Leafs Rumours: A Gudas trade idea, goaltending, and the Atlantic arms race
Photo credit:Jason Mowry-USA TODAY Sports
By Jon Steitzer26 days ago
Between Pierre LeBrun yesterday and Elliotte Friedman today, we can certainly gather that the Leafs are still very much looking at a defensive upgrade. Where LeBrun was focused on the top of the roster and skill with the suggestion of Mattias Ekholm, Friedman’s targets for the Leafs are a bit more of the crash and bang variety:
Defence? Toronto isn’t left with much draft capital, so it’s either someone you can get for a late-round pick or a current defender goes in return. Radko Gudas and Scott Mayfield are two I’ve thought about, but their teams are in the race. Luke Schenn being held out indicates he’s priced out of their range. Generally though, teams believe there is a surplus of rental defence options and are betting costs soften.
So yesterday, Bennett Jull covered off the Scott Mayfield angle before we even knew it was a thing that could be happening.
Scott Mayfield stands at 6’5, and weighs approximately 225 pounds. He is a sturdy, physical defenseman. He won’t overwhelm you with jaw-dropping Jacob Trouba like hits or overwhelming volume, but he can certainly clear a crease or win a board battle. He has an elite ability to block shots. Mayfield currently leads the Islanders in blocks with 121 (this would lead the Leafs as well), which puts him in the top 10 in the NHL. He skates decently well, and can more than adequately chip in offensively.
With Mayfield already covered off, we’ll move on to everyone’s favourite giant, Radko Gudas. Well, I think he’s everyone’s favourite giant at the trade deadline, decidedly less so when he’s the opposition.
Heading into writing this I was pretty sure that Radko Gudas has been traded at every single NHL trade deadline since eight years before the league began. I was shocked (but also not shocked) that in fact that has never happened. A big part of why I haven’t been shocked is that Gudas tends to play for so pretty good teams that want a tough and capable bottom pairing defender.
One of the other things I thought I knew for certain was that Gudas was a giant. He was clearly 6’5 and 250 lbs and was going to make everyone on the ice pay. Maybe it’s the loose resemblance to The Mountain in Game of Thrones that makes me feel he’s constantly on the verge of crushing Pedro Pascal’s head, but I guess I am wrong about that too and am happy for the safety of Pedro Pascal.
No, I apparently was adding a lot of other qualities to a guy that at looks capable of being an upgrade for the Leafs (although he likely has played easier minutes):
The Leafs have gone the Bogosian, Lyubushkin, Polak route in the playoffs previously, and it hasn’t yielded them favourable results. There have been a couple of years when the Leafs didn’t go with a heavy hockey defenseman as well and it didn’t yield results either. I’m not making a case that it’s either unnecessary or necessary, if anything I’m saying the Leafs forwards have cost them playoff victories more than the defense.
What I will say is that Gudas is one of the top hitters in the league and if his salary and usage make him a less expensive alternative to some of the other defensemen out there, he’s worth at least a call or two to see if something can be worked out.
Also from Elliotte Friedman on the Leafs:
Dubas added that Matt Murray is expected to be back next week, and has indicated he won’t trade for another goalie unless the acquisition cost plus the return is appreciably better than what he’s already got in-house.
This is the first place I’ve seen an established timeline from the Leafs about the return of Matt Murray, so that’s nice to see. I think there is at least a small benefit for the Leafs to wait until the trade deadline to activate Murray off the LTIR to maintain some extra salary relief and being able to add without necessarily having to subtract cap hits in the same transaction, but this could also be an entirely health driven decision.
The second part of that thought where the return needs to be better for the Leafs to look at a goaltender is likely focused more on the third string option for the Leafs at this point more than replacing either Samsonov or Murray. Samsonov is who got the Leafs here, for the most part, and Murray was largely brought in to be ready for the playoffs and thrive when they need him to thrive. Going in a new direction would be strange, but finding a cheap 3G who is a step above Kallgren and Woll might some sense, it’s just a matter of who that could possibly be.
The name that immediately comes to mind is Alex Nedeljkovic in Detroit. He’s already in the AHL, so he wouldn’t need to be waived down, he just has the unfortunate cap hit that goes with him and even if there was 50% salary retention of the deal, he’d still have a cap hit that would also impact the Leafs finances.
There are some other interesting options out there like Anton Khudobin, and Laurent Broissot who mirro the Nedeljkovic situation to some extent, but it will also be interesting to see if anyone is looking to move their cheaper NHL backup depth as well and the Leafs simply keep three goaltenders on their roster for the rest of the year.
Keeping up with the Joneses
One of the things we haven’t done much of in this space is take a look at the rumours that impact the Bruins and Lightning. The Lightning are obviously the priority, but Boston is perhaps the cautionary tale to not go too big at the deadline. The Bruins are already stacked and on a record setting pace for success and they want to do something significant at the trade deadline as well, that’s scary. So let’s take a look at Elliotte Friedman’s reports on the other two Atlantic juggernauts.
Friedman on Boston:
I believe the Bruins had interest in Bo Horvat, but that’s gone now. The cost for Gavrikov will tell us what opportunities remain. They’ve been linked to Ivan Barbashev and Luke Schenn. A few teams have wondered if they’re in on Timo Meier. That might be opponent paranoia, but if it’s this much of a squeeze for Gavrikov — I’d be curious how they could fit the winger.
Gavrikov looks like a virtual lock and I wonder if he’ll find his way all the way up to the beside Charlie McAvoy. Gavrikov did solid work with Werenski, maybe McAvoy can be a fit as well.
Barbashev on Boston is adding a Boston type player to a team that is already Bostoning at a high level. It’s scary. Schenn is a bit of a question mark, as the hits are undoubtedly nice, but he’s much more of a depth move for them.
And of course, there’s Timo Meier. I wonder if Boston acquires Meier if that essentially shuts down the trade deadline because teams realize there isn’t much of a point in getting in an arms race with a team that has gone nuclear three times over.
Friedman on Tampa:
Other teams think they like Barbashev, but will probably be outbid. A Garnet Hathaway or a Sam Lafferty type make sense here, along with a depth defender.
The Lightning certainly has a blueprint they go with. Add some heavy hitters, in this case, either Barbashev or Hathaway and find that undervalued try hard and pay whatever price it takes to get them. The Lightning did not get bargain deals on players like Barclay Goodrow, Nick Paul, Brandon Hagel, etc. but they brought them in because they made their tough to beat team even harder to play. I can’t imagine anything changes for them this year.
THE DAILY FACEOFF TRADE DEADLINE SHOW
Join us on March 3rd for the Daily Faceoff Live: Trade Deadline edition as Frank Seravalli and the panel break down all of the latest rumours, news, and rumblings from around the NHL. The show will be live on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter from 12 PM – 4 PM ET to keep you up to date on all things trade deadline no matter where you’re watching from.
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