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Lee Stempniak

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According to CBC Sports, the San Jose Sharks are on the verge of signing free agent grinder Jamal Mayers. The Sharks announced on their website their plans for the veteran forward. “Jamal is a fast, physical, team-first player who brings the ingredients we were looking for to this role,” said Sharks general manager Doug Wilson. “He is an extremely fit athlete who can kill penalties and we think he will mesh well with our group of forwards.”

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Leafs Preseason Synopsis Part 1  – Defense and Goaltending

By: Michael Cuttell

With free agency cooling off and countless free-agent and team roster questions floating around, it’s time for Leafs fans to look at what they have, what they can afford to lose , what they need, and what they can realistically get to fill those needs. This is a step by step speculative analysis of those questions.

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Brian Burke must have felt a lot like the eponymous Old Mother Hubbard when he first reached into the Leafs prospects cupboard. Of course, unlike the elderly dog-mistreating crone of the rhyme, Burke already knew what lay in stock prior to his arrival in Leafs country. In short: a few notable exceptions to a decade of draft property mismanagement.

Subsequently, the draft of 2009 looked to be a vital cornerstone in Brian Burke’s rebuild. The first chance for the Leafs to restock in a new, finally directed era.

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    Former Blues and Maple Leafs, Lee Stempniak is the NHL’s first star of the week. “How?” I just assumed you asked. Quite simply, a young boy in the Netherlands just sacrificed a goat to the Gods over a copper caldron and down came the magical “wish demon” to provide the boy with three wishes.
    Note: I apologize for the mess the pictures made. So click here to read rest of article.

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      Submitted by Michael Stephens (a.k.a. Baumgartner)

      The Toronto Maple Leafs have the League’s worst penalty kill, sporting a 73.0% success rate. They have been shorthanded 252 times this season, surrendering 68 goals. Through 71 games this season, they average 3.5 penalties (252ts/71gp) each night.

      Around January 15th, this vaunted penalty kill was even worse, an abysmal 68.9%. Ron Wilson was smugly talking about how he had to teach his boys how to flip the puck down the ice and out of the zone.

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        Luca Caputi makes his Maple Leaf debut tonight as Toronto visits Boston to battle it out with the Bruins. Seidenberg will suit up for the Bruins who are still aiming to remain in the playoffs despite injury woes and a lack of ability to land an elite scoring winger for Marc Savard. The quest to get out of the bottom five continues for the Leafs tonight.

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          Final Deadline Trades:

          Alexei Ponikarovsky to Pittsburgh for Luca Caputi and Martin Skoula
          Martin Skoula to New Jersey for a fifth round draft selection.
          Lee Stempniak to PHX for 4th and 7th rounders.
          Joey MacDonald to ANA for a 7th rounder in 2011.

          Wrap-Up: That looks to be a wrap on Brian Burke’s trade activity for the 2009-10 season. The Stempniak deal was obviously a form of loss-cutting on a pending UFA, but it’s a bit painful to remember who we sacrificed to acquire him in November of 2008 in two albeit underachieving first rounders in Alex Steen and Carlo Colaiacovo. The Leafs will not draft until the third round this year, and Burke did not succeed in that sense, however he moved the only piece realistically capable of fetching a second rounder for a semi-established young asset with the potential to replace Poni at an immediately cheaper price in Luca Caputi. It looks as though no takers could be found on either Wayne Primeau or Garnet Exelby, who look sure to now enter the FA market July 1.

          There seems to be details yet to unfurl surrounding the Tomas Kaberle situation this deadline, as once again Leafs fans were teased into believing a deal was pending (involving Hodgson, as it was reported, or possibly Alzner from Washington) only for what looked to be an imminent deal to be flatly denied by Brian Burke in the end. There are rumblings that Kaberle might have nixed a deal in similar fashion to the Jeff Carter situation at the ’08 deadline.

          From Garrett Bauman:

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            With the Olympics wrapping up (and in the process Canada securing the record for most gold medals, capped off by our Men’s and Women’s hockey teams), the focus among hockey fans now shifts to the NHL trade deadline.

            While there are few untouchables on the Maple Leafs’ roster, speculation is that only a handful of players are likely to be dealt between Monday and Wednesday. Here’s a look at some of the speculation surrounding the most-talked about candidates to swap jerseys.

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              The Toronto Maple Leafs visit the St. Louis Blues tonight, in the Leafs’ final game prior to the NHL’s Olympic break.

              The Leafs are coming off a narrow loss to the West-leading San Jose Sharks, a game which left the team with much to feel good about.  Tonight, the team will look to resolve their road woes and enter the break on a high note, by capitalizing on what has been an inconsistent and underachieving Blues squad.

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                With the NHL’s Olympic Trade Freeze about to hit at 3pm today, reports out of Pittsburgh indicate that the Maple Leafs had scouted the Penguins’ Wednesday game against the Islanders. The obvious trade fit here would  seem to be a winger such as Alexei Ponikarovsky or even Lee Stempniak. However, the Pens currently have about $600 k available in cap space, so any significant acquisition means that another roster player would have to be going the other way.

                Dreger had speculated a few days ago that the Leafs were looking for a 2nd round pick along with a roster player in exchange for Ponikarovsky, which is certainly consistent with Burke’s moves as Toronto GM. Realizing a lack of quality grinders on his team, Brian has been gradually and subtly requesting that teams include quality 3rd and 4th line players in a couple of his deals (see Primeau in the Stralman deal and Sjostrom in the Phaneuf deal). So perhaps Tyler Kennedy or Pascal Dupuis along with a draft pick coming back the Leafs’ way would be the most feasible framework around which to base a deal.

                Should be an interesting day ahead.

                [email protected]

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                  Random talking points on a variety of topics including Giguere’s shutout streak, a refreshing new attitude, the Schenn/Phaneuf connection, pending UFAs and more.

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                    For the second time in four days the Maple Leafs will face off against the New Jersey Devils, this time at the ACC. In what seems to be the most nonsensical decision made in recent memory by NHL schedulers, come this Friday the Leafs and Devils will have faced off three times in one calendar week. What’s up with that?

                    As you are all undoubtedly aware, the Leafs have a few new faces in the fold, and we are all eager to see what Phaneuf, Sjostrom, and Giguere bring to the table as members of the blue and white.

                    Note: I won’t get into trade analysis here; that has already been covered in excellent fashion by the MLHS crew in prior posts.

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                      In the wake of Sunday’s blockbuster trades, one cannot help but wonder what’s next for the Toronto Maple Leafs? Who’s next to go? Who stays?

                      In any case, I think that it’s pretty safe to say that this season is a write-off. We’re not making any moves to make a run at the playoffs this season. So, let’s look forward and take a look at what the Maple Leafs should look like next season.

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                        The Leafs took to the ice today in preparation for Martin Brodeur tomorrow night. It featured some interesting one on one drills for a few key players, and one defenceman who claims the future of his career and the Maple Leafs would be better suited if he were traded.

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                          On the heels of Saturday night’s rumour from the Hockey Night in Canada Hot Stove panel that the dealing of pending free agents Matt Stajan and Alexei Ponikarovsky is a virtual certainty, TSN’s Darren Dreger has listed the pair as the fourth and fifth most-likely trade candidates this trade deadline (Stajan followed by Ponikarovsky) as Brian Burke seeks to re-equip his club with picks lost or equivalent prospects.

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                            - The Toronto Sun has an interesting article up, talking about the future of several Maple Leaf players leading up to this year’s trade deadline. During an informal survey of hockey executives and general managers attending the CHL Top Prospects game, the consensus was that aside from Tomas Kaberle, Ponikarovsky would be the player who would garner the greatest return. It was speculated that he would perhaps net a late 2nd round pick, being comparable to but not as refined as Nik Antropov (who yielded the Rangers’ 50th overall selection last year).

                            - The article follows up by noting that players such as Stajan and Stempniak might get “a sniff”, but not to expect a significant return. However, it appears Burke has not been particularly aggressive in dangling any of his players at the present time.

                            - In another note, according to the Russian website infox.ru via the Toronto Sun, it appears as if winger Nikolai Kulemin will be named to the Russian Olympic roster for the Vancouver games. It’s nice to see that Kulemin’s solid all-around play this season is getting him some recognition from those outside the organization.

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                              It was the same old story for the Maple Leafs last night. Another bad start, another power-play goal against, another game where they outshot the opposition badly, another good effort, but another loss. The Leafs dropped their fourth in a row, 4-2 to the last-place Carolina Hurricanes.

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                                Per the Toronto Star, it appears as though Tyler Bozak may be the latest player to get a shot at centring the Maple Leafs’ top line alongside Phil Kessel and Nik Kulemin, beginning tonight against Carolina.   With Kessel having recorded only 1 goal and 1 assist in his last 12 games, the Leafs are desperately hoping this change may be the tonic required to get their star winger back on track.

                                Update: confirmed by am640′s Jonas Siegel.

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                                  With the World Junior Championship gold medal game taking centre stage tonight (7:30pm, TSN), Leafs’ fans can be forgiven for overlooking tonight’s matchup against an inconsistent Florida Panthers squad (7:00pm, Sportsnet).

                                  Coming off a disastrous mini-road trip out West, featuring losses to the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames, the Maple Leafs will look to inject some confidence into their lineup with a victory against the visiting Panthers, who sit only 4 points ahead of the Leafs in the Eastern Conference standings.

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                                    For all the headlines the franchise had made off the ice, it’s the Phoenix Coyotes on ice product that should be making the news.

                                    Led by a core of young, talented hard working players, and solid goaltending by Ilya Bryzgalov, the Coyotes have been one of the biggest surprises in the NHL this season, and continued their winning ways tonight defeating the Leafs 6-3 in Toronto, denying the Leafs of their fifth straight win on home ice.

                                    Petr Prucha score twice for the Coyotes, while Vernon Fiddler, Paul Bissonnette, Scottie Upshall and Radim Vrbata all tallied singles for Phoenix.  Jamal Mayers, Phil Kessel, and Alexei Ponikarovsky replied for Toronto.