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2020 NHL Trade Deadline primer: Toronto Maple Leafs – Sportsnet.ca

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While the Toronto Maple Leafs’ wild inconsistency, rash of injuries and some train-wreck third periods have led a segment of observers to conclude that this roster and this season isn’t worth further investment, the general manager wants to seize every spring that he can roll out his murderers’ row of gamebreakers.

Think about all that Kyle Dubas has spent to compensate and surround his core of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, John Tavares, Morgan Rielly and Frederik Andersen to embark on a run like this one: his first fire-the-coach card, his 2019 and 2020 first-rounders, three third-rounders, a fifth-rounder, Nazem Kadri, Connor Brown, Nikita Zaitsev, Carl Grundstrom, Trevor Moore, Calle Rosen and Sean Durzi.

Do you really think he’s going to waste Matthews’ race for the Rocket — plus superb offensive campaigns by Nylander, Marner, Tavares and Zach Hyman — by not trying to do his part to patch up the holes?

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“It’s being able to go through the crucible, if you will, when you’re being severely tested — and I think we are being tested now — to be able to endure that and be able to come out on the other side,” Dubas said recently. “That’s really something that our whole group and organization needs to do.

“I know there’s some anxiety and panic. But I look at it as one of the best opportunities that we’ve had in the whole time here, because I do have a strong belief in the group. I do think the group is capable of great things.”

As ugly as things have looked at times, the Leafs are still in the hunt. And Dubas does not sound like a man who is selling.

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Needs

Dee-fence.

Same as always, the Maple Leafs are in need of blue-line depth. They need more responsible players who can break out of his zone cleanly, kill penalties, box out, and do the dirty work. Perhaps even throw the occasional body check.

Dubas did a fine job a couple weeks ago, leaping ahead of the pack and addressing two key needs via his trade with L.A. — a more dependable backup goaltender (Jack Campbell) and a bottom-six winger with edge (Kyle Clifford).

But the gaping hole, for both now and the future, remains. Only two of Toronto’s regular D-men when everyone’s at full health, Morgan Rielly and Justin Holl, are under contract beyond June 30.

No one expects pending UFAs Cody Ceci and Tyson Barrie (on whom Dubas has received calls) to re-up here, and while negotiations to extend Jake Muzzin appear promising, the Maple Leafs’ best pure defender may need to be willing to leave money on the table to stay.

True, rookie call-ups Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren have tread water in sheltered relief — and hopefully take a step to be valued contributors in 2020-21 — but the mere fact Toronto has rushed to dress the NHL’s most inexperienced defence pairing underscores that the position remains one of weakness.

The Maple Leafs rate fifth worst in goals allowed (3.28 per game), and that figure cannot be hung solely on the goalies. Their penalty kill is the seventh worst (76.6 per cent). They’ve turned the puck over more than all but seven teams (666 giveaways). These are big problems.

No other team with numbers this gaudy in these categories is in playoff position.

“We could add a defenceman, but just to say that we did is not probably something we would do,” Dubas said. “We would want someone to move the needle for us in the long run, not in the short run — unless it was the perfect deal.”

That perfect deal would be a youngish right shot with term. Minnesota’s Matt Dumba, 25, tops that list. Dumba’s teammate, 26-year-old Jonas Brodin; Anaheim’s Josh Manson, 28; and Buffalo’s Rasmus Ristolainen, 25, should be considered as well.

The influx of salary-cap space suddenly available with Reilly, Ceci and Andreas Johnsson all on LTIR could prompt Dubas to at least explore a rental market that includes experienced, minutes-munching defenders on bad teams.

Most of the better ones (Brenden Dillon, Dylan DeMelo, Andy Greene, Marco Scandella) have already been snatched up. Sami Vatanen, Erik Gustafson and Ron Hainsey remain possibilities, but the pickings are slim.

Pending free agents, age, salaries

RFAs
• Travis Dermott, 23, $863,333
• Ilya Mikheyev, 25, $925,000
• Frederik Gauthier, 24, $675,000
• Pontus Aberg, 26, $700,000
• Jeremy Bracco, 22, $842,500
• Mason Marchment, 24, $767,500
• Adam Brooks, 23, $759,167
• Kasimir Kaskisuo, 26, $675,000

UFAs
• Jake Muzzin, 30, $4 million
• Tyson Barrie, 28, $2.75 million
• Cody Ceci, 26, $4.5 million
• Jason Spezza, 36, $700,000
• Kyle Clifford, 29, $800,000
• Michael Hutchinson, 29, $700,000

Potential assets to move

Kasperi Kapanen
With Johnsson injured, the fastest Leaf on the roster is hands-down the club best movable trade chip. Kapanen has a 20-goal season, kills penalties, is signed for two more seasons beyond this one at a fair $3.2-million cap hit, and it’s widely believed he could skate farther up the lineup on a club not so stacked at right wing. Toronto would only part with Kapanen is if it’s for a top-four defenceman with term.

Alexander Kerfoot
Kerfoot falls into the same middle-class, middle-six boat as Johnsson and Kapanen, meaning he has a palatable contract that makes him movable. Kerfoot, 25, is versatile enough to play any forward position and brings a mix of speed and grease that allows him to complement high-end skill players.

Jeremy Bracco
The organization and Bracco appear to be heading to crossroads. The dynamic playmaker and power-play maestro enjoyed a dominant offensive season on the farm in 2018-19 (79 points in 75 games) but has been consistently been passed over when it comes time for the big club to make a call-up. Bracco is an RFA at season’s end and could climb the depth chart more easily in an organization less flush on the wings.

Draft picks
The Maple Leafs already spent their 2020 first- and third-round picks but could use their extra fourth-rounder and two extra sixth-rounders to sweeten a larger deal or grab a second-tier rental. A gamble would be to put their second-round pick in play, because then the Leafs’ amateur scouts will be sitting on their hands for the first three rounds in Montreal.

Draft picks

2020: 2nd, 4th, 4th (VGK), 6th, 6th (CAR), 6th (COL), 7th (SJS), 7th (WPG), 7th (STL)
2021: 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th

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One bold move the Maple Leafs could make

Package Kapanen (11 goals, 32 points) with a pick and/or prospect to land a top-four, right-shot defenceman with term.

The math makes it all but inevitable that Dubas will be pushed to deal one of his forwards with a minimum of $3-million AAV in order to free up enough budget to (re-)sign defencemen.

Such a deal certainly doesn’t need to happen before Monday — Dubas could use his time and re-evaluate in June — but if it does, that means one extra playoff run with a better blue line.

I think the Maple Leafs should not…

Sit pat.

There is a unique opportunity opening up here. Florida isn’t exactly seizing the third seed in the Atlantic, and a bolstered defence could be the difference between making the dance and talk-radio anarchy.

That Dubas was already willing to spend futures on Clifford and Campbell suggests he believes in this core. The GM should not let this be a lost campaign. If Rielly can throw on a cape and rejoin an improved blue line for the post-season, the Leafs can wheel out a group dangerous enough to upset.

That said, Toronto’s lack of urgency in games leading up to the deadline could give Dubas pause.

“I’m not the GM, so I don’t know what’s going through his head or what he’s thinking,” Matthews told reporters after getting spanked in Pittsburgh Tuesday. “We believe in one another in this locker room, but it’s not a matter of saying it. It’s a matter of showing it.”

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The free agent market is sizzling, who’s left for the Blue Jays?

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With MLB’s 2022 Winter Meetings in San Diego this week, the number of free agent signings has reached a frenzied pace. As of this writing, 44 free agents have already signed deals worth a combined $1.9 billion so far this offseason, headlined by monster deals for Yankees OF and AL MVP Aaron Judge (nine years, $360 million), new Phillies SS Trea Turner (11 years, $300 million), and new Texas ace Jacob deGrom (five years, $185 million). That figure doesn’t include the reported five-year, $90 million guaranteed deal that Japanese star OF Masataka Yoshida apparently agreed to on Wednesday. The average free agent contract so far has been for 2.4 years and $44 million total value.

The Toronto Blue Jays have so far been unlucky in their free agent pursuits, highlighted by starter Kyle Gibson passing up the same one-year, $10 million offer made by Toronto to sign instead with the Baltimore Orioles. The Jays have also been mentioned in relation to starters Justin Verlander, Andrew Heaney and Jameson Taillon, as well as reliever Kenley Jansen and CF Cody Bellinger, who have all signed with other teams. All of their other AL East peers have been active this week signing and trading for players.

The need for a power-hitting left-handed bat to balance out the Jays lineup has been clearly defined as necessary to improve this club’s postseason chances following the Teoscar Hernández trade last month. A number of LHH OFs have agreed to deals already, including the above mentioned Masataka Yoshida, Joc Pederson, who accepted the San Francisco Giants $19.65 million qualifying offer (QO), and Cody Bellinger, who signed a one year, $17.5 million deal with the Chicago Cubs.

Remaining LHH free agent options in CF include Brandon Nimmo and Kevin Kiermaier. Should the Jays decide to keep George Springer in CF instead of moving him to right to reduce the wear and tear on his body, they could also look at left-handed hitters Joey Gallo or Michael Conforto in RF. Trading Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in a package for starting pitching or a CF like the switch-hitting Bryan Reynolds or Dalton Varsho might make sense if they were were able to sign one of Michael Brantley or Andrew Benintendi for LF, But those trades would both be costly in terms of the likely drain on an already bottom third ranked farm system.

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Further, with the St. Louis Cardinals signing free agent catcher Willson Contreras to a five year, $87.5 million contract, it appears less likely that the Cards might be a trade destination for one of the Blue Jays three catchers. One of Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk or Gabriel Moreno in a deal for switch-hitting OF Dylan Carlson or LHH RF Lars Nootbaar looked good on paper, but now seems less likely.

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Marner and Matthews stay hot, Samsonov earns shutout as Maple Leafs beat Kings

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Mitch Marner extended his franchise-record point streak to 21 games with a second-period goal as the Toronto Maple Leafs earned a 5-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday.

With Toronto in front 3-0, thanks to goals from Pierre Engvall, David Kampf and William Nylander just 1:06 apart earlier in the second, Marner checked in with a slapshot marker after a Kings turnover inside their blue line.

The Maple Leafs (17-5-6) won for the seventh time in eight outings and handed Los Angeles (14-11-4) its seventh loss in 10 games.

With Canadian pop star Justin Bieber among the 18,567 at Scotiabank Arena, Marner scored his 11th of the season. He has 10 goals and 16 assists in his 21-game point streak.

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Marner’s streak is now tied for 23rd all-time in the NHL with Dave Taylor, Adam Oates and Bobby Hull.

Marner also became the 10th different player in the past 35 years to string together a point streak of 21 or more games and the third active skater, behind Patrick Kane (26 games in 2015-16) and Sidney Crosby (25 games in 2010-11).

Well-rounded team effort leads Maple Leafs to second straight shutout win

Toronto goaltender Ilya Samsonov made 29 saves for his first shutout in a Maple Leafs sweater and the seventh of his career.

The Maple Leafs outshot their opponents 41-29.

Kings netminder Jonathan Quick, who made 36 saves, kept his club in the game for the opening 25 minutes.

The Maple Leafs had outshot the visitors 19-7 when Engvall beat Quick with a wrist shot for a power-play goal 5:10 into the second period.

Twenty-six seconds later, Kampf employed linemate Alex Kerfoot as a decoy to score on a two-on-one rush started by Kerfoot to provide the Maple Leafs with a two-goal advantage.

Nylander checked in with his 15th of the season, and fifth in seven games, on a breakaway goal 40 seconds later. He also set up Auston Matthews for his 14th goal midway through the final period.

Maple Leafs tally three goals in 66 seconds to jump ahead vs. Kings

Kerfoot was good for two assists against the Kings.

Engvall’s night ended early in the third period when he was given a match penalty for intent to injure after he high-sticked Kings defenceman Sean Durzi, a former Toronto draft pick, in the back of the head in the neutral zone.

During the ensuing five-minute power-play, Los Angeles winger Adrian Kempe scored but the goal was rescinded after a video review determined the play was offside.

Maple Leafs’ Engvall receives match penalty for slashing Kings’ Durzi up high

BRODIE’S BACK

Maple Leafs defenceman T.J. Brodie returned to the lineup after a 12-game absence because of an oblique injury, playing alongside newcomer Conor Timmins. Toronto went 9-0-3 without Brodie.

 

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Marner and Matthews stay hot, Samsonov earns shutout as Maple Leafs beat Kings

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Mitch Marner extended his franchise-record point streak to 21 games with a second-period goal as the Toronto Maple Leafs earned a 5-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday.

With Toronto in front 3-0, thanks to goals from Pierre Engvall, David Kampf and William Nylander just 1:06 apart earlier in the second, Marner checked in with a slapshot marker after a Kings turnover inside their blue line.

Gotta See It: Maple Leafs’ Marner scores to extend point streak to 21 games

The Maple Leafs (17-5-6) won for the seventh time in eight outings and handed Los Angeles (14-11-4) its seventh loss in 10 games.

With Canadian pop star Justin Bieber among the 18,567 at Scotiabank Arena, Marner scored his 11th of the season. He has 10 goals and 16 assists in his 21-game point streak.

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Marner’s streak is now tied for 23rd all-time in the NHL with Dave Taylor, Adam Oates and Bobby Hull.

Marner also became the 10th different player in the past 35 years to string together a point streak of 21 or more games and the third active skater, behind Patrick Kane (26 games in 2015-16) and Sidney Crosby (25 games in 2010-11).

Toronto goaltender Ilya Samsonov made 29 saves for his first shutout in a Maple Leafs sweater and the seventh of his career.

The Maple Leafs outshot their opponents 41-29.

Kings netminder Jonathan Quick, who made 36 saves, kept his club in the game for the opening 25 minutes.

The Maple Leafs had outshot the visitors 19-7 when Engvall beat Quick with a wrist shot for a power-play goal 5:10 into the second period.

Twenty-six seconds later, Kampf employed linemate Alex Kerfoot as a decoy to score on a two-on-one rush started by Kerfoot to provide the Maple Leafs with a two-goal advantage.

Nylander checked in with his 15th of the season, and fifth in seven games, on a breakaway goal 40 seconds later. He also set up Auston Matthews for his 14th goal midway through the final period.

Kerfoot was good for two assists against the Kings.

Engvall’s night ended early in the third period when he was given a match penalty for intent to injure after he high-sticked Kings defenceman Sean Durzi, a former Toronto draft pick, in the back of the head in the neutral zone.

During the ensuing five-minute power-play, Los Angeles winger Adrian Kempe scored but the goal was rescinded after a video review determined the play was offside.

BRODIE’S BACK

Maple Leafs defenceman T.J. Brodie returned to the lineup after a 12-game absence because of an oblique injury, playing alongside newcomer Conor Timmins. Toronto went 9-0-3 without Brodie.

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