The Toronto Maple Leafs enter their bye week and the NHL All-Star break in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, in spite of going 16-7-3 under Sheldon Keefe. The club was able to survive injuries to John Tavares, Mitch Marner and other depth forwards, but have struggled defensively with the absence of Jake Muzzin and Morgan Rielly and with goalie Frederik Andersen playing below average.
Head coach Sheldon Keefe indicated after the loss to Chicago that his club was showing signs of immaturity and it is question whether this group can rise above in their remaining 33 games to make the postseason for the fourth straight season or whether GM Kyle Dubas will have to make some changes before the February 24th deadline.
It is time to answer some of your questions from the wonderful world of Twitter:
@MikeInBuffalo There are rumours the Flames are trying to acquire a top-6 forward and would be willing to trade Brodie or Hamonic to do so. Do you think the leafs could send Johnsson+Ceci+pick or one a thousand nhl forwards from the marlies for a defensive defenceman like Brodie?
A – Calgary may be willing to deal a rental like Brodie or Hamonic since they recently extended blueliner Rasmus Andersson, but in my opinion, the Leafs are not about to trade a player like Johnsson, since they have signed to a long-term deal for an economical cap hit.
TSN’s Darren Dreger also reported that Edmonton is interested in a top-six forward like Johnsson, Kasperi Kapanen, or Alex Kerfoot, but that type of deal would have to bring back someone like defenseman Darnell Nurse (whose contract is up after the season), who played for Dubas and Keefe in Sault Ste. Marie.
Realistically speaking, which dman could you potentially see them going after?
Is Nylander expandable? (pls say no)
Do the leafs burn the first year with Sandin?
Will Liljegren get a role this year, or will we have to wait till next year?
A – I do not see the Leafs going after a rental, due to their cap situation and their need for defensive help after this season. That likely means trading a forward with term for a controllable defenseman.
Nylander is not expendable, but in the end he may be the price the Leafs have to pay to get a top pairing defenseman in a trade, especially if he continues to score at the pace he is on currently.
Sandin will play his 10th game and burn the first year of his entry-level contract if he stays with the club after the All-Star break. The Leafs do not seem concerned about that, but may be more concerned with him exceeding 40 games, which starts the clock on his qualifying for unrestricted free agency.
Liljegren was given a taste of the NHL on Saturday, but it is more likely that he will have to wait until next season to get a full time role.
A – This is not the era where you can throw money at the problem. Dubas is undoubtedly looking for the right fit to acquire on defense, especially with Rielly will be out until mid-March. The situation is tricky since the Leafs need a right-handed D for the future, but need help on the left side to fill in for Rielly. Toronto will have to trade someone off their roster for defensive help and that raises the stakes on any potential deal.
Here are the 4 Dmen I would like to see the Leafs trade for in order. Understanding we can only trade for 1. Dumba, Larsson, Josh Manson, Ristolainen. Thoughts on what Leafs would need to give up, chances on each happening, and your preferred Dman of that group
Dumba is reportedly available, and the Wild may be looking for forward help for him, but his $6 Million cap hit is an issue for this season with the Leafs lack of space.
Not a big fan of Adam Larsson, but he has another year at $4.166 Million, so it would depend on what it would cost.
Josh Manson is likely not being dealt by Anaheim. The Ducks used to be deep on D, but that ended with the departures of Sami Vatanen, Shea Theodore, Brandon Montour, and Marcus Pettersson. Anaheim had to deal for Erik Gudbranson when they had injuries and with Manson signed for another two seasons, the cost would be prohibitive.
Ristolainen…..dream the impossible dream. The Sabres will never trade the big Finn inside their own division, because he could come back to haunt them like Ryan O’Reilly did.
Do you think that the Leafs will trade some natural talent for grit and leadership before the deadline?
A – I don’t expect there to be a departure from the Dubas plan of heavy reliance on speed and skill. It is possible that the Leafs add some veteran leadership and grit in the offseason, but the trade deadline is not the time to do that.
A – If I had that answer, I’d be coach of the year.
I would agree with Keefe’s assessment of some immaturity on the current roster. It’s great to score goals and make highlight reel plays, but you can see how Washington, Boston, and St. Louis have played at both ends of the ice the last couple years and that type of two-way effort has been nearly non-existent from the Leafs.
Until they come to the realization that they have to buy in and play with more effort in the defensive end of the ice, Toronto will continue to fail when it matters most.
Leafs seem to talk a lot to teams but it usually never amounts to anything. So my questions are, Are the leafs truly looking at Georgiev and maybe Kreider if he was to wave to a contender? Do they actually make a trade?
A – The Leafs may have expressed interest in Georgiev, but the Rangers are looking for a return consistent with someone who is a future #1 and that is not a price they are willing to pay. As for Kreider, Toronto will be using their assets to bolster their blueline, not a rental forward they have no hope of re-signing.
Is there a chance Nick Robertson plays for the Leafs next season or will it be the Marlies most likely?
A – Robertson turns 19 next September, so the only options will be playing in the OHL with Peterborough or the NHL. With the Leafs depth at forward, it is likely he will play for the Petes and Team USA at the 2021 World Juniors in Alberta.
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