In today’s Leafs Links, the insiders provide the latest on the Maple Leafs’ active pursuit of 41-year-old center Joe Thornton and the other offseason moves GM Kyle Dubas considered this week.
Also in the links, Alex Pietrangelo reflects on his decision to sign in Vegas and how seriously he considered the Leafs, while new Leaf Zach Bogosian discusses Kyle Dubas’ interest in him dating back to last season.
On Hockey Central, Elliotte Friedman provided the latest on the Leafs‘ pursuit of Joe Thornton.
The push is on. The recruitment effort is on. I would hate to handicap it. I don’t have enough info to say one way or another, but the Leafs have definitely begun reaching out to him and letting him know he is wanted. I think some of the core players are part of that.
One thing I have been warned about in the past is to not under-estimate Thornton’s loyalty to San Jose. His family loves it there and he has huge ties with the organization. I don’t know if this is relevant all, but someone did say to me this morning: The fact that Marleau is there and going to be chasing Gordie Howe, does Thornton want to be a part of that? I don’t know.
I definitely think Toronto is making a pitch. There is no question about that.
Friedman on whether Thornton values the familiarity in San Jose, particularly with the medical staff:
That has been a question before. A couple of years ago, when he did consider leaving when Marleau signed in Toronto, the Rangers were absolutely interested and the Maple Leafs were absolutely interested. He was coming off of a pretty significant injury. He told people that one of the reasons he stayed was because the organization knew his body really well. He thought that was important, which makes a lot of sense to me.
I don’t know if this is the same thing. Don’t forget that he was almost traded at the deadline last year. The Islanders, in particular, had an interest in him. He was disappointed and made it clear he was disappointed when it didn’t happen. This is a bit of a different case than that one.
LeBrun: It’s between Sharks and Leafs for Joe Thornton (The Athletic)
On the Two-Man Advantage podcast and on Leafs Lunch on TSN, Pierre LeBrun discussed the reports swirling about the Leafs and Thornton.
The Leafs have approached Joe Thornton. Both Dubas and Keefe have spoken to him. And it is not the first time. We talked about this in 2017. When they signed Patrick Marleau, they actually tried to sign both Marleau and Thornton. At the time, it was Lou Lamoriello and Mike Babcock trying to sign Joe Thornton. Now it is Kyle Dubas and Sheldon Keefe.
We will see where it goes. The last time I talked to Joe Thornton was the Friday morning on the opening of free agency. He said he wasn’t in any hurry to figure out what was going to happen other than he felt strongly he would play in the NHL next season. He left it at that.
In the meantime, I think he is going to play some Swiss league hockey over the next little while, hopefully as soon as next week.
It will be interesting to see how he responds to the Leafs’ overtures. It is the second time the Leafs have done this. This time, under a different regime. His parents are from St. Thomas, Ontario, and would just love it at the end of his career.
If I had to handicap it, it’s between the Leafs & Sharks, and he is in no rush to decide.
LeBrun on what kind of money Thornton might be asking for:
Having known Joe Thornton for a long time now, he wouldn’t be thinking much about that. It is about fit. Knowing him and some of the decisions he’s had in the past, this is a guy who — at the apex of his career when he was putting up numbers in San Jose — never signed those monster deals every one of his ilk got. It was three-year deals from 2005-2008, from 2008-2011, from 2011-2014, and 2014-2017. Money has not been the motivator for Thornton over the years. He loves the game so much.
If signs with the Leafs, the number one conversation we will have won’t be the contract he signed, I’ll tell you that.
Friedman: Leafs were in on Weegar, Namestnikov, Sheary (31 Thoughts)
On the 31 Thoughts podcast, Elliotte Friedman discussed the Leafs’ offseason moves and some of the other pursuits the Leafs attempted in free agency.
Friedman on the TJ Brodie signing:
Calgary, I think, was only willing to go to $4.5 million. I think also Calgary was at the point where they were like, “We have to change our mix a bit, too.” I think the Flames really thought about going the extra number, but then I think they just said, “We have to change it up here.” They moved on.
Brodie is a guy Toronto has liked for a while. I think there was another team in this, too.
Friedman on the other irons the Leafs had in the fire:
I think they talked about Weegar from Florida. There was something going on there, and I think the Leafs were interested and Florida was interested. I still think Weegar might get traded.
I have heard there have been a lot of teams that have looked at him. I heard Colorado looked at him, but they got Devon Toews, so that is not going to happen. I heard Boston is still around there and I heard Anaheim was still there. I’ve heard the Winnipeg rumours, too.
I think there a few teams talking to Florida about Weegar, but Toronto is definitely in there. I think Florida made an ask, and they were looking at Johnsson — who is now traded — and Dermott. I think Toronto turned that down, and they ended up with Brodie and Bogosian, who wanted to come to Toronto.
They signed Vesey. I think they offered that contract around to a couple of different guys for $900k. I think Vesey was the kind of guy they wanted. I think they also spoke to Conor Sheary about it and also to Namestnikov about it.
Friedman on Mikko Lehtonen as a wildcard factor on the blue line:
This guy, Lehtonen, I was talking to someone who has watched him a couple of times already this year. You never know how it is going to go. Is the player going to adapt to the NHL rink? Is the player going to adapt to life? But the guy said, “As a pure player, this guy can really play.”
On First Up with Landsberg and Colaiacovo, Alex Pietrangelo discussed his decision to sign in Las Vegas, leaving St. Louis, and how seriously he considered the Leafs.
Any kid who is from Toronto and has an opportunity to maybe play for the Maple Leafs, you certainly talk about the idea. I am not going to say how close. Don Meehan kind of took that over from there.
I am sure my parents would have been happy. That is probably a question for them — for Don and for the Leafs. I am not at liberty to say. I told Donny, “I am so busy, I don’t really have time to pick up the phone 50 times. Just call me when you’ve got something to tell me.”
On Overdrive, TSN analyst Ray Ferraro discussed the impact Joe Thornton could have on the team’s dressing room and leadership group.
We don’t know what their locker room is like, but your room is a lot noisier and a lot more energetic with those guys (Simmonds, Bogosian, Thornton) in it. Talk to anyone in San Jose who has played with Joe over the last 15 years and there are a million stories about how he enlivens the dressing room. It is just his personality is infectious to be around. I see that, but I don’t know.. Are you going to play a lineup with Matthews, Tavares, Thornton and Spezza in it? Does it seem workable? I don’t know that it does.
Your third and fourth spots [are slow]. Spezza played more and better as the season went on, but are you looking for 12 minutes each from those guys? They kind of do the same thing, don’t they? They could be on your second power play. They are not going to be fiendish checkers. They are both good on the draw — one is a lefty, one is a righty.
If he is on the fourth line, what do you have Spezza there for? If they are going to play Spezza and Joe together on the fourth line, they should sign Paul Henderson to play with them.
Ferraro on Thornton’s outspoken personality and what it can add to a room:
There is not a filter. I say that as a positive. The veteran voice on the team is Tavares, and he is not a loud guy. That is just not him. If you walk into a room where Joe is playing, it is the first voice you hear, no matter where you are in the room.
They were playing a playoff series against LA, and after one of the games, I wanted to pop in to say hi to Dany Heatley because we played together in Atlanta. I walk in, and Joe is eating a piece of a pizza. They call me chicken parm in the States — it’s a long story — so he yells from across the room, “Hey chicken parm, who is the best guy you ever played against?” They had just finished a playoff game that they won. I don’t know how the hell that question got into his head, but he yelled it from across the room with a piece of pizza in his hand. It was hilarious.
On the best teams I was on, the room pretty much ran itself. The coaches came in and had say so, but the room essentially ran itself. I have a hard time seeing the Leafs’ room doing that now because it is so young.
Zach Bogosian joined Leafs Lunch to discuss the championship run in Tampa, his meeting with Kyle Dubas during last season, and the decision to sign in Toronto this offseason.
It got to the point where I was going to meet with Toronto. Being in Buffalo, it was so close. They had some guys who were banged up on defense. There were some open slots. That interested me coming off of not really playing that much in Buffalo. I wanted to go to a team where I’d play.
At the time, it just wasn’t right for either of us. I chose Tampa and that worked out for me and the team. Toronto had a chance to play some younger guys who got some experience — which in the future, and even this upcoming season, will pay off in the long run. It worked out for both of us.
I was super excited to continue those talks a few days ago once free agency opened. The Leafs have a great young team with a lot of skilled forwards and good defensemen. It was always a team that was interesting to me. I made the decision and I’m super happy with it.
Bogosian on the role a clean bill of health played in his resurgence in Tampa Bay:
Those surgeries were no joke with all of the rehab that goes into it. To finally be healthy and go down to Tampa, my body felt good and my confidence came back. That is a huge part of a player’s success — being confident in what their body can do. That was maybe something I didn’t have the past few years but I’m finally feeling good.
A lot of those surgeries, they say four or six months, but you don’t feel good until a year after. It takes a bit longer. At the time I started to feel good, it was right around the one-year mark. It kind of made sense for me how all the confidence came back, and I am feeling good about it.
Bogosian on his fit in Toronto:
Talking to Sheldon and Kyle, they wanted to have a little more grit come in. I like to be hard to play against. I know they have some highly skilled defensemen in Brodie, Rielly, and different guys who can really make things work offensively, but outside of everyone else, you try to do your job and play well defensively and be hard to play against.
I showed that in Tampa this year. We could not only win with skill but play fast defensively and end plays quickly. I thought I did a good job of that in the playoffs and it is something I will bring to Toronto’s lineup every night — compete hard and be hard to play against.