In today’s Leafs links, we have updates on Cody Ceci, Tyson Barrie, Alex Pietrangelo, and much more as the 2020 offseason officially gets underway.
LeBrun: Updates on Simmonds, Pietrangelo, Leafs offseason (TSN1050)
Pierre LeBrun provided the latest rumblings on the Alex Pietrangelo front this morning on First Up with Michael Landsberg.
LeBrun on the possibility of the Leafs adding Wayne Simmonds to their bottom six:
It really comes down to the price. The Leafs can’t get into a Wayne Simmonds conversation if it is the Wayne Simmonds contract of old. He is coming off of a deal that paid him $5 million a year. Because of the injuries he has had and the downturn in his production, I think he realizes the offers are going to be different — not to mention the world we now live in and the pressure teams are now under.
If Wayne Simmonds can come in at a reasonable rate and be part of your bottom six, there is a perfect example of a guy that, A) Has character and leadership right through him, and still has hands. At the right cap hit, I’d love to see Wayne Simmonds in a Leafs uniform.
LeBrun on how seriously the Leafs would pursue Alex Pietrangelo in UFA:
I am trying to get an answer on this. I know the Leafs have talked about him internally. I am confident, as I reported, they are going to inquire when the time is right. What I don’t know for sure is how deep of a dive they take into the situation, depending on the number it is going to take to sign him. It is difficult. Right now, they really can’t afford him and they’re going to have to move some cap to do it.
I don’t want to be radio’d here, but here I go: John Tavares has been nothing but spectacular as a Toronto Maple Leaf. I have nothing negative to say about what John Tavares has done, both on the ice and representing the organization as a leader. He is not really, though, a player they desperately needed. When you talk about what the Leafs desperately need, it is Alex Pietrangelo.
The white unicorn for the Leafs has been the top-pairing right-hand blue liner. They just haven’t had one forever. He would be a complete gamechanger for the franchise. The problem is: How do you get here? Can you allow yourself to get in there deep given what it would require be it moving Nylander or other bodies? It is disruptive. But I don’t know if there is a player the Leafs have needed in a long time more than him. It may end up being that they can’t do it because of the cap and they try to find other remedies.
Travis Hamonic is a UFA. Matt Dumba is on the trade market. There are other right-handed top-four defensemen, but none of them are on the level of Alex Pietrangelo.
LeBrun on the Leafs’ level of desperation for a major change this offseason:
I don’t think desperate is a word that comes into the conversation with the Leafs’ front office. They’re very measured. I don’t think they do things out of panic. You can criticize them for some of their moves, but I don’t think it ever comes from that emotion.
I’m not dropping news here, but just so everyone is aware, I was told by a source yesterday that Tyson Barrie and Cody Ceci know they are heading to market and aren’t signing with the Leafs. That is not headline news, but in case there were people thinking they might circle back on either guy…
What does that tell you? Both of those guys are on the right side. It tells you changes are coming, which is what they need to do and is the right move. In what form that comes, we’ll see. I can tell you on the Pietrangelo front that I did check into it early this morning, and it’s status quo on where things stood. It’s a stalemate with the Blues, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Pietrangelo’s camp will hear from the Blues before the end of the week, so we will see where this goes.
I do think the Blues will take one more run on this. I don’t think we are done on the St. Louis front.
Friedman: Leafs considered Joel Ward for coaching position (Sportsnet)
Long rumoured to be interested in a coaching position after his playing days ended in 2017-18 with the Sharks, North York native Joel Ward was the subject of some consideration for the Leafs’ assistant coaching roles, according to Elliotte Friedman. Like Malhotra, Ward is fresh out of the league as a former role player with high character, a gritty reputation, and ample playoff experience on his resume.
Before Toronto zeroed in on Manny Malhotra for its coaching staff, the Maple Leafs investigated the possibility of Joel Ward.
Stauffer: Leafs, Barrie did not meet at season’s end (Oilers Now)
On 630 CHED, Bob Stauffer shared the anecdote that the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tyson Barrie did not hold an exit interview at season’s end.
This is how bad it was: My understanding is Tyson Barrie didn’t even do an exit interview with the Toronto Maple Leafs at the end of the season. Basically, “I know I’m not coming back, you know I am not coming back… See you later. Thanks for the year.”
Burke: Leafs not immune to economic reality but can take advantage of flexibility (Hockey Central)
On Hockey Central at Noon, Brian Burke discussed whether the Leafs are at a greater advantage than usual with their deep pockets in a COVID-impacted offseason.
They’re immune [to the economic downturn] because they still count money at MLSE. When revenues drop, they notice that. It is not a rounding error. But I think they always have taken advantage of it. The way they structured Marner’s contract, JT’s contract. They’ve always taken advantage of it — after me.
It was one of the reasons I was given for being fired: I wasn’t properly using MLSE’s financial might to do those back-diving contracts, the Luongo-type contracts. They’ve always taken advantage of that, and I don’t see why they won’t [now].
LeBrun: Lessons to be learned for Leafs from Tampa’s Cup win (Two-Man Advantage Podcast)
On the Two-Man Advantage podcast, Pierre LeBrun surmised that the Leafs will take lessons from the 2020 Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning’s composition of their bottom six.
I think there are some great lessons there for Kyle Dubas. It wouldn’t surprise me if we see the Leafs go a bit of a different way here and add some of those elements in their bottom six, deviating just a bit. It wouldn’t surprise me. I don’t know that for a fact, but that is my gut feeling.
It is hard not to feel that way if you’re the Leafs after what you just saw Tampa do. I think that is probably the team — if you are looking at teams that are looking at Tampa and saying, “huh” — I think that would be the one.
Bourne: Leafs were looking for coaches who preach relentless compete level (Leafs Hour)
On Leafs Hour, Justin Bourne discussed the additions of Manny Malhotra and Paul MacLean as the Leafs’ new assistant coaches, and what the team might have been looking to accomplish with the hires.
I thought that AJ MacLean — who was with Sheldon Keefe in the Soo and with the Marlies and they won their Calder Cup together, he was kind of their right-hand man for those years — would end up in the NHL with Sheldon. What was really smart is that Dubas and Sheldon didn’t just say, “This is our guy.” They said, “Let’s see who is available out there.”
Manny Malhotra was really an unbelievable get — a guy who will probably end up being an NHL coach at some point. He has all the respect in the world and experience in the league and is someone who can fit in nicely in that staff.
It is interesting, right? Malhotra was the eye in the sky guy in Vancouver, and they got him here by promising he’d be on the bench. Paul MacLean is a guy who has been on the bench and been a head coach, and they got him to be the eye in the sky, which shows how overqualified he is for that position.
MacLean was around because of AJ in my years with the Marlies — he was in the coach’s office, he had a relationship with Kyle and Sheldon because of that — and he is someone who when he was out of work, would watch three hockey games a day all season. He’d wake up, he’d have games taped, and he’d watch three hockey games a day. He is just someone who is just a hyper hockey enthusiast and has a real passion for it.
He’ll know what he is talking about. He is a great fit. He knows the personalities. It is just a logical marriage for him and for the people around him.
Bourne on what the Leafs were looking to accomplish with the two hires:
They recognize what their team lacks a little bit — it’s that unforgiving, relentless compete level. That sounds like fluffy words, but I really think they think it is such an important part. Malhotra is the guy who is going to stay out after practice and work on faceoffs with some of these guys and put the guys through the skates. He is still a young guy who is just out of the game and can really explain what he saw — tips and tricks and holding these guys accountable for half efforts. That is something both MacLean and Malhotra have in common.
Paul McFarland is a young guy. He was an OHL head coach three or four years ago who may have been a little hesitant without the proper resume to speak up to an Auston Matthews or a William Nylander or whoever it may be. I don’t think that is the case with a guy with a resume like Malhotra. Hopefully, those guys have the respect for him and he’ll be able to get through to them as best as possible.