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Elliotte Friedman discusses JVR’s future in Toronto, Pierre McGuire weighs in on whether Mike Green is a fit for the Leafs, and more in the links.

What should the Leafs do with JVR? (Sportsnet 590 The Fan)
Elliotte Friedman discussed the Toronto Maple Leafs‘ options with pending unrestricted free agent James van Riemsdyk on the Fan 590 on Friday morning.

On whether JVR is getting enough appreciation in this market, and if there is any regret setting in for the team about signing Marleau rather than saving the money for JVR’s next deal:

I don’t think he’s underappreciated internally. I think they know how good he is. I don’t sense any regret on Marleau, and the fact is I don’t think you’re going to be sensing any regret on Marleau at game #35 of the season. He is there for the long-term and to help them later in the year. And we’ll see how the playoffs go. I really like the way Marleau has played. I think he’s a really smart player. I think we’re going to get a true judge of his impact later on.

I think the thing with van Riemsdyk is, 1) He likes it here. 2) This year has only reaffirmed how valuable he is. I think we’ve all kind of wondered if there is a TJ Oshie style deal there where they give him term and he takes a little less average annual value. I think he wants to stay. I think they want him to stay. The question is: How creative is everyone willing to get to make it happen? I don’t think they’ve talked a lot of contract this year unless they started recently. I think some of that is by design. I do think there is going to be a point where he, the team and his reps sit down and say, “Alright, is there a way we can do this?” Everybody is going to have to give up something, but is there a way they can do it?

On whether the Leafs should deal him before the deadline if they don’t know if they can get a contract signed:

I think the NHL has really changed and the philosophy in some places has really changed about, “We’re going to go for it now.” And I agree with that. It is so hard to win, and also, the playoffs have become such a crapshoot. I don’t think there is a league around… the one thing about the NBA is that generally the favourites tend to win. You look at the teams that win the championships or win the NBA title, it’s usually the teams at the top of the Conferences. The NHL is not like that. Nashville last year was the last team to get in. They came within two wins of the Stanley Cup. You look back since the salary cap era began and see how many teams have had that incredible run to get there – Edmonton that first year when they got to Game 7 against Carolina. It’s not unusual. LA won a Stanley Cup as the eighth seed. It is not unusual in this league to say, “If we think we’re good enough, we’re going for it.” If I am Toronto and JVR is not signed by the deadline, I am keeping him, I am going for it, and I’ll deal with the fallout later. That’s the way I would look at it if I was them.

You keep him and you try. Maybe you succeed, maybe you don’t. I think, in this league right now, if you think you’ve got a chance to win, you go for it. I think Toronto looks at it like, “We’ve got two more years – this year and next – before we pay Matthews. We go for it.” I would do the same thing if I was them. If he walks, you wish him good luck and you move on, and you say, “We’ll do something else with the cap room.” Cap room is a very valuable commodity in this league. I think sometimes – and this is the case – I would rather take my chance. I don’t lose him for nothing – I take the cap room and I find something to do with that.

On whether Auston Matthews is likely to return for Saturday’s game against NYR:

I wouldn’t do it. If you’re being this careful, you may as well give yourself an extra week. You know he’s going to want to play that game in Arizona next Thursday night. He wants to play. At the end of the day, the player almost always wants to play and I’m sure he wants to get in there against the Rangers. But, at some point, someone is going to say to him, “You don’t want to jeopardize that game in Arizona, it’s better to be safe.” I’d be surprised if he plays tomorrow. But I’ve been surprised before.

McGuire: Leafs will want to re-sign van Riemsdyk (TSN1050)
Pierre McGuire joined Leafs Lunch to discuss Mitch Marner turning his season around, the future of JvR in Toronto and whether Mike Green would be a fit with the Leafs.

On the team’s emphasis on defense lately and the scoring drying up:

The 82-game season is a dress rehearsal for what you’re going to go through in the playoffs. Usually teams go through it in ten-game segments, and every segment changes depending on who the opponents are and what the coaches think you’ve been able to digest and what you haven’t been able to digest. I like it. I think eventually it will pay dividends. Not having Auston is a huge problem because he’s just such a game breaker who makes the players around him better. I would say that I would much prefer to be a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs compared to some of the other teams that are really in trouble and they know they’re in trouble — doesn’t matter what system they play. Toronto is in a real good position.

On the likely outcome with JVR:

I think that Lou Lamoriello will evaluate the entire situation and say, “He’s one of our core seven,” or, “He’s just outside the core, but we’d like to keep him.” I think that’s where you get into the little snippets about whether it’s going to be about term, dollar value and if James really likes playing here. There is going to be a lot of different things that will come into play. I have to think he’s more valuable as a signed player to them than a player they just let go for nothing.

On Mitch Marner turning the corner offensively:

He’s not afraid to make a mistake with the puck on his stick. I think he was fighting it early on because things weren’t working for him, and because of that, there were turnovers and odd-man rushes against and probably some chastising when he got to the bench or behind closed doors. He lost his confidence. Guys that are really pure offensive players need to be encouraged to make plays. If you’re fighting it and you don’t want to make plays, it’s a problem. I just see him wanting the puck more, wanting to dominate with the puck more. That makes a big difference for a player like that.

On the potential fit for Mike Greene in Toronto as a deadline add:

I would. He is a puck transporter. He shoots the puck as well now as when he was a youngster. He has always been an offensive catalyst going back to when he played for Saskatoon in the WHL. I think the biggest thing is Mike (Babcock) would know how to manage him and that’s a really important part of it when you get a player like that. He’s obviously a high-octane player. I would be encouraged but you’ve got to think the price point for that player would be pretty high as far as what Detroit would potentially want. And I think Detroit sees themselves as in the mix as a potential playoff team, so I don’t think they’re in a rush to do something that might break up what is an important part of their team.

Chiodo: McElhinney giving Maple Leafs his full potential (TSN1050)
“McElhinney has flow because he knows when he’s starting. He sees in the schedule where he is starting and he can manage his practices accordingly, which will help him on the physical side. The mental side also with the clear direction he has of when he’s starting. He’s into a rhythm. It’s not an every-other-day rhythm, but it’s a rhythm nonetheless. It’s challenging, but this is what makes a good backup goalie so valuable — the ability to live his life between starts.”

Same but different PP1 provides JVR with argument for extension (The Athletic)
The big change is pretty obvious – van Riemsdyk’s creating a lot more rebounds. Intriguingly, the guy who’s taking all these extra rebound shots for the Leafs? None other than van Riemsdyk. It’s remarkable. He seems to frequently end up completely alone in front of the net. He’s been in all six of this unit’s goals that involve rebounds this year and the formula generally seems the same: pull the penalty killers away from the net and then either shoot or get it to van Riemsdyk.

With Matthews still out, Marner looking like old self (Toronto Sun)
“No one wants to come to work and not have a good time. I guarantee you Mitch feels lighter, slept better and you can joke around with him a little. Willy Nylander (who also broke a December goal drought Tuesday), is the same. But now you live scared. Work that friggin’ hard, understand how bad you felt and don’t get that feeling again.”

Friday Practice Lines

van Riemdyk-Bozak-Marner
Kapanen, Leivo


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