Toronto Maple Leafs' Andreas Johnsson
Photo: USA Today Sports

In today’s Leafs Links, we have the latest scuttlebutt from the insiders on the Toronto Maple Leafs’ plans with their pending-UFA defensemen, Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson’s trade availability, contract talks with Jake Muzzin, and a possible trade fit with Minnesota.

Leafs Links

Elliotte Friedman Talks Teams That Could Add At Deadline (Sportsnet)
Friedman joined Tim & Sid to give the latest on the Leafs‘ potential activity in the trade market.

On the availability of Alexandar Georgiev in New York:

Number one, it’s tough to carry three goalies for years. Number two, if it does happen, it’s going to be for something that makes them better, so we’d understand it. Number three, they’ve had a couple of situations — Vitali Kravtsov, their first-round pick a couple of years ago, he went back to Russia and now he is back in North America. Lias Andersson, a first-round pick a few years ago, has gone back to Sweden and has just resumed skating; he probably won’t play for them again.

With Igor Shesterkin, who is their young goalie prospect in the AHL, I think they’re sitting there and thinking they have to give him some chances to play or they risk a similar situation. I think that is what we are seeing it. It is not easy to keep three goalies. But I don’t think Georgiev is going unless they get something good for him.

On Kasperi Kapanen’s availability:

I would think it is some combination of him or Johnsson or I’m sure Nylander comes up a bit, but he is not getting traded.

The thing about Kapanen was… I spent a lot of this week kind of looking around, and the one thing guys told me about Kapanen and the Maple Leafs is that the Maple Leafs have made it very clear that he is not getting traded unless it really makes them better. That is a big deal.

They could’ve traded Kapanen last year. I think they had some pretty high draft picks thrown their way before they signed him around the draft. There was some real interest in him. I think they got some real offers they could think about, but they didn’t do it. They didn’t do it then and I don’t see them doing it now unless we look at the deal and it says, “Wow, that makes Toronto better, and now I understand why Kapanen got traded.” I don’t see it any other way.

On how Kyle Dubas is going to approach his three pending UFA defensemen in Jake Muzzin, Cody Ceci, and Tyson Barrie:

I think all options are on the table. Don’t forget we have a season to play first. I wrote today that I’ve heard that they’ve been asked about all three of those guys. “What are you doing with them at the deadline?” I think that the most likely scenario is that they hold and they wait until the end of the season.  I think the only way they would deal one of those guys is if, A) They completely collapse between now and then, or B) Sandin or someone just says, “I have to play 20 minutes a night so make room for me right now.”

I don’t necessarily see any of those things happening. I think they are going to play it through and see where it ends up. I think they are trying to see if they can sign Muzzin. I can’t prove it — nobody is going to talk to me about it — but there is enough smoke out there that leads me to believe the two sides are taking a run at this and seeing if they can find common ground. It won’t be easy, but I think they are trying.

Kevin Woodley on Andersen’s recent struggles workload (Sportsnet 590)
On Good Show, InGoal Magazine’s Kevin Woodley provided his analysis on Frederik Andersen’s recent struggles and where the blame lies between the team’s defensive play and goaltending.

The environment isn’t great; it’s improved only slightly in terms of expected save percentage since the coaching change. But there is no point in sugar-coating it — he hasn’t been good. This is not just about the environment.

This is the thing about defensive environments and giving up certain types of chances, whether it’s odd-man rushes or slot-area shots since the coaching change: Freddy has seen the second-most in the NHL with 59 since that change. His save percentage is about 8% below expected on those shots. There is an area where that particular type of shot is something they’re giving up more than almost every team since the new coach took over and he is not having success with it. As a coaching staff and a team, you can take a look at that, whether it’s what we’re giving up or how he’s playing it.

I don’t really worry about this dip this last little while. It is a little worse than normal, but he goes through one of these every year. Last year, he was among the league leaders and he was starting to get into the Vezina conversation, and then he took a nosedive. He dropped right out of that conversation. A lot of people wrung their hands over that, and yet when the puck dropped in the playoffs, I thought Freddy was really good.

The only thing I’d worry about for him is that bad environments become cumulative, in my opinion. The Edmonton Oilers are example A. How many goaltenders have left Edmonton in shambles statistically and had success elsewhere? Eventually, if the slot line and the seam chances get through enough — the ones that aren’t supposed to get through — nine, ten times in a row, now you’re cheating. When you’re cheating in this league, you’re screwed. Someone is going to have their head up, see it, and pick you apart. I do worry about the defensive environment over time becoming cumulative for him, but I don’t really worry about it yet. I don’t think we’re there yet.

McKenzie discusses if the Leafs roster is capable of winning (TSN1050)
On First Up, Bob McKenzie discussed whether the Leafs need to find out what this core can do or if trades to alter the composition are necessary this season.

There are going to be a lot of Leafs fans who look at this and say, “You need to make some trades and change the composition of the team,” and perhaps that is true. But is some sort of change of composition of the team actually going to make a difference? What I would suggest is maybe not. At the end of the day, if a group of forwards that includes Mitch Marner, John Tavares, William Nylander, Auston Matthews, and the list goes on… It doesn’t matter who is injured and not injured on the blue line, if that core group of guys especially up front can come so totally unprepared to play a game as it was in Florida and the Hawks, you can keep rearranging the deck chairs all you want, but maybe you’re still on the titanic.

David Pagnotta on Kapanen/Johnsson, Cody Ceci, Matt Dumba (TFP)
TFP’s David Pagnotta mentions Matt Dumba as a natural target for the Leafs, with the Wild said to be looking for top-six forward help.

Is Dubas prepared to move one of Kapanen or Johnsson in a package for right-shot defenceman? This will be a hockey trade and a prime target is Minnesota Wild blueliner Matt Dumba.

The Wild want a top-six forward and Kapanen fits the bill, but it’s going take more than him for Minnesota’s GM Bill Guerin to move Dumba. Do the Leafs include UFA-to-be Ceci in the deal, so the Wild can flip him elsewhere, or is a separate move more likely? Somethings to keep tabs on if the Leafs don’t go the rental route.

31 Thoughts: What really happened with McDavid’s knee rehab (Sportsnet)
Friedman added more on his report about the Leafs’ defense situation in his 31 Thoughts column.

5. I also think the Maple Leafs have been asked about their UFA-to-be defenders — Tyson Barrie, Cody Ceci and Jake Muzzin. I don’t see Toronto falling out of the race, so the only way anything happens here is if they are convinced one of the younger defencemen needs a permanent big-minutes spot. (The three all play 20 minutes per night.) No confirmation from either side, but it sounds like there is engagement in contract conversations with Muzzin. There’s no debate about his value and unique skillset on this roster. Term is as big as the salary, as Muzzin will be 31 next month.