Toronto Maple Leafs' William Nylander, left, congratulates Mitch Marner after their team's 4-1 win over the Boston Bruins following NHL hockey action, in Toronto on Saturday, October 15, 2016.With his diminutive 170-pound frame, Marner might look like the little brother on the Leafs, but that hasn't stopped him from making a big early impression in the NHL. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Dreger and McKenzie on the Kovalchuk rumours, a historical look at offer sheets in the NHL, SCF Game 4, and more in the Monday links.

 Leafs Links

Dreger: Maple Leafs likely have no interest in Kovalchuk (TSN1050)
TSN Hockey insider Darren Dreger joined Naylor & Landsberg with guest host Derek Taylor to discuss the atmosphere in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, what to expect tonight in Game 4 and if the Maple Leafs will have any interest in Ilya Kovalchuk.

I don’t believe the Maple Leafs are interested. I saw the reports, and I did my work in digging through my Maple Leafs sources, and I’m told it’s BS. I guess I’ll leave it at that from a Toronto Maple Leafs perspective.

I think Ilya Kovalchuk is interested in returning to the NHL. Part of me also wonders if he’s just not trying to ratchet up some sort of leverage to stay in the KHL. But I believe, given the right situation and the right contract, he’d come back to the National Hockey League.

What’s that contract going to be? He’s not a young man anymore by NHL standards, so you’re investing — whatever the term is — it is going to be costly and potentially dangerous. You have to be certain that he is going to be a big offensive weapon.

I think the consensus is — at least from what I gathered when I was in Europe; he wasn’t on Team Russia, but I asked around the team — that he can still get it done. Again, the question is: If he’s not scoring 25 or more, is it going to be worth it? I think there would be some apprehension from NHL General Managers.

McKenzie: Nashville is the best Stanley Cup experience I’ve ever had (TSN1260)
TSN Hockey insider Bob McKenzie joined Fraser & van Diest to recap Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final from Nashville, and shares his thought ahead of tonight’s Game 4, while also commenting on the Kovalchuk rumours.

I think we’re mostly still in the speculation phase. There is a lot of teams interested. He’s going to pick and choose where he wants to go. There are going to be a lot of teams mentioned; I’m not sure how many are serious.

He’d be looking for a big number — a significant number, I think. If I had to guess — and it’s just a guess on my part; it’s not based on any inside information from any of the teams or Kovalchuk and his agent — he’s going to be looking for two or three years. My guess is he’s going to be looking for between $6-7 million and maybe closer to $7 million a year. There is not a lot of teams that can afford that.

Simmons: Leafs not interested in Kovalchuk, from my understanding (TSN1050)
Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons joined Leafs Lunch with Andi Petrillo, Dave Poulin and Craig Button to discuss the reports around Ilya Kovalchuk returning to the NHL and the Leafs have interest in the Russian sniper.

“From my understanding, there is no interest from the Leafs part. Knowing Lou Lamoriello, Lou kicks the tires on everything. I think that’s just sort of how he conducts his business. Is it possible that he asked some questions or made some phone calls? It’s possible. That I’m unaware of, but I can tell you, from what I gathered yesterday, the Leafs are not at all interested in Ilya Kovalchuk.”

Does Lou love Ilya Kovalchuk as much as people think he does because of that contract, or was that really the owners wanting to get that done?

“I believe at the time that it was the owners. They were trying to get a bidding war going between Los Angeles and New Jersey. It was funny, because I don’t think the General Managers of either team were all that interested in Ilya Kovalchuk because of the money they were talking about and the years that they were talking about. The ownership was, so New Jersey put that deal together, which was challenged by the league and had to be switched and they got in trouble over the contract.

Taking it out of the money realm for a minute and into the hockey realm: In the hockey realm, in New Jersey’s last trip to the Stanley Cup Final — and Lou Lamoriello’s last trip to the Final — it was a New Jersey team that was unlikely to get there and one of their stars, if not their biggest stars, was Ilya Kovalchuk. He had a great playoff run. It was kind of the redemption of sorts of his reputation. That’s probably the best meaningful hockey that Ilya Kovalchuk ever played.

If Lou Lamoriello is fond of Ilya Kovalchuk, I suspect it is because he’s fiercely loyal to the success that his teams have had. One of his best years in recent years was with Kovalchuk as his best player.”

You might ask a fan who is in favour of this: That means he replaces Nylander on the power play. Are you okay with that?

“None of this makes sense when you take into account Lou’s mantra, which is, “we have a plan and we’re not going off of it. We have a five-year plan that changes every day.” I understand it will change, but I don’t think it’ll change to bring in a 34-year-old whose best days are behind him.

There is little logic to any of this unless you get a player for absolute free on a short-term contract, which would give you the ability — pie-in-the-sky here for a minute — to move somebody else possibly for a defenceman while you get goal-scoring from another place. Would I want him to replace Nylander or take ice time away from Marner or Matthews or Brown, or anybody for that matter? No, not at all.

I’m going to go back to what I was able to decipher on the phone yesterday morning and that was that they have no interest, so what we’re doing right now is really speculating about something that is not going to happen.”

Russia becomes a reliable pipeline for ready-made NHL talent (AP)
“Years ago, we had (Igor) Larionov and (Slava) Fetisov coming over and it took them a little time, but in recent years players like Panarin and Radulov and Zaitsev have come over and done very, very well,” Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee said. “Especially with the experienced players, a bunch of them just got to play in the World Cup in Toronto on the small rink in a huge tournament, and they’ve played in international tournaments over here, so I think just having the experience of playing on the smaller rink has probably helped some of the experienced players.”

Draft Combine: Physical tests put kids on a mission (The Hockey News)
Joseph, the younger brother of Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Mathieu Joseph, is a very intriguing blueliner thanks to his high hockey IQ and mobility. He lost a lot of battles this past season because he only weighed 160 pounds, but the effort was there and he certainly has time to bulk up. Another defenseman in that mould is Ian Mitchell, who played for the Spruce Grove Saints of the Alberta Jr. A League this year. Mitchell is committed to Denver and in many of his interviews with NHL teams, the scouts agreed that going to the NCAA is the right choice for him, as he can take advantage of the weight room time the college route affords a player.

Juuso Valimaki – 2017 NHL Draft Profile (MLHS)
In terms of offensive production, Valimaki produced one of the best seasons of any draft-eligible player in 2016-17 with 61 points in 60 games (19g, 32a), including 14 even-strength goals. Among first-year eligible CHL defencemen in the 2017 draft class, he’s the only one to finish over a point-per-game. On the list of CHL defencemen selected in the first rounds of the 2015 and 2016 drafts (a list that includes Ivan Provorov, Olli Juolevi, Mikhail Sergachev, Jakob Chychrun and Thomas Chabot), only Provorov achieved that feat.

2017 Prospect Profiles: #27 Callan Foote (Canucks Army)
Ultimately, Foote is very likely to be a NHL player; however, there is some limitations on his upside. Foote carries enough offensive talent to give him about a good shot at being a second pairing defender, let alone competently play in the NHL. That said, his lack of elite offensive upside, noted through both qualitative and quantitative scouting, reduces his chances of being a first-pairing defender, pushing him back to late within the first round.

Leafs talk with big Steelheads defenceman Hague (Toronto Sun)
“It was a good interview,” Hague said of his talks with the Leafs, among the many clubs talking to him. “A lot of the guys in that room had seen me play right from minor midget in the Toronto area. A lot of a familiar faces were there and it was nice to meet guys such as Mr. (Lou) Lamoriello and the guys you always see on TV.”

11 matched NHL offer sheets with lasting impact (Sportsnet)
The entire discussion may be more of a theoretical exercise than anything, since Doug Armstrong claims the Blues would automatically match any offer sheet on one of their players. If so, he’d be falling in line with most of his colleagues through NHL history. The list of players who’ve signed offer sheets at some point in their career is longer than you might think, and some of the names are big ones. But the offer sheets are almost always matched.

Predators leaning heavily on defense corps against Penguins (Denver Post)
The defensemen have helped Nashville outshoot Pittsburgh in each of the first three games. They’ve also stuck so closely to the Penguins that Pittsburgh went 37 minutes without a shot in Game 1. The Penguins also have managed just four shots on goal in 13 power plays in the series with just one goal with the man advantage. “They just skate themselves out of trouble,” Crosby said. “They don’t spend a lot of time in their end. So I think the times we do get the puck … we’ve got to challenge them and force them to play defense.”