There are plenty of Leafs-related nuggets to chew on from Elliotte Friedman in today’s 32 Thoughts Podcast.
First, on the Jake Muzzin-to-LTIR situation:
I don’t think the Maple Leafs know how long he is going to be out… With concussions, you worry about the cumulative effects. You sit there, and you’re saying, “He missed a month last time. We are going to be careful with this, and it is going to be more than a month this time.” On that, I think we can be pretty sure.
There are nine weeks left in the regular season. It is possible he could be out until the end of the regular season. I think the Leafs have time to navigate that a little bit and see where everything is. He is going to be out a while; you just can’t put a timeline on it.
I think the Leafs have adjusted in the aftermath of his injury in terms of thinking about what they can potentially do. I mentioned the name with JT Miller as someone I think would be a good fit for them. I think they had a conversation with Vancouver about it. I don’t think that is so likely.
On Kyle Dubas’ appetite to move out a top prospect:
The one thing about Toronto is that they don’t have a ton of draft picks, but they do have some really good prospects other teams would like. I don’t think they are [moving] them for rentals.
Let’s just put Matthew Knies in this conversation. He and Niemela are probably at the top of Toronto’s prospect list. They have Abruzzese and Robertson — they are all good prospects — but I think Knies and Niemela are at the top.
Someone said to me today that they think Toronto could do a deal for JT Miller, but are you doing a Knies or Niemela for someone who is only there for a year and a half potentially. He is not even sure Toronto would do that.
Someone said to me that Kyle Dubas knows he has to have a good playoff this year. He asked me, “Do you think he is the kind of guy whose ego is so big that he would make that deal to save himself potentially?” My answer was that I don’t think he would do anything he thought was dumb for now or for the future. I don’t think he is that kind of person.
He said to me, “I agree.” I just think Dubas, regardless of the situation around him, is not going to do anything he thinks is long-term bad for short-term gain. I just don’t see it.
On the team’s biggest need:
As much as I think they want to add another forward, I just wonder where they think their biggest need is.
I wonder if they are thinking about net. My theory on Campbell has been that the situation disrupted him — the pause. It is getting tougher and tougher to say that because it has been longer and longer since the pause, right? I do feel that way, but at some point in time, it is a results-based business, and you have to come back and say, “Enough of that.” I have to think they are considering it in goal.
Also, especially with Muzzin out… We are talking about whether Muzzin is out to the end of the regular season, but while I hope I am wrong about this, what if he is out for longer?
Now they have an extra ton of cap room. By the math, they could have around $7 million in cap room by using LTIR.
I don’t think the GM is afraid — put it that way.
A lot to digest here.
The goaltending possibility Elliotte Friedman describes seems like a worst-case scenario if the Leafs get to a week within the deadline and they’re still battling near league-worst save percentage numbers at 5v5 despite solid defensive metrics, costing them several points in the standings over the next few weeks.
There is a good chance Dubas is keeping an eye on the goalie market out of due diligence just in case, but it has to be Plan C. Plan A is getting both goalies in a good place and pushing one another for starts; Plan B is having at least one of them emerging with consistent play and running with the net. Between Campbell or Mrazek, you’d have to think one of Plan A or B should pan out.
In terms of the rental goalie market — again, something the Leafs are really not interested in involving themselves in unless they absolutely had to — there is Chicago’s Marc-Andre Fleury, Detroit’s Thomas Greiss, potentially Joonas Korpisalo (if Columbus sells) and Braden Holtby (if Dallas sells), and possibly Mikko Koskinen. Only Holtby and Fleury are above .900 of those goalies. Pending RFA Alexandar Georgiev (a past Leafs interest) is believed to be available, but it’s hard to even squint and think he’s an upgrade even if the Leafs wanted to take a flyer. Basically, there is not much that is overly appetizing among the obvious group of trade candidates.
Up front, it’s hard to ignore the perfection of the JT Miller fit as a huge boost to the team’s second line and overall LW depth, but it’s also $5.25 million through next season and no doubt a massive acquisition cost that at least involves a first and a good prospect if not a good young roster player. Dubas is much more likely to splurge on a player he can get two playoff runs out of such as Miller, but it has to be balanced against the fact that you’re creating a big challenge on the cap for next season before looking at a massive re-sign proposition in a year’s time that would likely be well beyond anything the Leafs’ cap books can accomodate. Remember that come the 2023 offseason, you’re now able to negotiate with both Auston Matthews and William Nylander entering the final year of their contracts.
It’s interesting to hear Friedman place Matthews Knies and Topi Niemela in an untouchable class above Nick Robertson, but it’s not totally unfounded — in addition to impressive numbers since their drafts, both offer something unique in the prospect stable with Knies’ skill, size, and power combination; Niemela is a productive right-shot. Jeff O’Neill made the point on the TSN broadcast last night that the Leafs haven’t had a really good right-shot puck mover on their roster since… maybe Pavel Kubina?
Lastly and most importantly, Friedman provided some context around his interview with Rodion Amirov about his battle with a brain tumour:
One of the things everybody was concerned about: It is the trade deadline, and names are going to start getting mentioned. At some point in time, the Leafs might just say, “Amirov is not available,” and I don’t think anyone would have leaked it or anything like that, but someone would have found out. I think there was concern that someone would have found out. Toronto was obviously very private about this.
The only condition I was given was that we don’t want this to be a sad piece. Amirov wants to come across as optimistic and determined to show the right attitude. The conversation was all like that. There was no point in the conversation where he said anyone should feel sorry for him or that he even came across as feeling sorry for himself.
His dog, the maltipoo he has, is named Sanya. I misunderstood and had something written that the dog was named after Brendan Shanahan after he got drafted by the Leafs. I was doing that, and someone reached out to me and said, “Don’t write that. It’s not true.” He was laughing about that, too. He thought it was very funny that I thought he named his dog after Brendan Shanahan.
You just wouldn’t be able to tell it was a person in any kind of bad state. The diagnosis is a big challenge, but in those moments, you get to choose how you are defined. By the piece, we all got to see how Amirov chooses to be defined.
He said, “Anytime you speak about this, please make sure you thank the Maple Leafs and Ufa for me.” He said both of them were incredible.
It was diagnosed at the end of January. The doctors in Germany were concerned for a little bit of time before that. I think people here knew there was the possibility it was something serious and were really worried for him, but they supported everything he did or needed to do.
I know he feels incredibly thankful to both of those teams. I know it weighed hard on both of those teams.
Stay strong, Rodion.