land two former Soo Greyhounds, but I’d suspect that Toronto will add one of either Nick Ritchie or Michael Bunting. Both address the need for a bit more edge in the lineup, both won’t be too expensive, and ideally I’d want both, but will happily settle for one.
The Leafs will need to find a bottom six center, and Phillip Danault seems too expensive to fill that role. Nick Bonino would be a good fit in the Leafs want to continue with a no fun, dead puck line like they were able to role at times with Hyman, Engvall, and Mikheyev. Perhaps, Bonino is the best option for replacing that aspect of Hyman’s game. I also wouldn’t count out Derek Ryan as an option, although he’ll be a bit cheaper and player the Leafs might want to count on more in a fourth line role doing the same with Engvall and Mikheyev. I’d be all about the REM line putting opponents to sleep.
An absolute wild card in free agency that seems like a potential fit for the Leafs is Andrew Cogliano. He’s been a center at times, but can’t imagine Toronto bringing him in as anything other than a winger, and the fact that he could bring speed and penalty killing ability on the cheap might make some of the Leafs other bottom six forwards more expendable to free up some cap space.
I’m usually reluctant to go with a source like The Fourth Period, but there seems to be enough interest from Leafs fans about this one to share it…
Josh Ho-Sang is going to get a fresh start this summer as he looks to get back to the NHL. Keep an eye on the Toronto Maple Leafs; likely a two-way contract when completed.
— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) July 27, 2021
There hasn’t been a lot put out there mentioning Toronto so directly, and perhaps coming home to the Toronto area is what is best for Josh Ho-Sang in getting his career back on track after spending past half decade doing battle with the Islanders organization.
While there are some concerns about Ho-Sang there’s good reason to take a look at him, and it will be interesting to see if Toronto does.
One of several goalies the Toronto Maple Leafs have given some consideration to. https://t.co/SATPTUE6cz
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) July 27, 2021
I like Martin Jones. He was fun to watch in junior. He was a big part of some good San Jose teams, but he’s been a big part of some bad San Jose teams too. He’s possibly better than his record, but I’ve set it before struggling goalies don’t recover in Toronto and it’s much more likely the market eats him alive. I’d love to be wrong because a cheap tandem partner is the dream especially if the Leafs want to make an impact elsewhere.
Finally before we call it a wrap, there’s a need to consider the big fish. Gabriel Landeskog is certainly a solid replacement for Zach Hyman. Some might even be bold enough to call him an upgrade. While the finances for the Leafs would be tricky to figure out, kicking tires is free, and it would be interesting to see if Kyle Dubas can sell Landeskog on the idea of the Leafs as a contender. There’s also that old saying that you can never have enough beautiful Swedes.
And if we’re speaking of big fish, we need to also consider Dougie Hamilton. Kyle Dubas has repeatedly said that he will get to Morgan Rielly’s contract after free agency has passed, but reality is that’s bad business, and just a nice way of deflecting from whatever discussions have taken place so far. For the fiercely loyal Dubas it might be difficult to move on from Rielly, but Hamilton represents an upgrade, a player that he’d have under contract beyond next season, and an opportunity to sell high on Morgan Rielly in a very aggressive defenseman market this summer. I’m cautious about dreaming big, but Hamilton and Landeskog are pipe dreams until someone crushes them.