20 Leafs Takes at the midpoint of the season
Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
By Jon Steitzer1 year ago
Doing 41 takes to mark the halfway point seems like a bit much, and you would result in me weighing in on which Leaf is best suited for long term space missions (it’s Travis Dermott, btw), so instead of doing 41 fresh takes, we’ll consider the 21 takes at the quarter mark as being time served and spit out 20 fresh takes now, despite the fact that the Leafs have played 42 games. Does any of this make sense? Does anyone actually care about what I’m writing here? The answer is probably no, and we’ll get to the Leafs content.
- While it might seem that waiting on getting the Jack Campbell contract signed in season instead of waiting until the offseason has now taken a positive turn for the Leafs as there seems to be limits on how much work can be thrown at Campbell, this still ignores that the absolute cheapest contract for Jack would have been last offseason and the Leafs should have pushed hard for making that happen. While there might not have been interest from Campbell’s camp at that time either, the pricier offer in August would still look like a bargain today. At least things are looking a little better for the Leafs right now, because I’m anticipating some insufferable Campbell discourse in June.
- The combination of the late trade deadline, and the fact that people still want to talk trade rumours the second the holiday roster freeze ends is going to make for a painfully long stretch that will likely see every player in the league either rumoured or speculated on being a fit with the Leafs. This very site is going to be part of that problem, and I’m equal parts sorry and not sorry about that. The Leafs have given us plenty of reasons to feel anxious about dipping their toes in the rental market as well as not deal with their own expiring contracts. Frankly the idea of rolling the dice and betting on themselves is not something I’m ready for. On the other hand, the extended trading season has given the Leafs Jake Muzzin, and Jack Campbell, to incredibly smart buys by Kyle Dubas. I guess what I’m saying is, John Klingberg and Josh Manson rumours will be the death of me, but I’ve got all the time in the world for insiders saying that the Leafs have dipped their toes in the waters of Jakob Chychrun trade talks.
- I know he’s not cheap, but Petr Mrazek needs to be a Leaf at least until the summer. He’s not only the safety net for the rest of the season and playoffs, but he’s the safety net for waiting to see what happens with the Campbell contract. I know that it is exciting that there are teams calling the Leafs about him, but when you consider the number of teams that will be looking for goaltending in the summer and the very limited number of capable tandem level goaltenders available, the Leafs will certainly find a market for Mrazek after Kuemper and Fleury are sorted out. Mrazek’s cap hit has the potential to look like a bargain compared to what we’ll see in free agency.
- The importance of Jake Muzzin in the Leafs lineup is coming through in the past few games, and while I still think making him available for trade over the summer is a good idea, it’s going to be great to have him back after the All-Star break. It hasn’t been a great year for Muzzin, but he’s still the glue holding that second pairing together, and not having to rush Sandin or Liljegren into that responsibility is something that will benefit the Leafs both now and in the playoffs. With Holl getting his confidence back in January, the best option for the Leafs might be stay the course rather than gambling on trade deadline rentals.
- The season is long and the Leafs are playoff bound, so speaking of defense, one of things I wouldn’t mind seeing is the Leafs experimenting with Rielly on the right side, and Toronto going with a Muzzin-Rielly top pairing, and a Sandin-Brodie second pairing. I know I just said Holl was improving, and this seems manufactured to leave Liljegren as the odd man out, but 82 games is a long time, and we’ve got 40 left. I’d really like it if Keefe could give me five games of this.
- It seems like a matter of time until Nick Ritchie is an Arizona Coyote. The reality of the situation is that players aren’t going to be lining up to be Coyotes next year, and no matter how many picks, and how much money the Coyotes have available in free agency over the summer, they will have a challenge filling out the roster. Dumping Ritchie now and paying to have him taken away seems like a good idea, it’s just a matter of if the Leafs want something back as well and pay a bit more to get something other than future considerations. Ilya Lyubushkin would seemingly be the obvious target if we’re not pushing things bigger to talk about Chychrun. I’m curious what round pick or what tier prospect dumping Ritchie will cost Toronto, but it seems Toronto will probably pay any price.
- I’ve been very much saying nice things about Alex Kerfoot this year, and willingly eating crow for past takes on him. That said, I didn’t look at his PDO until recently, and while it’s entirely possible he rides that wave the rest of the way through the season, I’d certainly hope that Kyle Dubas would entertain the idea of moving him in a deal to create some cap room as well. In a roster player, prospect, pick proposal, that roster player spot seems tailor made for Kerfoot.
- Speaking of players riding waves that I was wrong about, I’m warming up to the idea of the Leafs trying to find a way to sign Ilya Mikheyev. I don’t think it’s really possible, but seeing him play the best hockey of his life has me wondering if he can be more than a great own rental.
- Pierre Engvall has been the eye test vs. the stat sheet litmus test throughout the year, and lately he’s been great by both standards. I’m not ready to make a case for him being capable of more than what he’s doing, but having him play like this increases my optimism for the Leafs being a more impactful playoff team, and think his contract has value Toronto needs beyond this year.
- Let’s stick with the picking on the bottom six forwards topic, and I ask you, when was the last time you noticed David Kampf on the ice? Some of you might be more in tune to what he’s doing out there, and when Kampf is doing his thing you probably aren’t supposed to notice him, but I still can’t but think a center that can be impactful at both ends of the ice wouldn’t be a bad add for the Leafs this season, and I might even say it could be a better way to go than gambling on a rental defenseman. Kampf can still bring a lot of value to the Leafs, but in a 4C capacity, which also lets Spezza do what he does best at this stage in his career, and that’s stick to the wing.
- Now that things are going good for Mitch Marner it seems like the Toronto media has started criticizing William Nylander again. This is why we can’t have nice things. Actually, this is us having two nice things and one of the nice things isn’t as nice, the other picks up the slack.
- Bunting has 29 points, Zach Hyman has 25. As nice as it could be to have both players in the Leafs lineup, the fact that the Leafs are getting Hyman, Kampf, and Kase for less than Hyman is a beautiful thing, and when you ignore Ritchie as part of the equation, this looks great. For under $5M the Leafs have 60 points in 42 games from Kase, Kampf, and Bunting. That’s rad as hell.
- The return of Nick Robertson to the Marlies is very encouraging and hopefully he can stay healthy long enough for the Leafs to see what they have in him. While I think he’s an incredibly exciting prospect, it seems like at best Robertson will be another Ondrej Kase, where he’s great when he’s in the lineup, but you can’t count on him sticking around too long.
- I’m still very much on my Dylan Strome bullshit, and think he’d be a smart add for the Leafs. That said with the Blackhawks being in complete disarray the odds of him being available without an overpayment has to be slim.
- As much as I want to see Josh Ho-Sang with the Leafs this season, the reality seems to be getting him under contract for next season. The Leafs are probably set depth wise for forwards for now, but next season he can be slotted in to a middle six role that he could thrive in. That’s going to make losing players like Kerfoot and Mikheyev a bit more tolerable.
- It would be really nice if the Heritage Classic jersey was released soon. I need something to needlessly criticize.
- Sheldon Keefe’s experiment with Nylander on the third line might be the biggest selling point on Keefe to me. We haven’t seen Keefe with 82 games to work with he’s apparently making the most of it. While things might not have gone as planned, the fact that Keefe doesn’t sound like he’s closer the door on the idea is encouraging too.
- With just three picks in the draft this year and the likelihood of the Leafs being buyers at the deadline, it’s going to be interesting to see how many picks Toronto has left by the end of March. It would be really nice to care about the draft again, but I don’t know how Toronto can justify the future over the present right now, we can just hope that Dubas is smart about it.
- My biggest worry for the Leafs is that one of the Chiarot or Ristolainen rumours about the Leafs comes true. And as much as Josh Manson might be a good fit for the Leafs, the overpayment on him would likely lump him into that group too. If the Leafs are going to look at him, save him for the offseason.
- Coming up with 20 of these for a second time this year was exhausting and I’m glad it’s over. While I’m still not ready to be optimistic about the Leafs chances given who their opponents could be in the first round, optimism doesn’t really seem like an option. I do want to close with some good vibes though, and I have to say I can’t think of too many Leafs teams I’ve liked more than this iteration. More than ever I want to see that this is the group that makes it work, because I want to believe this is the right type of supporting cast to work with the core.
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