It’s the offseason, and with that comes the return of speculation, rumblings, chatter, whispers, and all your other favourites. We can confirm this. Given the fact that for a lucky few the playoffs are still going on it’s still relatively silent, but Elliotte Friedman dropped a few interesting tidbits about the Leafs in the video below (Leafs content is from the 5:30-9:30 mark) and we’ll dive into some of that here.
The Leafs aren’t necessarily going to “run it back”
This isn’t much of a surprise to anyone who has taken a good look at the Leafs cap situation, and even with the bargain that is the Mark Giordano contract, there is a need to do something to spice up the Leafs lineup and try to put themselves over the top. It can’t just entirely be a waiting game for teams like Tampa and Colorado to take a step back, there needs to be a constant exploration of how the team can improve and Elliotte Friedman alludes to the Leafs considering a couple of significant moves in the coming months. When it comes to a target, Elliotte primarily speaks about goaltending, and we’ll get into that much more below. When it comes to who the Leafs could be entertaining moving on from, the two names that seem to stand out as potential trade bait, we can speculate that William Nylander and Jake Muzzin are those players. Nylander appears to be viewed as the most movable of the big four forwards, and Muzzin, because the Leafs have a solid top five of Rielly, Brodie, Giordano, Sandin, and Liljegren and could want to go with a younger cheaper option freeing up the cap resources. Following last season’s Duncan Keith trade and now the Oilers having success with him in the lineup, there’s bound to be a GM interested in Muzzin.
Jack Campbell potentially out
Elliotte Friedman had mentioned it earlier in the offseason that the Leafs offered Jack Campbell a 3 year, $2.75M AAV and to the surprise of absolutely no one, that deal didn’t get signed. A big reason for that has to be the easy comparison to the Petr Mrazek contract (which we can probably assume they will actively try to escape). No matter what, it certainly seems that the Leafs are not particularly interested in Jack Campbell unless they can get him below market, and there are some sound reasons for that. Campbell had a hard time with taking on a starter’s workload this year, and there probably isn’t an interest in paying him to handle one. There were a lot of inconsistent stretches and while no one can hang the playoff exit on Campbell there probably is an interest in finding a goaltender who can steal a series for the Leafs.
John Gibson is Kawhi (if Kawhi had three rocky years before the trade)
Due to the size of a NHL roster and the amount of ice time each player receives, it’s pretty challenging to compare hockey trades to basketball trades. The one exception does seem to be when goaltenders are involved because suddenly you are looking at a player that is going to impact the entirety of a game, just not play in everyone (hello to Kawhi’s load management).
This issue here is that Gibson hasn’t been Gibson of late. He’s three seasons removed from even hitting a .905 save percentage. There’s also the matter of Gibson’s $6.4M AAV for the next 5 seasons that has him being paid like he’s still putting up results in the .920s.
|Player||GP||TOI||Shots Against/60||SV%||GSAA/60||xG Against/60||HD Shots Against/60||HDSV%||HDGAA||HDGSAA/60|
There are obvious differences of Jack Campbell having these results behind a team that finished fourth in the league and Gibson’s results coming on the 10th worst team in the league. The gap closes when you look at team goals against, where the Leafs had the 18th best goals against in the league compared to the Ducks at 23rd. How much each goaltender is responsible for their team’s success is up for debate, but the Ducks have spent the last four seasons outside the playoffs and Gibson could rediscover his elite status in a new setting. Or at least that’s what the Leafs would be banking on here.
The thing with that is with 5 years of a $6.4M cap hit, that’s a pretty big gamble and to some extent, you have to trust what the numbers are saying and they are saying that John Gibson’s Goals Saved Above Expected/60 was -.265, the 10th worst of goaltenders who played over 30 games, and behind Jack Campbell’s -.049 that the Leafs are looking to move on from. While it’s understandable why the Leafs would still be interested and why a rebuilding, cash sensitive team like the Ducks would be interested in moving on from Gibson’s contract, this shouldn’t be the Nylander for Gibson straight-up trade situation. The Ducks are going to be looking for youth and the Leafs can provide them with that. The Leafs should be looking to dump Mrazek’s contract as well so they can dodge their cap constraints and allow the Ducks to grab a more meaningful asset in the process.
It’s important to also note that Gibson has a 10 team no trade list and if the Leafs have consistently expressed interest in him like Elliotte Friedman has suggested, it’s highly likely the list has already established if this can move forward.
Another name that’s being speculated on
John Gibson being rumoured to Toronto and William Nylander being rumoured out of Toronto are staples of the rumour mill, but the one that has been going on even longer than those is the idea of PK Subban coming to Toronto. It feels like with Subban’s decline in recent years and the growing number of GTA players returning home at a discount, we are going to be taking a long look at whether or not this is the summer that it finally happens.
Subban is obviously a more offensively driven player that would need a strong defensive partner, but he also plays the game with a bit of an edge and will play his opponents tough. He brings a heavy point shot, and let’s face it if he’s at a discount there is bound to be a little interest, especially if it allows the Leafs to cash out on Muzzin and Holl. He also has that right-handed shot going for him. It’s extremely premature to be talking about free agents, but this is a name that isn’t going to go away until he’s under contract in Toronto or somewhere else.
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