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Toronto Star

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In case you missed it, here’s mORRganRielly‘s excellent Game in 22.

What a heart-breaker that was.

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According to Paul Hunter of the Toronto Star, it appears as if the Maple Leafs could be exploring all options in order to bring in another centreman from outside the organization. While Hunter explains that Bozak and Grabovski have essentially nailed down the top two centre positions to begin the season, both Kadri and Mitchell have struggled enough for Burke to begin considering alternative means of reinforcement down the middle. During the media conference call on Sunday afternoon, Burke had this to say about his current forward group:

“No one has ever said we’re going with this group. We’re still in a great position for waiver claims. We still have our scouts out scouring. We haven’t ruled out doing something. . . . We may need to go out and grab a centre.

Regarding Kadri:

“He’s not played anywhere near to what we had hoped for and expected. I don’t know why that is and he’s running out of time.”

Hunter speculates that Christian Hanson will likely be slotted in between Colton Orr and Mike Brown on the team’s fourth line, which by process of elimination, suggests that the Leafs could be looking to acquire a veteran third line centre. Presumably, this would be a player who would mesh into Burke’s “top six – bottom six” philosophy as a defensively minded player who will win faceoffs, battle in the corners and contribute on the team’s penalty kill unit.

One such player could be former Canuck/Duck Brendan Morrison, whom Burke and Nonis are both quite familiar with. Morrison is currently with the Canucks’ camp on a tryout basis, but has been playing well. The 35 year old B.C. native posted 42 points and a +23 rating in 74 games played for the Capitals last season. If he doesn’t manage to snag a full-time job on a very deep Canuck team (Sedin, Kesler, Malholtra down the middle), then look for the Leafs to perhaps inquire about his services.

The speculation after the Matt Lashoff trade a few days back was that it was a precursor to another move for the Leafs. Sure enough, Clarke MacArthur was announced as the newest Maple Leaf. At a cap friendly $1.1 million, MacArthur is being paid like a 3rd liner. Burke has other things in mind, recently stating to the Toronto Star that MacArthur will spend “significant time” on the top two lines this coming season. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the kind of role we can expect from MacArthur. All stats not specifically referenced are borrowed from BehindtheNet.ca.

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Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager, Brian Burke should have uttered one phrase to explain the situation, one simple little phrase to envelope the reasoning for the Phil Kessel trade;

“Our picks in our vision of where we ended up are overvalued in accordance to the available crop of prospects.”

But in Toronto, to admit that in what’s deemed as a ‘rebuild’ would have been a PR disaster.

Despite popular opinion, he wasn’t wrong.

The world is no longer flat, it’s round .. like a full-cirle

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The Tomas Kaberle trade watch is now in effect with only 36 hours to go until this situation concludes. The rumor mill is running rampant with some high profile names and some future fan favorites, but let's dive into who is being mentioned as possible blue and white sweater bearers.

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It’s been rumored for a few days now, but on Wednesday afternoon, prospect Jerry D’Amigo has finally put pen to paper to sign a 3 year entry-level contract with the Maple Leafs. This signing certainly comes as a surprise as D’Amigo was originally expected to complete a full four year commitment with RPI before turning pro. After a fantastic ’09-’10 season that saw him produce a near point-a-game campaign en route to ECAC Rookie of the Year honours, he rocketed up the team’s depth charts and could find himself in a position to earn a roster spot as early as this fall. Like Tyler Bozak last season, D’Amigo will have two overriding motivations in joining the Maple Leafs.

One, the money is pretty good: The Toronto Star’s Damien Cox explains that Jerry will earn a “max contract”. Update: D’Amigo’s maximum cap hit if he hits all his bonuses would be $1.125 million. Two, there is opportunity: the team’s forward outlook is still in flux and D’Amigo will be given every opportunity to compete for a full-time job at camp. Cox explains that the organization was willing to give D’Amigo a maximum contract because they feel that if the 2009 draft were redone, Jerry would find himself going in the bottom third of the first round. It’ll be interesting to see how the club will attempt to fit D’Amigo into their financial picture if he is indeed deemed NHL ready to start the season.

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- The Toronto Star has a nice piece up about Kadri’s offseason workouts and training regimen. The youngster has bulked up to an impressive 185 lbs, up from 170 lbs at this time last season and credits his success to being able to train regularly with Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel. The Maple Leafs player development staff are quite pleased with Nazem’s progress, as he continues to vie for a role in the team’s top six forward group.

- Not to give away too many details, but I conducted my interview with Leafs’ Director of Amateur Scouting Dave Morrison yesterday for the 2010 Maple Leafs Annual and he confirmed that if Kadri does not make the team out of camp, the organization will send him to the Marlies rather than back to the Knights.

- The Montreal Gazette provides some insight into how prospect Brayden Irwin, a late season NCAA free agent signee, is preparing for upcoming year.

- CapGeek notes that the Maple Leafs have re-signed forward Tim Brent to a 1 year, two-way contract worth $575,000. Brent will likely provide some scoring depth for the Marlies, having scored 28 points in 33 games last season.

- Yahoo’s Greg Wyshynski confirms that the lack of movement on the free agent front is due to fact that several teams are facing financial restrictions. Free agents were aware that several teams were trying to offload cumbersome contracts, but were surprised at the lack of success in doing so. The teams trying to climb to the cap floor are preferring to do so by bidding on second or third tier players, which in turn is inflating the market for these secondary contributors. Several teams are in the “wait-and-see” mode with an eye on scooping up bargains around July 10th.

[email protected]

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Less than 36 hours to go until start of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, so here are some links to start your day:

- The Toronto Sun explains that Burke is very tempted to trade his way into Friday’s first round party if the price is right. He’s already turned down an offer of a late first round pick for a roster player (Kulemin?) and another team has also brought up Schenn’s name in trade talks but was quickly rebuffed. The Leafs were also kicking the tires on Horton and Byfuglien before they were dealt over the last couple days. Burke did stress that his trade options are not limited to simply draft weekend, unless it involves draft picks, so it’s quite possible that nothing major goes down in Los Angeles.

- The Toronto Star provides a quick update on the Kaberle trade talks, citing that the Leafs have received four “concrete” offers for the blueliner thus far with eight other teams expressing interest. Burke again reiterated that he could quite confidently get a first round pick back for Kaberle, but that he’s looking for different kind of assets in return because he wants to get better now.

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According to the Toronto Star‘s Damien Cox, the Maple Leafs have targeted three potential players to bolster their lineup heading into next season.

For starters, the club is poised to make a run at impending unrestricted free agent defenseman Dan Hamhuis. Hamhuis is a good all-around defenseman who plays 21-22 minutes a night, makes a decent first pass, and can contribute a little bit in the offensive zone. His calling card is predominantly solid, if unspectacular even strength play, while eating up a ton of ice-time against the opposing team’s top lines. Still just 27 years of age, Hamhuis ranked 6th among NHL defenseman in takeaways last season. The potential link to Toronto is interesting because you’d think they’d already have enough money tied up on the blueline when Hamhuis could potentially be looking at upwards of $3 million on a long-term deal.

The team is also said to be kicking the tires on wingers Nathan Horton and Patrick Sharp, none of whom are strangers to the trade rumor mill. As mentioned previously, Horton has a no-trade clause that goes into effect on July 1st, which may motivate Panthers’ GM Dale Tallon to move the underachieving youngster at the draft. Meanwhile, Sharp is garnering plenty of interest around the league after an impressive point-a-game Stanley Cup run, but it’s likely that Chicago will exhaust all other possible trade alternatives before deciding to trade their valuable two-way forward.

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It’s not every day the Maple Leafs name a new captain. In fact, it’s not every decade. Sundin was named in 1997, 13 years prior to the Leafs appointment of Phaneuf. And with the announcement being made in front of a room of roughly 100 media personnel, the message was relayed to the world using every different angle imaginable.

Instead of weighing the pros and cons, balancing the collective good choices of Burke and Wilson against the bad, MLHS is going to bring you into the event. Thousands of writers have provided their opinion but little time has been spent enabling the reader to form their own. So please, if you will, grab your notepad and follow us past the security and the media media check-in, and into the press conference that will see Dion Phaneuf named the 18th captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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    Dave Nonis on his new two-year contract extension with Toronto:

    “I’m very lucky. I have more to say about our team than some GMs do,” said Nonis of his unique position as Brian Burke’s right hand man. “It’s not a job that’s comparable with other positions around the league.”

    “If you look at our roster now and compare it to 16 months ago, it’s not only different, it’s younger and better,” he said. “But we’ve still got lots of work to do. The job is not done by a longshot. There are more pieces to add.”

    -Toronto Star’s Damien Cox

    Cox reports that one of those pieces may be 25-year-old center Roman Cervenka of Czech club HC Slavia Praha, perhaps familiar to you from his international appearances alongside Jaromir Jagr on Czech Republic’s Olympic side in February.

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      Note: With the playoffs being the focus of the hockey world right now, there isn’t a whole lot of big stories breaking in Leafland these days. As such, I’ll be helping out Alec with his “Bits & Pieces” articles, touching briefly on various topics, and providing the occasional draft primer for the Entry Draft this coming June.

      This session’s topics include the Phoenix Coyotes, Mike Komisarek and 2010 draft prospect Joey Hishon.

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      Some reading material for your weekend enjoyment:

      - The boys over at PPP provide us with a nice piece about European free agent goaltender Jussi Rynnas. The 6’5 22 year old is coming off an impressive season in the Finnish Elite League, posting a 2.50 GAA to go along with a league-best 0.929 SV%. For comparison’s sake: Mikka Kiprusoff posted a 1.86 GAA and 0.936 SV% during his age 22-23 season in the SM-Liiga. Jussi is in the midst of a five city North American tour, with Toronto not being one of the destinations. However, Burke and Nonis have both made the trip out to Helsinki and later brought Francois Allaire along to speak with Rynnas during his stopover in Montreal. Rynnas is not as highly regarded as Gustavsson was last offseason, and will likely be playing for an AHL team next season. The scouting report on him is that he’s a big guy who can struggle at times with rebound control and positioning, much like our own Gustavsson, and his style of play has been compared to that of Nashville’s Pekka Rinne.

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        - As already discussed earlier this week on MLHS, Mike Van Ryn is hoping to make a comeback to the NHL next season. Tim Wharnsby offers an interesting read: how Mike has been training diligently for a long-shot comeback attempt for one of the last two games this season. A shame it didn’t work out.

        - Continuing on with an already over-publicized story, the Toronto Star provides more “insight” into the inner workings of the NCAA Frat Pack of Bozak, Stalberg and Hanson. Basically, they’re friends on and off the ice. Groundbreaking.

        - Kevin McGran talks about Jonas Gustavsson’s Masterton Trophy nomination.

        - Some more love for Jerry D’Amigo, this time from Inside College Hockey, who named him to their Freshman All-American team as one of the top three freshman forwards in the entire nation.

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          The Torontosaurus Rex for Week 23 is fitting and also notoriously absent from the only Leafs extra time loss in the last seven overtime/shootout games. In that loss, the Maple Leafs and Penguins tied a dubious NHL record, one night after the Leafs/Rangers surpassed 100 overtime games in the NHL this season.

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            After tonight’s snoozer, let’s move on to a bigger and better subject.

            Some of you may have watched a surprising Norway side battle Switzerland to the bitter end for a quarterfinal birth in their final preliminary game at the Olympics; if so, try to recall a 5’7, 160-pound speedster working a stick as tall as the man himself.

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              There’s already some discussion going on in the threads, but let’s get all of that latest news out on the table:

              - TSN’s Darren Dreger recently tossed out his list of top 10 candidates to be moved at this year’s trade deadline, with Matt Stajan and Alexei Ponikarovsky figuring in at the 4th and 5th spots respectively. He suggests that Stajan would perhaps yield “a decent prospect or drafts picks in return” and that Ponikarovsky would likely fetch a similar price. It’s always hard to gauge the trade deadline market as values fluctuate on a yearly basis, but I’ve got Ponikarovsky pegged as an Antropov comparable (2nd round pick) as a big body and 60 point player while Stajan may compare favorably to Moore (2nd round pick starting price) as a depth centreman who can put up some points in the right situation.

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                Since posting the parable of Owen the other day, and most especially since reviewing the commentary appended thereto, it has come to my attention that:

                1. The Tragically Hip suck or else the Tragically Hip are the very Platonic embodiment of the concept of “win”.   It is not at all clear which of these two statements concerning the properties of the Tragically Hip inclines towards truth, yet the truth is said to be obvious, immutable and beyond the realm of debate;
                2. It is a very good idea to proofread what you have frantically typed in a guilty paroxysm of nostalgic reminiscence before hitting the “publish” button.  Failure to do so may have the inattentive rookie blogger combining various teams, their nicknames and game results in a charming but utterly abstract and completely fictional goulash of confusion.  In the unlikely event this is not the effect one is really attempting to achieve, this little pro tip may help you avoid embarrassment;
                3. It is quite possible that I am the first person on earth and in the history of ever to reference both the Three Stooges and Waiting for Godot in the same sentence.  Now I’ve gone and done it in consecutive posts!  Don’t be expecting this level of achievement in every installment, kids, outstanding performances have a way of regressing to the mean;
                4. My theory of road trips, nascent and ill-developed though it may be, is fertile ground for graduate study.  Even more startlingly, the road trip is fertile ground for reality television.  How has there not been a Big Brother style reality show centred around the road trip.  And no, I haven’t forgotten about the Amazing Race; pay attention man, those dudes travel in pairs, not triads.  As an aside, I wonder how many other areas of human endeavour are equally of interest to academics and reality TV producers?
                5. I somehow managed to omit from the story the fact that my buddies and I attended a cocktail mixer at the IMF.  Trust me, you don’t know from fun until you’ve partied with international debt specialists in a brightly-lit impersonal and institutional room in the middle of the afternoon; and
                6. At least some of you are seeing some of the same positive developments in certain Maple Leaf players that I am.

                Before we get to the subject of today’s post, Luke Schenn, a preliminary word if you will about the title of these entries: 

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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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                    Per Mark Zwolinski of the Toronto Star:

                    Jonas Gustavsson’s roller coaster ride through the very early part of his NHL career hit another high Sunday when he was named a backup goalie for Sweden’s entry into the Vancouver Olympics.

                    Said Gustavsson, upon learning of his selection:

                    “It’s an honour, it will be my first time at an Olympics … the Olympics are one of the greatest things you can be in.”

                    Congratulations to the Monster on this great achievement, as he joins a team that many predict will be a lock to reach the final stages of the tournament.  Sweden versus Canada in the Final could be a definite possibility — imagine that!