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Photo Credit: © Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Tuesday Rumour Report: Sandin and goaltending remain the priority, Aston-Reese looking like a lock, and “Malgin?”

It’s the home stretch of rumours and speculation and we’re a day from signing and trade announcements. That’s a bit of a relief. Soon we can stop guessing at who fits into the Leafs roster and instead spend the next couple of months creating Leafs line combinations in notes on our phone while sitting on the toilet (maybe that’s an oddly specific trait of mine that isn’t a universal experience.)

Anyways, Elliotte Friedman had a fair bit of Leafs information crammed into a tiny paragraph today, so we’re going to blow it up and turn it into a lot more.

Toronto will look for another goalie and try to sign Rasmus Sandin with their remaining cap room. One team indicated that even 1B or No. 2 goalies could still do very well in this market, so it won’t be as easy as it sounds. One potential depth target for the Maple Leafs: forechecker extraordinaire Zach Aston-Reese. They could also bring back Denis Malgin from Switzerland.

It really doesn’t feel like we can say a lot more on the first two things. The importance of getting Sandin figured out and fast is painfully clear. Having nothing to show for Sandin but a second round pick would be disastrous, but so would be paying a ransom for his contract. He’s kinda backed the Leafs into a corner and we’ve seen this before. Usually it ends with a Leafs overpayment and three month negotiating saga. Neither of those things has much appeal right now.

As for the Leafs prioritizing a 1B goaltender as well. That seems like a smart thing to do, and though a trade seems like the safest option as Samsonov will be pricey, and Comrie might not be able to handle the workload. To some extent, I wonder if the Leafs don’t mind taking a chance on another risky option like Murray because they feel the Leafs are good enough to stay afloat even if they need to rely on Joseph Woll or Erik Kallgren for starts this year. I’m also curious if Kyle Dubas will tap into the number of solid goaltenders that tend to go on waivers right before the season starts. He might also want to bring in a third string option (given that Woll won’t be ready at the start of the year) and load the contract in a manner that it doesn’t carry a NHL cap hit when buried, but has a deterrent like a backloaded second year to keep teams away from the goalie.

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Now onto the target…

Zach Aston-Reese is a name that a couple of writers identified in predictions as being a lock to join the Leafs. Who am I to disagree, and with Elliotte Friedman now connecting the dots from Aston-Reese to the Leafs, let’s plan our lives like he’ll be here.

Aston-Reese carried the premium price tag of $1.725M on his last contract with seemingly the sole objective of hitting everything that moves. He did that. He offers nothing in the way of offensive contribution and like most heavy hitters, the puck has a tendency to head in the wrong direction when he’s on the ice. Perhaps there is a fit in the Leafs lineup that minimizes some of that risk.

While possession of the puck wasn’t common with Aston-Reese on the ice, the outcomes were good enough to justify his style. His low event approach makes him a higher tier defensive forward, though his deployment was most frequently against bottom nine forwards.

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If Ondrej Kase isn’t being brought back, it seems that Aston-Reese could be his replacement as the third line pinball.

Malgin?

Personally, I love that Malgin could be returning. He had a great year in the Swiss league, and while that might not mean a ton, having an affordable puck controller for the bottom six makes a lot of sense. His dominance of the World Hockey Championships was positively Rickard Wallin-like, and while said jokingly, does at the very least warrant another look at the NHL level.

The Leafs cap situation is all too familiar to us at this point, and finding players that can exceed the value of what they are being paid is the name of the game. Denis Malgin has the potential to be one of those players.

Related: 

Malgin? The Leafs could do worse

Data from Evolving Hockey

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