As those who could tolerate the Fox Sports commentators and the poor camera angles can attest to, the Marlies staged a late comeback effort to win 4-3 in shootout over the Grand Rapids Griffins in the Hockeytown Winter Festival Outdoor game. The Marlies sit 17-10-3 at the 30-game pole and now lead the North Division by three points over Hamilton with three games in hand.
From tonight’s Insider Trading on TSN:
McKenzie:If you’ve been hearing a lot of Vernon Fiddler trade rumours it’s because two weeks ago he went to the Dallas Stars and said he wants more ice time and wants a bigger role, and if he can’t get it with Dallas than let it be somewhere else. He’s on an expiring contract at $1.8 million and an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year. There is interest in him from other teams but the Stars are wining and things are going well, so they’re not going to give him away. Keep an eye on this one.
Dreger: The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of those teams that have had discussions with Dallas about Fiddler. Toronto’s a little bit concerned about his age and the money, but the Leafs are looking for something. They’ve also had discussions on potentially trading John-Michael Liles to the Carolina Hurricanes but nothing imminent there.
When John Michael Liles is in the minors, the Leafs are pinged for 2,950,000 on the cap. If the Leafs were to deal Liles and retain half of his salary (maximum amount), they would be on the hook for 1,937,000. That doesn’t make sense to do over the length of the deal, but something like a million might. The maximum number of retained salaries is three per team, so this would put the Leafs at the max if it were to transpire. One stumbling block here is that Carolina has no more cap space than the Leafs.
When it comes to Vernon Fiddler, think of an upgrade on Smithson but a similar player type. 33 years old, veteran of nearly 600 games (has collected around 90 more points than Smithson in that time), plays around 2 minutes on the penalty kill, wins 53% of draws (this season), though surprisingly poor on the dot last season in the defensive zone and on the penalty kill. The downside is Fiddler is going to cost an asset, likely a mid round pick.
Nothing looks imminent here, but it seemed worth passing along.
The John Michael Liles buyout watch is officially over, for this year, anyway.
Nazem Kadri and Cody Franson are still RFAs, and the Leafs currently have just 4.9M in cap space to retain them both. While many have pointed out that Korbinian Holzer and Trevor Smith are accounted for on the Leafs capgeek roster even though neither figures to make the team, it also has to be said that the Leafs aren’t going to play with a roster holding the bare minimum of 12 forwards and six defensemen all year. Something has to give.
There are a few different ways things can turn out now.
Toronto looks for their 1st win on home ice in this series (and in 9 years) and you can expect that they will be a little less tight in the 1st period than they were in their 1st playoff game at the ACC on Monday night. Toronto has been getting progressively better during the series and looks to be the match of Boston if they play their system and don’t gift them goals like did the entire game on Monday.
In their only move today, the Leafs have acquired the 6’5, 235-pound Ryan O’Byrne, a big right hander for the back end who used to play alongside John-Michael Liles in Colorado. A depth add here, with a 4th round pick headed the other way to the Avalanche.
After looking at potential trade targets in last week’s preamble, it only makes sense to look at the Leafs potential trading chips for the deadline that’s two days away.
Around the trade deadline, eyes always gravitate towards pending UFAs and the Leafs currently have five. It’s safe to say UFA to be – Colton Orr, Mike Kostka and Ryan Hamilton – aren’t going to bring Toronto anything via trade so we can cut them off the list of names to discuss. The other two UFAs to be are Tyler Bozak and Clarke MacArthur.
In a matchup with big playoff implications, the Leafs could move ten up on the 10th-placed Carolina Hurricanes with a win in this four-point swing game. A loss in regulation puts the Hurricanes within six with three games in hand.
The Hurricanes are an opponent the Leafs have struggled with in both matchups this season. Their strength down the middle has played a key role as the Staal brothers have featured prominently on the scoresheet in a combined 7-2 win over the two games. Among teams the Leafs have played more than once, the Canes are the only opponent they have gained zero points off of.
The Tampa Bay Lighting (13-15-1) are in town to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs (15-12-2).
The other day, Randy Carlyle called the Leafs’ inability to initiate clean breakouts and avoid getting hemmed in their own zone “the big mystery with this group.” He’s taken steps toward resolving it with the addition of both John Michael-Liles and Jake Gardiner to the lineup, who will apparently play together on a pairing tonight as the defence takes a shape much closer to what many armchair coaches were penciling together before the season. It will be interesting to see how the pair affect the breakout and overall puck movement off the backend. Gardiner will also look to inject some life into a powerplay that’s 0 for its last 19.
Speaking of interesting quotes from the other day, Dave Nonis was asked if the Leafs were in the midst of a downfall akin to last season, with his team currently on a 0-3-2 skid. Nonis said, “The one difference I would draw – I just went over the last 5 games – I think there was only one game where we weren’t happy with the performance and the effort. Last year, when things were going poorly, were were unhappy with the effort a lot more than that.” So let’s hope that translates into an upturn in results before the Leafs play their way out of the playoff picture.
The Leafs were hurt by an off outing from Ben Scrivens in their last meeting with the Lightning. Facing their first non-playoff opponent in five games, this is also a good time to get their first win in five games. James Reimer gets the start.
Liles and Gardiner form the second pairing, with Kostka remaining in the press box for the third straight game. Phaneuf and Gunnarsson will be tasked with the Stamkos and St. Louis head-to-head. Vinny Lecavalier is out with a broken foot.
The internal data of this table is corrupted!
With just over three weeks to go until the trade deadline, I feel as if I can get away with a rosterbation post without too much scrutiny. I’ll do my best to not go full HFBoards with my ideas, but certainly have a few players in mind that I’d like for the Leafs to target, and a few that I’d like Nonis to jettison. While I’m sure this won’t be the most intelligent post you’ll read this morning, hopefully it will at least spark some Monday morning conversation.
Since we are almost at the halfway point, I thought now would be a good time to write some notes on each individual player thus far. Here is the close-but-not-quite-halfway Leafs Notebook:
According to the good folks at Sports Club Stats the Toronto Maple Leafs have approximately a 5 percent chance of making the playoffs.Â Yeah, pretty bleak… five out of one hundred times this Leafs team will make the big dance.Â If James Reimer doesnâ€™t continue to play like a Vezina trophy candidate I think we can safely say the Leafs stand no chance at all.
James Reimer (prior to Saturdayâ€™s game) has played in 17 games, sports a 10-4-2 record to go along with a sparkling 2.24 GAA and a shiny .930 save percentage.Â In short, he has played like one of the top goaltenders in hockey during his short stretch as the Maple Leafs number one option.Â His current stats would rank him in sole possession of fifth in the NHL in GAA and second in save percentage (behind only Tim Thomas).