In the latest Leafs Links, we have the recent buzz from the rumour mill six days away from the trade deadline, including the insiders’ sense of Kyle Dubas’ top priority and a report that the Leafs and Avalanche may be talking.
Pagnotta: Maple Leafs have defense as #1 priority, goaltending and bottom-six forward more secondary; Leafs in on Lindholm, Chiarot (TFP)
TFP’s David Pagnotta suggested on Monday evening that the Leafs seem most likely to keep the faith in Jack Campbell in net while pursuing defense targets such as Hampus Lindholm most aggressively.
Goaltending is the polarized subject for the Leafs, especially after the last week and the Heritage Classic. My understanding is that the priority is still the blue line. They still want to bring someone in. They are getting Jake Muzzin back relatively soon, but they still want to bring in someone on that backend.
They are still in the mix with Ben Chiarot, Mark Giordano. Lindholm is a player that a lot of teams, including Toronto, has prioritized as number one on their list for defensemen.
If a team is going to cough up a first, a prospect, and another asset for Lindholm, taht is going to get it done. Will it be the Leafs? Will it be another team? Obviously, we will wait and see over the next few days.
The Ducks have a last-minute offer to see if they can get Lindholm locked in. I would imagine, in the next couple of days, we are going to know if he is going to stay or test the market as a free agent, which means he will be moved.
Toronto still wants to bring somebody in on that backend. If something falls into their laps in the bottom-six forward corps, maybe, but it is the blue line [first]. And it may result, if they are not willing to pay the price, in a Justin Braun type that comes in.
It is D, and then goaltending and a depth forward that are next on the pecking order, unless something dramatic happens and totally out of left field. I think they are going to stick with Jack Campbell once he is healthy and ready to roll.
Appearing on The Jeff Marek Show as well as the 32 Thoughts Podcast, Elliotte Friedman also mentions depth at forward as a possible need for Kyle Dubas ahead of the deadline in addition to an interesting report from a source that Toronto and Colorado seem to be engaging in discussions.
Friedman on the Leafs‘ biggest needs:
There is the defense, but to me, it is goaltending — no question. I think they are also concerned about some of their depth at forward, too.
This is all happening at the worst time for them. I have had people say to me, “Better it happens now than later,” and maybe that is true, but as far as I look at it, it is an awful lot to try to figure out right now.
The goaltending thing and Fleury — if they are going to do this, you have to be able to make a deal. That’s number one. Number two, put it this way — I don’t think Fleury’s trade list means anything right now. That is just a piece of paper or an email. What it is: Does he think he can win in your market? I don’t think in Toronto the answer is an outright no from the sense I am getting, but you have to be able to make a trade, and is Fleury going to say yes?
I would think that is all stuff the Maple Leafs are looking at right now, but if Fleury comes off of the table, you are kind of getting into the same problem Edmonton is in. Where is the upgrade? How much is the cost to do it? Is it worth it?
Edmonton went through all of this. Fleury was not available to them. I don’t think he was going to Edmonton. I am sitting here and saying, “Where is the upgrade that makes sense for the price that it’s going to cost to do it?”
Friedman on the urgency to make a move in net simply to make a change:
I generally think don’t do it for the sake of doing it, but this is beyond that. You can see it is dragging down the team. They have one piece of information that we don’t: How serious is or isn’t this rib injury to Campbell?
What I think is happening is affecting the group, and you are getting to the point where you kind of have to do something just to say, “We are going to do something different here.”
Keefe came right out and said Mrazek was starting. Last night, post game, he said he was not sure. Dallas is a tough team to throw a kid in against for his first NHL start, but you have to think Kallgren is starting.
Friedman on the argument that the Leafs’ problems recently are exclusively goaltending related:
I’ve got people throwing numbers at me and going, “It is all on the goaltending. Defense is not that bad.” But sometimes, what is available in the public sphere and what is available privately is different.
One of the things we are still coming to grips with with the whole analytics movement is what is trustworthy and what isn’t, and what models are better? What is available privately that isn’t available publicly? One of the difficulties I have is that if you talk to people who do a lot of the work, some of them just clobber each other’s work. You’re like, “What do I buy into with all of this?”
I have had a couple of teams send me information to say, “Yes, it is a lot on the goaltending, but if you take a look at the numbers since January 1st, Toronto’s defense against the rush and in the slot has not been very good.” I think this is a combination of team defense / goaltending.
When Dubas has said that defense is the number-one priority, I still think he considers that. I think he wants to upgrade the blue line. Now, I just think, “Is he going to have to do two things?”
I also think a lot about their fourth line. Spezza hasn’t played a ton, and I am curious.
Friedman’s intel on the contact between Colorado and Toronto:
Somebody told me that they wouldn’t be surprised — and they’ve done a deal before — if Colorado and Toronto were talking about something. I just have no idea what that can be.
I always think there are deals out there that we don’t see coming. A season ago, it was the Vrana-Mantha deal. I don’t know if anyone saw that coming.
Someone told me he heard Colorado and Toronto were talking about something. What is the deal we don’t see coming? Is there another goalie out there that is available that we don’t see coming?
Friedman on the Leafs’ trade assets:
They don’t have a ton of picks. They have some really good prospects, but they want to keep them. It is like the dam is bursting at the wrong time.
There are a few things they would like to do address, but I think the goaltending situation has really mucked up this whole thing.
CJ: Nothing imminent on the goalie front for Leafs (TSN1050)
On TSN Overdrive, Chris Johnston discussed the latest buzz from the rumour mill and whether the Leafs are anywhere close on a possible goalie addition.
Johnston on the prices for the big names on D and in net (Lindholm, Fleury):
Now, obviously, Anaheim is open for business. They have had some discussions with Hampus Lindholm, but you would have to think this is s a sign they are prepared to move him, as well as Rickard Rakell, another pending UFA generating some interest on the trade market.
Lindholm probably gets you a first, I would think. He is a top-pair defenseman for them and plays over 20 minutes a night. He is probably the top rental player on the market if he ends up being moved.
The price on Marc-Andre Fleury has been set at a first by Chicago.
I just don’t think we will see a lot of first-round picks moved at the deadline. If we do, I will be wrong, but my sense is that the buyers feel they are in a position of strength because there are not that many of them, and cap space is pretty scarce around the league as well. That is the dynamic we are dealing with a week out from the deadline.
Johnston on the Leafs’ level of urgency around adding a goaltender:
I think they are trying to remain patient, but what has changed is that they have more information. Two weeks ago, they didn’t have two weeks of performances where it was four or more goals every game. That is basically what it has been since.
Jack Campbell’s injury situation has come up in that time as well. While it is not listed as a long-term injury, it has to factor into the thinking.
The issue is there is not a lot of players. Even the one who might make some sense — Braden Holtby — I am not sure if Holtby is being moved. Anton Khudobin in Dallas has just gone through surgery today. All of a sudden, Holtby isn’t even in the mix.
The issue with Fleury is multifold. Toronto may not be the preferred destination for him. He has a $7 million cap hit that creates challenges. You are looking at a first-round pick-plus, probably, if the Blackhawks are retaining salary or taking something back.
Where this leads me back to: I am sure they are watching the same game as us — there is a lot of frustration building with the way these goals are going in — but there might not be a solution for them. That is just the truth. Fleury probably makes the most sense, but if they go and trade for him, it might limit what they can do elsewhere as well.
Johnston on whether the Leafs could convince Fleury to sign off on a deal to Toronto:
Fleury’s situation is a little unique because he doesn’t have a full NMC, but there was an understanding they wouldn’t move him where he doesn’t want to go. He has at least an unofficial say in the process.
I think it is a normal part of recruiting. You are dealing with someone with kids who has his family enrolled in schools and all of that.
It is not like MA Fleury does not 100% want to play in Toronto; I am just not sure if it’s at the top of his list. If he had the chance to move back to Vegas, maybe that would be more preferable to him. I have no idea if that is going to be the case, but they are dealing with an injury to Lehner, so we will see how that situation plays out.
That could be an approach the Leafs take. Certainly, this is an organization that does everything for players on and off the ice and their families. That might be a way to seal the deal, but I just think it is in the early stages, as much as the deadline is approaching quickly. I don’t think that is a trade you are making today even if you want to in Toronto’s situation.
I don’t see anything happening imminently here for the Leafs that way.
Dreger: Not convinced Leafs are after a goalie over a defenseman (TSN1050)
On First Up, Darren Dreger indicated that goaltender Anton Forsberg doesn’t appear to be available in Ottawa at this time, and that the Leafs’ focus hasn’t necessarily shifted from defense to goaltending.
I think the market is assuming the need has shifted from a defenseman to a goalie. I am not sure I see it that way even though Mrazek has given us lots of reason to question that theory.
As Sheldon Keefe and company continue to dissect the game tape, they are seeing the same errors in their own zone. It has always been their preferred target: a defenseman. Or they just have to work on tightening up defensively.
Those are things you maybe can fix, but the goaltending market outside of Marc-Andre Fleury… I wouldn’t say it’s incredibly thin, but Anton Forsberg doesn’t appear to be available unless Pierre Dorion is just trying to fleece the market a little bit.
Look, nobody is throwing a life preserver to the Maple Leafs. If you are Kyle Dubas and you are looking for a stabilizing goalie — or if there is an upgrade that maybe we are not thinking of — okay, fine, but you are going to make a significant overpayment.
The same goes for defense market that has been constant for the last few weeks or several weeks. Toronto is going to have to overpay. Where are they going to overpay? On defense? Or make a panic move and try to solidify their goaltending?