In today’s Leafs Links, the insiders speculate on the Toronto Maple Leafs’ search for defense help and what assets might be in play, while Mitch Marner discusses his participation in the All-Star weekend.
I think the Toronto Maple Leafs are actively searching. It doesn’t guarantee they will get a deal done, but there is certainly a will to get a right-shot D. This is nothing to do with Morgan Rielly being out of the lineup; well, maybe a little bit to do with it, but Rielly plays the left side. The short-term need is to fill Rielly’s role, but really, their longer-term need is when you look at the right side and you see Tyson Barrie over there and Cody Ceci over there and recognize that maybe Tyson Barrie is going to want more money and term than the Leafs are prepared to give him — it is to be determined on that front.
I do think the Leafs are looking, but I think it is a very specific need. I think it is a right-shot D or a left-shot who has a lot of experience of playing on the right side, and it is also somebody who has a significant amount of term on his contract — and by significant, I would probably say the low end of the bar would be what they did with Muzzin. That is somebody who has the rest of this season and another full year before they go to unrestricted free agency. Preferably, they would like more than a year and change. They would like two and change, three and change, four and change, five and change — whatever the case may be, but then the number has to be favourable.
As I mentioned before the five-day bye and the All-Star Break weekend, it is a tough needle to thread if you’re Kyle Dubas, but not impossible by any stretch of the imagination. It likely requires giving up a significant forward. Everybody is assuming that could be Kapanen, Johnsson, or Kerfoot. Those are the guys that most of the teams want because, as much as the Leafs want a defenseman who has a favourable cap hit and term on their deal, the teams that they are going to be talking about getting one of those defensemen probably wants a forward who is also of similar age, experience, and contract AAV. The needle becomes even tighter to thread.
On the names being bandied about:
Matt Dumba’s name surfaced in internet rumours over the course of the week. People are going to say, “What about Josh Manson in Anaheim? Is Anaheim prepared to do something?” They haven’t advertised the fact that they might be trading Manson, but I think Bob Murray is probably going to be all ears as we head up to the deadline. I don’t think there will be a stone left unturned. The Leafs have already gone through the entire league, identified all these guys, and then started making calls and engaging the marketplace to see where things are at. If they were to get something done, would I be surprised? Does that mean I am sitting here anticipating that for sure a trade is going to drop? No, I am not. I think there is certainly will, and I think it is bigger than this season. I think it is part of the long-range plan.
Friedman: Lou Lamoriello tried to bring Travis Zajac to Toronto (WGR)
Elliotte Friedman discussed the latest from around the league at the All-Star break on Friday, including an anecdote about Lou Lamoriello’s past and present interest in Travis Zajac:
Lou Lamoriello drafted him. When Lamoriello was in Toronto, I kept on hearing he was trying to get Zajac to come to Toronto. He loves him some Travis Zajac. Zajac said no [to the Islanders].
Dreger discusses how high prices will be for Leafs to acquire D (TSN1050)
Darren Dreger joined First Up on Friday to discuss the Leafs’ activity in the trade market.
On the likely term parameters for a potential Jake Muzzin contract:
What I think is a reasonable term is in that four-five year range. I don’t know if you want to go much beyond that. I’d be shocked if the Leafs wanted to push it to six. When you talk about any sort of discussions that have taken place here before Muzzin camp and the Toronto Maple Leafs, unless something has changed in the last handful of days — and I doubt that is the case — the talk between the Leafs and the Muzzin camp have been preliminary at this stage. I do sense that there is a mutual appetite to push this thing as far as you can go and see if you can get to that happy place. Term is always tricky with 30+ players. An educated guess would be in that 4-5 year territory.
On the teams Kyle Dubas might be talking to:
Matt Dumba’s name from the Minnesota Wild has been out there. I know that there has been at least a discussion between Kyle Dubas and Billy Guerin of the Minnesota Wild. It doesn’t mean that they’re throwing names back and forth and seeing if there is a fit. It’s just that Dubas is in that place where if he thinks there is any defenseman that might improve the Toronto Maple Leafs or give them a little bit more depth in that position, he has to investigate it.
On whether Dubas might consider reacquiring Ron Hainsey:
I think Pierre Dorion and the Ottawa Senators have to go through those discussions and are already, but with the young defensemen the Senators are trying to develop there, I don’t think Pierre Dorion is giving him away. Is Kyle Dubas in a position where — even though he knows Ron Hainsey can help — he is going to give up a better piece than he’d like for Ron Hainsey? Maybe he will if he gets to the trade deadline and there is nothing else.
On whether RHD Dylan DeMelo could also be in play in Ottawa:
He could be in play, but when that trade went down with San Jose, I had people tell me that DeMelo felt like a throw-in to that deal. That is how Ottawa looked at it. He has been way better than a throw-in. I’ve got to believe that Dorion is going to do what he can to keep him the Ottawa Senators. But the trade interest is that extreme, the goal of the Sens is still very much in rebuild mode. They’ve got 11 draft picks in June. They’d like to have 15 or more. Dylan DeMelo would fetch a decent return, but man, he has been good for the Ottawa Senators.
McKenzie on who takes heat for Leafs if they miss the playoffs (TSN1050)
Bob McKenzie joined TSN Overdrive to discuss the Leafs’ up-and-down season and where the blame lies for the team’s current spot in the standings.
If Matthews scores as many goals as we think he is going to score and Nylander is having a big bounce-back year with offensive years and Marner’s numbers are good, they don’t get a free pass. You don’t get a free pass for playing the way they did against the Florida Panthers. That’s not just the defense. You don’t get a free pass for the way the team played against the Chicago Blackhawks. That four-game stretch was bookended by two horrendous efforts by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Those efforts are not on just the defense. It’s not on just because they were missing Rielly and Muzzin. It’s not. We’ve seen it when Rielly and Muzzin were in the lineup time and time and time again. It didn’t matter whether the coach was Babcock or the coach was Keefe. It is the same deal.
You saw the comments from Keefe where he talked about, “maybe this team is too immature to win the games we need to win.” I think there is an element of what he is saying that is true. While the fans and the media believe this team’s time is now and I believe the team believes it and Dubas and Keefe believe deep down that they should be ready to win right now, maybe they’re not. It goes to the core of what this team is all about — they’ve had way too many games where they give up three, four, five goals in a period. It just looks like the wheels come off and they don’t know how to play. All of a sudden, they come out for the next period and they score goals and they’re battling and they’re coming back and making it close. There have been way too many games where for 20 or 30 minutes, they’re out to lunch and they get lit up. That is not just on personnel on the defense. That goes to everybody from Tavares to Nylander to Matthews to Marner to Johnsson to Kapanen and on and on.
Marner will also be in the stands this All-Star weekend (Sportsnet 590)
Mitch Marner joined Hockey Central to discuss his participation in the All-Star weekend in St. Louis.
On the differences between playing with Matthews vs. Tavares:
It doesn’t really feel like a change at all. Both guys are very skilled, have very good shots, and see the ice very well. I don’t really think it changes too much with either of them. You know what you are getting out of both guys. You know you are getting 100% effort every game. For me, it is just going in and playing my game, knowing nothing is really changing.
On being selected to take part in the “shooting stars” competition:
I went and gave it a shot yesterday from where the mark is and where everything is sitting in the stands. You’re elevated and you don’t really know how much power to put into it or anything. We’ll see who it goes. Hopefully, I just don’t embarrass myself.