In a draft-day edition of Leafs links, the insiders discuss the latest buzz around the Toronto Maple Leafs’ draft intentions, search for defense help, and the availability of Frederik Andersen, Andreas Johnsson, and Alex Kerfoot.

Leafs Links

Dreger: Simmonds-Leafs interest is mutual, but cost is a big hurdle (Leafs Lunch)
Darren Dreger joined Leafs Lunch on Tuesday to discuss the report from Pierre LeBrun that the Leafs have a “sincere” interest in UFA Wayne Simmonds, who was given permission by the Sabres this week to speak to other teams. The Canadiens are also said to have interest in the 32-year-old forward.

I think there is mutual interest. I think the Maple Leafs, as Pierre LeBrun has reported, are definitely interested. But at what cost? Are we talking about a million or less? I don’t think the Leafs can afford to invest more than $1 million into Wayne Simmonds. That aspect of it has to come to the forefront and it will as of Friday.

It’s all financially connected. Could Wayne Simmonds be a fit from a physical perspective when you take into account what Dubas said yesterday about wanting to be a team to be tougher to play against? It’s not dropping the fists — that’s not the toughness you’re talking about. It is a kind of game that the Lightning just won the Cup with — guys competing every single shift who are going to grind and win puck battles and force turnovers. That is the type of toughness the Leafs and Dubas are looking for more of. Is Wayne Simmonds capable of doing that? I am not so sure.

I like the character of Simmonds, but whoever those pieces are, if they can’t play higher up in the lineup, you’re going to have to be paid like you’re lower in the lineup. That is just the reality of the finances of the Maple Leafs and where they are at.

Dreger’s status update on Alex Pietrangelo:

By all accounts, Alex Pietrangelo and his family are fully prepared to leave St. Louis and the Blues organization. I don’t believe that is changed. Is it possible if not likely Doug Armstrong takes another run at Pietro? It feels that way to me, but I am told that is not expected. I do know that Armstrong is sniffing around some of the bigger names among potentially available defensemen. If he is in that market and playing that game, he is doing his due diligence and preparing to move on and making sure he is in the market of Plan Bs.

I am prepared for anything, but I expect Pietrangelo will become a UFA Friday afternoon.

Friedman: Toronto’s #15 OA in play, goalie market real tough for sellers (SN 650)
On Monday evening, Elliotte Friedman provided his latest intel on the picks in play in the first round of tomorrow’s draft as well as the latest on the goaltending trade market.

Toronto’s obviously is. They have been open about that. Montreal’s obviously is. They have been open about that, too.

What eventually happens is, you start talking about who is falling and teams start racing to see who can jump up.

What’s interesting is that New Jersey has made it clear picks #18 and #19 are available. Whether it’s moving up or down or talking about young players with team control, New Jersey is a team that probably has a lot going on.

Friedman on the goalie market:

Matt Murray was almost traded to Chicago, and I heard the return was going to be underwhelming. The goalie market is so dense that the teams that are trading are having trouble getting what they want.

Fleury — I just don’t think it is going to be easy for Vegas to do that. They don’t want to buy him out, but it is not going to be easy for them to trade him. It is a tough market right now. There is no question about it.

Dreger: Latest on Andersen, Kerfoot, Johnsson (TSN1050)
On First Up with Landsberg and Colaiacovo, Darren Dreger discussed the recent trade winds around Andersen, Kerfoot, and Johnsson.

I expect Dubas is waiting for someone to step up and show more than interest. There has been interest in Frederik Andersen, but the problem teams are having is the quality of goaltenders potentially out there.

Toronto is okay standing pat for the moment, but that can change with a simple phone call. If there is a deal that makes sense for them, they might do that, but then they’ve got to figure out what their goaltending looks like and their best avenue. Is it to re-unite Jack Campbell and Matt Murray? Are they better off taking a swing a UFA or other pieces in play?

Goaltending is an area of interest to the Leafs for sure, but in terms of priority, I think we know what their priority is: If it is not Pietrangelo and somehow getting the pieces in place to get him through FA, it is finding a way to make deals to make sure the backend is shored up.

Dreger on the market for Kerfoot & Johnsson:

I have not heard a lot about Kerfoot and Johnsson of late. Every team has those players. With due respect to those players, GMs are probably looking at the landscape of the league and going, “Let’s get to Wednesday and see how many RFAs don’t get qualified. And then let’s get to the 10th and 11th of October after free agency when some of these players who didn’t get signed start to feel the heat.” I think a lot of clubs are doing that.

Sam Consentino projects Braden Schenider to Leafs at 15th overall (Sportsnet)
On his final mock draft, Sam Consentino projected Brandon Wheat Kings right-handed D Braden Schneider to the Leafs at 15th overall.

Kyle Dubas has proven that he loves skill. I think the go in a slightly different direction this time around. When you look at Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren as guys I expect to graduate and play on their blue line this season, which leaves an opening in the system for a defenseman. Where do they go? Braden Schneider, a big right-shot defenseman for the Brandon Wheat Kings.

One of the older players in the draft class, he also has some attractiveness because of that when you think about the Leafs and their cap situation. This is a guy they might be able to implement at a good price in their lineup two years down the road.

Braden Schneider is a physical player — an old school throwback type of guy. He understands what he has to be at the next level and he is probably not going to be as offensive-minded with the Brandon Wheat Kings and more of a shutdown, nasty, mean, tough, physical guy who is difficult to play against.

Jason Spezza: “I really believe in the direction of the team” (Tim & Sid)
After signing a one-year league minimum deal to stay in Toronto, Jason Spezza discussed his reasons for optimism about winning a Cup in Toronto before his career is over.

There is a big void missing in my career, and that is a Cup, obviously. I feel like we have a great team here in Toronto. I know we didn’t really prove it, and I know that we disappointed a lot of people — including ourselves — but I really believe in what the team is doing and the direction. Even after just being here a year, I am pretty invested in it.

It was pretty important for me to stay. I’ve tried to get back to training as soon as possible to see how my body felt and where the dedication was. It is the same as it has always been. I was happy to be able to get a deal done. I am looking forward to the challenge of bouncing back here as a team.

Spezza on his belief in the potential of this Leafs team:

Playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs isn’t something I take lightly. It is pretty special, being a Toronto kid and coming here.  That is kind of the start of it, and then just getting to know Auston and Mitch and Johnny and Willy and Morgan and these guys — they are great kids. They want to do well. After the work that we’ve put in to get ready for the restart, we didn’t see the results, but I think it showed the commitment of the group. There is a little bit of a chip on our shoulder, I think. I definitely wanted to be a part of it again and to see it through and see where we can take this thing.

Internally, I think we are much closer than we showed. We can’t hide from the results. The fact of the matter is that we lost in a five-game series and technically, I guess, didn’t make the playoffs. But I feel like a team with a few tweaks here and there, and a bit of a tweak in attitude, we could be right there knocking on the door. It is just words until you put it into play, but I definitely feel like there are a lot of good players on this team. Sheldon and Kyle have a good vision. With a full year of Sheldon, I think things are going to be good for our club.

Spezza on fighting Dean Kukan in the playoffs:

I didn’t do it because I wanted to fight. I was more looking for an emotional response from our team. I felt we were a little bit flat and it was a pivotal game. I just felt like I needed to do something. I wasn’t going to just go down and lose that game without trying to change the momentum. It was definitely a message, and it got received. I think the guys rallied and we made an epic comeback. It is unfortunate we couldn’t follow it up in Game 5, but I was definitely looking for an emotional response from the guys.

Spezza on whether the Leafs need to add more players who can elicit an emotional response from teammates:

I believe there was a lot of accountability at the end of the season. There was nobody to blame but ourselves. Guys took it hard. I haven’t been here for other losses, but I know it was a pretty somber after the game and in the week after. It just really felt like we left a lot on the table. That type of emotion is good for a team and now we have to bring that and remember how it felt into the next year.

There may be changes, but internally, I think you are going to see a group that realizes maybe how hard it is now.

Spezza on his season turning around after an opening night scratch:

Did I love the decision? No. I also have been a guy who has been looked upon for advice and leadership over the course of my career. I can countless times remember telling guys who were out of the lineup just to keep a good attitude, work hard, keep your head down, be a good teammate. That was a moment where I had a chance to put into play the words I had told other guys. I didn’t love the decision, but what other option did I have? My only option was to work and stay ready for when I had a chance to prove I could play.

I’ve always tried to give good advice to guys over the years. If I had ex-teammates watch me in the situation, how would they want me to respond? That is kind of the attitude I took with it. In hockey, it works out for you. Now I am getting a chance to play another year. If I would’ve rolled over or had been frustrated, I don’t think that would’ve happened.