Jason Spezza of the Toronto Maple Leafs
Photo: Canadian Press

In today’s Leafs Links, Chris Johnston and Elliotte Friedman provide the latest on the trade market ahead of the 2020 NHL deadline.

Johnston on Jason Spezza’s future in Toronto, Leafs blue line (Sportsnet 590)
Chris Johnston joined Leafs Hour on Sportsnet 590 to discuss the Leafs‘ trade for Jack Campbell, the workload split going forward, and Jason Spezza’s future past this season.

On how long the Campbell deal was in the works:

It had been in the works for some time in the sense that there were only so many backups the Leafs could afford around the league. From pretty early on in the year, they knew which players they were. Jack Campbell was one of them because of his low cap hit this season. What changed, I think, is that Kyle Clifford came available as part of the deal and the Leafs were able to maybe achieve more than just one aim with that trade. The Kings had talked internally about not trading Kyle Clifford just because he’s so valuable to the organization. They didn’t want to do that. I think that helped tilt the scales, and obviously, the fact that Michael Hutchinson had a couple of rough outings kind of pushed the Leafs in this direction and they just couldn’t risk it any longer, especially with Andersen out injured.

On the workload split between Campbell and Andersen going forward:

I think we’ll see something closer to a split than what we’ve had. The reality is Frederik Andersen has made 42 appearances already this year. If he comes back and plays everything but the second half of the back-to-backs, he still ends up in the mid-60 range, which I think is a little beyond what the Leafs would like. So much will depend on the standings, how the team is performing, and how Jack Campbell is performing, but if you are sitting back in Sheldon Keefe’s office and game-planning this, I do think they’re looking for opportunities to start Campbell when it is not a back-to-back just to try to keep Frederik Andersen as rested as possible.

On Jason Spezza’s future past this season:

My feeling is he’s got a young family, this is home for him, and he’s moved home. I don’t think he wants to bounce around chasing a Stanley Cup while playing on three different teams in the next two years to do that. I think in his mind it is basically Maple Leafs or bust. Obviously, that could change if we got to the end of the season and for whatever the reason, the Leafs couldn’t or didn’t want to do it. That doesn’t mean the Leafs couldn’t think differently at that point in time. But I don’t think money is his priority at this stage.

I really think he relishes the chance to play close to home and be close to family, to put on the Leaf sweater and to be able to chase a Stanley Cup with his boyhood team. He has become immensely popular in a short time with his teammates in a very genuine way that is obvious if you are around them.

I think, perhaps most importantly, he has carved out a role and is happy to play that role. Sometimes he is going to play eight minutes a night and sometimes he is going to play 15 minutes a night like he did last Friday against Anaheim when he scored that gorgeous goal toward the end of the game. I think it has been a good fit after maybe a rocky beginning. I think he understands what the Leafs need him to do in order to stay here and I believe he is willing to do that.

On whether the Leafs are going to address their blue line before the deadline:

In the next week, they’ll have a better idea than they do today of whether specifically Morgan Rielly is able to come back. That is the one here that is most crucial just because clearly this is a player the Leafs would want back if he is healthy. There is going to be no notion of putting him on LTIR for the rest of the season and it being a good thing so they can acquire someone.

The acquisition they want to make is to get Morgan Rielly back in the lineup. I think that will dictate a little bit of what can be done and the market will dictate it, too. I still come back to the feeling that this is not an easy trade for the Leafs to make — bringing someone in who can play beyond this season on their blue line at an acquisition cost and who is under contract at a number that makes sense… We are talking about such a small number, relatively, of players in the league that fall into that category. Sure, something might happen, but I certainly don’t think it is a guarantee that the Leafs will be out making an impact move at the deadline even with that cap space. It is a bit of a fluid situation. They’ll probably use every possible minute before the deadline to have the best feel for where those players are at with their health and react accordingly.

Elliotte Friedman on the trade market and Olympic hockey (Sportsnet 960)
Elliotte Friedman joined Pinder and Steinberg to discuss the trade market two weeks out from the deadline.

On the latest with Chris Kreider:

?I think the Rangers are going to make him an offer. I think the Rangers want to come in at maybe five or six years and somewhere around $6.75 million, and I am going to think that probably Kreider can do better on the market. I think it is going to come down to what Kreider wants. The other thing that is going to be part of it — do the Rangers get an offer they can’t say no to? Does somebody step up — whether it’s the Blues or Islanders or somebody else — and say, “We have to have this guy, and here is our offer.” I think that is the other part of all of this. More likely than not, he gets traded, but I think it is going to come down to him specifically.

On Alec Martinez:

Martinez — there is a lot of interest in him. I think Carolina is very interested. I think Florida is interested. Lisa Dillman from The Athletic reported Nashville and she is in LA, so I assume she is doing that for a reason. The other team I heard is Winnipeg. There might be more. I think there is a lot of interest in Martinez. I don’t think they are going to have a big problem getting that done.

On JG Pageau:

After last year when everything got out, the Senators have done a really good job of making it so that they haven’t gotten out. It sounds to me like the Rangers and Ottawa are trying similar strategies here where they are waiting late to begin negotiations to see if that will help. I think they are going to take a run at signing. I am just not convinced… Again, he is another guy who will probably get more in the open market than he could from the Senators. I think that is going to come down to him, too.

Darren Dreger on Jack Campbell starting on Tuesday night vs. Arizona (TSN1050)
Dreger joined Leafs Lunch for the full hour to discuss the latest with the Leafs, including the decision to give Frederik Andersen another game off vs. Arizona.

I don’t believe the Toronto Maple Leafs would rush Andersen into a start if they didn’t believe he was 100% ready. There is no value in that. If he had to go into that game and he aggravated that neck injury or something more dire, now you’ve got a legit problem… This is about getting Jack another opportunity to knock off whatever rust he has. I wouldn’t read too far into it with the thinking, “there must be more going on with Freddy than what has been disclosed.”

Leafs Notebook: What’s next for Kyle Dubas? (MLHS)
Anthony Petrelli breaks down the Leafs’ situation post-Campbell trade ahead of the deadline.

The other position to look into would be center ice. Frederik Gauthier has been in and out of the lineup as the fourth-line center, and while the team likes Jason Spezza, he has bounced around between center and wing. His best fit appears to be as a scoring winger that can fill on occasion at center rather than as a full-time pivot. Alexander Kerfoot has also bounced around. The team has used Pierre Engvall at center for an extended period of time, too.

It has been a case of musical chairs at center in their bottom six, which isn’t completely unnatural considering the injuries and amount of player movement down there. The question is: Are the Leafs even certain as to who their 3C and 4C would actually be if the whole team was totally healthy? It seems as though it is up for debate, and that makes it a position worth looking into.

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