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What to do before the deadline, Nylander scratched; Leafs vs. Habs

April 7, 2021, 1:59 PM ET [641 Comments]
Mike Augello
Toronto Maple Leafs Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
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UPDATE - Leafs PR announced that William Nylander will not play tonight vs. Montreal after being exposed to a possible positive COVID case outside the team. Nylander is isolating and the situation will be re-evaluated on Thursday pending the results of further testing.

Alexander Barabanov will play in place of Nylander.

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The Toronto Maple Leafs return home from a successful road trip to take on the Montreal Canadiens at Scotiabank Arena on Wednesday, but in spite winning seven of their last eight games and holding a six-point lead in the North Division, the focus with time running out is what the Leafs will do before the NHL trade deadline at 3pm next Monday.

Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe in his availability on Wednesday morning indicated that his group is not feeling any apprehension about the upcoming deadline, in which it is unlikely that the current group will be altered.

"(The feel) this morning and how they were on the road trip, I don't think (the deadline is) a factor here. The guys are feeling good as a group and they know what is and isn't in their control." Keefe said. "We're just keeping the focus on preparing the team and the players are just focused on preparing themselves and continue to try to be as good as we can every night."

With five days to go, there continues to be speculation, but no hard evidence on what Leafs GM Kyle Dubas will do and what area of his roster he will try to improve. The comments made to The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun on Tuesday would seem to indicate that the recent play of Alex Galchenyuk on the second line with John Tavares and William Nylander has decreased the need to add a top-six winger, but with veterans like Wayne Simmonds, Joe Thornton and Jason Spezza more impactful playing limited minutes, the need for more quality depth up front remains a priority.

Defensively, Toronto have been fortunate to remain remarkably healthy this season, but have to guard against losing an important player as they did when Jake Muzzin went down vs. Columbus last August. The Leafs may have confidence that an inexperienced Rasmus Sandin could fill the void if someone gets injured in the playoffs, but adding a veteran seven or eight option might fall under the “better safe than sorry” category.

The goaltending situation remains a mystery, as Keefe had no update on the status of Frederik Andersen on Wednesday. Toronto is holding their cards close to the vest regarding Andersen, who has not played since March 20 because of an unspecified lower-body injury. Jack Campbell will make the start vs. Montreal, but his health status coupled with the uncertainty of Andersen’s availability has to be something that Dubas will factor into his deadline approach.

With the Leafs limited cap space, the only way they could add forward and/or defensive depth, and a goalie to fill in between the pipes would be to place Andersen on LTIR, but that would mean him missing the rest of the regular season.

Names such as Buffalo’s Linus Ullmark and Calgary’s David Rittich have been mentioned, but both have cap hits in the mid-$2 million range and would likely cost a second or third round pick. One option that Dubas may consider is re-acquiring Aaron Dell from New Jersey. Dell was claimed off of waivers from Toronto in January because the Devils were without Mackenzie Blackwood due to COVID and had just lost Corey Crawford to retirement.

Dell was signed to a one-year, $800,000 deal by Toronto and has hardly played for New Jersey, so it would likely cost the Leafs a mid-round pick to get him back.

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