It was perhaps one of the quietest deadline days on record for the Toronto Maple Leafs, as the club didn’t add anyone to their roster on Monday.
Most of the heavy lifting was completed a day earlier.
After pulling off a trade that saw 2019 Norris Trophy winner Mark Giordano and forward Colin Blackwell become the newest members of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Mar. 20, the next day was about the parting of assets.
The first move on Monday saw the Leafs trade defenceman Alex Biega to the Nashville Predators for future considerations. Then they waited until 2 p.m. ET to see which of the players placed on waivers on Sunday would stick.
For roster flexibility, Toronto placed goaltender Petr Mrazek and forward Kyle Clifford on waivers Sunday. They were also forced to put newly-signed Finnish goaltender Harri Sateri on waivers, a rule in the NHL collective bargaining agreement that is enforced when trying to acquire players from European clubs.
Mrazek, and his $3.8 million salary-cap hit cleared waivers, as well as Clifford.
“Obviously it was done for salary-cap reasons just to give us the greatest flexibility possible,” Dubas said of waiving Mrazek. “I hate to do that to anybody but you have to do what you have to do to give the team the best chance as possible and have different players return throughout the year so that’s why we did it.”
Meanwhile, Sateri was claimed by the Arizona Coyotes.
With one hour left to go until the deadline after losing Sateri, Dubas elected not to improve the team’s goaltending situation beyond its current state.
“We just didn’t feel like there was anything out there for the prices paid that was going to make it worthwhile for us and make it work salary-wise for us,” Dubas said.
The Leafs GM seemed less than pleased about details of his pursuit of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury being leaked in a tweet by TSN’s Darren Dreger.
“I’m disappointed that that conversation is public. I’ve never had that before where the specifics like that have been made public,” Dubas said. “Frankly, it’s probably something to ask (Blackhawks GM) Kyle Davidson at his availability.”
Fleury was traded on Monday to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for a conditional first-round draft pick.
Davidson told reporters in his availability that he was aware of Dubas’ comments and would address it with him privately.
So the Leafs will proceed with goaltenders Jack Campbell, Mrazek, Erik Kallgren and possibly others within their system.
Campbell has struggled over the last few months and he’s missed the last week-and-a-half with a rib injury. Mrazek has posted an .884 save percentage this season and was recently usurped by Kallgren over the last few starts.
Despite all of that, Dubas is confident his goaltending will rebound. He cited Campbell’s early start to season that earned him his first NHL All-Star appearance and the inexperience of the workload of a full 82-game season. He also stated that Mrazek has shown over the course of his career that he can bounce back from difficult stretches like the one he’s currently on.
“He has a strong belief in himself and it’s not an arrogant way or anything like that, he’s just been a good goalie in the league for a long time,” Dubas said of Mrazek
Kallgren, while impressive in his NHL debut in relief of Mrazek and his first couple of starts, but struggled between the pipes in a 6-3 loss to the Nashville Predators on Sunday.
The Maple Leafs made some impressive additions over the last month. They acquired defenceman Ilya Lyubushkin from the Arizona Coyotes while unloading a problem contract in forward Nick Ritchie. The additions of Giordano and Blackwell without sacrificing a first-round selection was well executed.
Dubas also confirmed that it was likely defenceman Jake Muzzin will return during the regular season after sustaining his second concussion of the season on Feb. 21.
The Leafs addressed their problem areas with their skaters and no doubt improved in that department.
But their goaltending didn’t improve at all and they’ll need somebody to step up and take the mantle if the club is to have any post-season success.