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Oilers game delayed as Puljujarvi placed on NHL COVID-19 Protocol list – Edmonton Sun

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The start time for the game between the Edmonton Oilers and the Montreal Canadiens has been pushed back an hour as the NHL announced a player entered COVID protocol earlier today, which turned out to be forward Jesse Puljujarvi.

The Oilers winger was kept out of the morning skate and was said to be questionable for the game, according to head coach Dave Tippett.

“We’ll see, he was held out for precautionary reasons this morning and we’ll see how things go this afternoon,” Tippett said during a morning media availability.

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The Oilers have been staying in a Montreal hotel since Tuesday night as they conclude a four game road trip Thursday against the Canadiens. The game was to start at 7 p.m. ET, but has now been pushed back to 8 p.m. ET, to allow for the completion and analysis of tests to the rest of the team, according to an NHL media release.

When pressed, Tippett would not reveal if Puljujarvi was held out of the morning skate because he tested positive for COVID-19 or was injured. Puljujarvi, however was on the list of NHL players on COVID Protocol released Thursday afternoon.

“That’s all I’m going to say about it, he was held out and I was told by the trainers we have to hold him out this morning,” he said. “And that’s what I did.”

Featuring all-Canadian team, the North Division has yet to have a game postponed due to COVID-19 issues. Four of the 14 games on the NHL schedule Thursday have already been postponed due to the virus.

“It’s a trying time for everybody,” Oilers captain Connor McDavid said Thursday morning. “We’re trying to adjust, the NHL is trying to adjust and we have to know that we’re all trying to take care of each other, and sometimes these things happen and we’re all learning as we go here.

“Obviously, we know what’s going on, we see what’s going on with other teams around the league and they’ve been affected. Some have, some haven’t. “The North division hasn’t yet, but I think a lot of it is just flat out luck. This thing is so uncontrollable and you don’t really know where it’s coming from sometimes.”

As of Wednesday, there were 49 players unavailable to play throughout the NHL due to COVID protocol. The Buffalo Sabres, Colorado Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers had multiple players on the list.

“Sometimes you get a guy that’s got it and it spreads like wildfire and sometimes a guy gets it and nobody else gets it,” said McDavid, tested positive for COVID-19 in the off-season. “It’s so unpredictable and we’ll see what happens here.”

Email: dvandiest@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @DerekVanDiest

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Matthews skates as extra at Leafs' practice – TSN

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Auston Matthews was on the ice and skated at Toronto Maple Leafs practice, but wasn’t in his usual spot for line rushes. 

Matthews, 23, missed Toronto’s game Saturday night with a hand/wrist injury. 

He skated as an extra and didn’t take any hard shots. 

“He’s progressed here today compared to where he’s been in the last few days so that’s very positive.” Head coach Sheldon Keefe said, “So, he’s not ruled out for tomorrow. We’re just going to have to see how he is.”

Captain John Tavares continues to centre the top line alongside Joe Thornton and Mitch Marner. 

Frederik Andersen (lower body) was a full participant, while Jack Campbell was absent. 

hornton−Tavares−Marner
Barabanov−Kerfoot−Nylander
Mikheyev−Engvall−Hyman
Petan−Boyd−Spezza
Vesey−Agostino−Sabourin
 
Rielly−Brodie
Muzzin−Holl
Dermott−Bogosian
Lehtonen−Liljegren
 
Andersen, Hutchinson, Woll

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For a Stanley Cup Playoff run, what starting lineup ingredient are the Edmonton Oilers missing the most?: 9 Things – Edmonton Journal

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Despite the loss to a very responsible Leafs club on Saturday night, the Edmonton Oilers remain solidly in 2nd place in the Canadian Division.

Here is where I remind you to not let small samples swing your emotions too far one way or the other. Toronto is clearly a good team that played well. And their top 2 lines outplayed the Oilers Top 2. That doesn’t happen to the Oilers often, but when it does the result is normally predictable.

But what can change over a longer time frame that could allow the Edmonton guys to maintain their healthy standing and make a playoff run?

That and more in this week’s edition of…

9 Things

9. Prospect Tomas Mazura is suffering from a sports hernia and will undergo surgery, ending his USHL season before it started. Mazura was the Oilers 6th Round selection in the 2019 NHL draft. Instead, Mazura will focus on the 2021-22 season in Providence. But a player with his draft pedigree missing a full year of development isn’t good.

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8. Leon Draisaitl doesn’t look “right”. Combine that with the fact that he has missed a couple practices the past week (something he never does), we can safely assume that he is banged up. If I had to guess, I’d say something upper body. The one thing missing from his game is the usual high quality of his shooting. And as we saw from Oscar Klefbom, that can affect your entire game.

7. Kyle Turris is nearly ready to return from a minor injury. But let’s be honest: Turris was playing far below expectations prior to that. He was headed to the Taxi Squad, hurt or not. When you look at how motivated other Oilers players such as Jujhar Khaira, Alex Chiasson, Tyler Ennis, Evan Bouchard and Caleb Jones were after their stints on the taxi squad, one wonders if Turris will respond similarly? Otherwise, Sam Gagner would be better. We’ll come back to this…

6. At some point here, Zack Kassian will be eligible to come off LTIR. I have a lot of time for Kassian. At his peak, he can have a major impact on the outcome of a game. But right now, where will you put him? Would you pull Jesse Puljujarvi,Kailer Yamamoto, Josh Archibald or Alex Chiasson (good again last night) out of the lineup? And Kassian is signed through 2023-24 at a $3.2m cap hit. Something’s got to give. His player type is quite rare and has value if he brings it, which on a consistent basis he has not.

5. Nothing wrong with any young player seeing the odd game from the press box. But the Oilers obviously missed Evan Bouchard’s puck moving and shooting skills Saturday. However, unless you go 11-7 again, who do you sit? None of Adam Larsson (their best D again last night), Tyson Barrie or Ethan Bear. What if Bouchard plays the LHS? Nurse isn’t coming out. And Caleb Jones and Kris Russell sawed off on chances for/Against on Saturday, Jones with 1 or 2 bigger mistakes than Russell. But do you leave in the quicker, puck mover? Ethan Bear is not yet at the top of his game after a concussion either. But I think he ends up back on the top pairing sooner than later.

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4. The way he is playing to-date, the Oilers Darnell Nurse is in the conversation for a Norris Trophy nomination. Heading into Saturday’s action Nurse led NHL D-men in Even-Strength points. He plays more minutes (25:35) than the other Defenceman Top-10 in NHL scoring. And he brings a level toughness and gamesmanship better than any of his mates. Of course, the real test is whether any player can sustain that level of play over time. And I don’t mean the occasional off game like last night’s result. The best has those. For now, Nurse is in a grouping of 5 top NHL D-men that would merit a place on that ballot. Lets see where he gets to.

3. I have written in this space numerous times over the course of the NCAA season that I expected Dylan Holloway to sign an ELC with the Oilers at the end of the Badgers’ year. He could then join Bakersfield. But as time wears on and Holloway’s performance in Wisconsin continues to dominate (11-22-33 in 18 GP), I begin to wonder if Holloway’s next stop may in fact be Edmonton instead? Remember, Cale Makar stepped right out of NCAA and into the Stanley Cup Playoffs for Colorado in 2018-19. And Defence is a much tougher position in which to make that jump. But their draft pedigrees aren’t a world apart. Maker was 4th over-all, Holloway 14th. Asking Dylan Holloway to step into the 3C hole during the stretch run of an NHL season is asking a lot. But could he play Top-9 LW? Top 6 Think about that for a minute, I’ll come back to it…

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2. Gaetan Haas is a useful player for the Oilers. He is smart, skates very well and has a solid defensive conscience. He was pretty good again last night. But Haas is a role player. And as a G.M. you can’t fall in love with role players. While certainly important, they are ultimately more replaceable that true Top-6 guys and they ultimately have less impact on games over time. To be clear, I’m o.k. with Haas being on this club. But he is not a Top-9 Center. The numbers don’t lie. Haas has an assist in 8 games this season, just 11 points in 66 games over-all. And he’s only a 42% faceoff man since coming to the NHL, just 22% last night. That won’t get it done, certainly not in a tough playoff series. And so far, as I’ve already mentioned, Kyle Turris has not been the answer at 3C, either. So what are Dave Tippett and Ken Holland to do?

1. I expect the Oilers will make 1 or 2 additions to their roster between now and the playoffs. What do they need the most? I would argue (in part due to the above) a “true” 3C. Now, those are hard to find at the best of times. And it’s especially complicated during COVID, because of the quarantine policy. One player they may look at is Brandon Sutter. The Canucks won’t make the playoffs. Sutter is 52% in the circle his past half-dozen seasons, an excellent defensive player and PK man, and a right-hand shot. Sutter is at $4.375m but Vancouver would be willing to eat up to 50% of that salary. An expiring UFA, Sutter does have a modified no-move clause.

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You may counter that at this point in his career, Brandon Sutter is probably a “4C”. I would not disagree. In particular, Sutter’s offence has fallen off. And at 32 he doesn’t skate as well as he used to. A top-flight LW may be easier to find and cheaper to acquire. So, one another option to consider is moving Ryan Nugent-Hopkins into the 3C position for the stretch run and playoffs, and instead bring in another Winger that could play with McDavid or Draisaitl. Or…is that other winger Dylan Holloway?

Remember, this isn’t 1997 anymore. Players make the jump from NCAA to the NHL on their ELC’s. And Holloway (who has been way too good to be in College hockey) would bring a dimension to the left side that the Oilers are missing: A player with skill, who can fly, is big (Holloway 35 pounds heavier than Dominik Kahun, 45 heavier than Tyler Ennis) and can play with both grit and enthusiasm.

Because of the pandemic, I suspect Ken Holland is shopping now. Like, right now. No time like the present.

But like a lot of us, during COVID-19…maybe Ken decides the right thing to do is “shop local”.

Find me on Twitter @KurtLeavins

Recently, at The Cult…

McCURDY: No joy in Mudville, Oilers blanked 4-0 by Toronto

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The Toronto Maple Leafs' biggest X-Factor, possible lineup tweaks, and standouts on the Marlies – Maple Leafs Hot Stove

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Life is good at the top of the NHL standings for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

In this Sunday edition of Leafs Musings, we’ll cover Joe Thornton’s impact and long-term lineup fit, some possible lineup changes/experiments, the latest with the 4-4-0 Toronto Marlies, and check in with a quick note on potential deadline target, Mikael Granlund, in the final thoughts at the end.

Toronto’s Biggest X-Factor


Photo: Nathan Denette/Canadian Press

The biggest X-factor on any team is always the goalie. They play the full 60 minutes and impact the game more than any player ever could. If Frederik Andersen and Jack Campbell put up a .930 save percentage, we all know that the Leafs are going to win a lot of games. If Frederik Andersen and Jack Campbell put up a .890 save percentage, we all know that the Leafs are in trouble. The Leafs are like every other NHL team in that respect.

Apart from the goaltenders, though, Toronto’s biggest x-factor is 41-year old Joe Thornton. The future Hall-of-Fame forward boasts 10 points in 10 games thus far, and the Leafs have dominated when he’s on the ice. It’s tough to complain about him so far, but it’s worth noting that he’s the team’s biggest mystery at this point. I have no idea just how good he really is yet (and you probably don’t, either).

Thornton has only played in 10 of Toronto’s 22 games thus far, all 10 of which were spent with Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews (or John Tavares for one game in Edmonton). The question becomes: How much of his great on-ice results are because of him, and how much is simply due to the fact that he’s riding shotgun with two superstars? Is he legitimately better on that line than Zach Hyman is? I’m a bit skeptical — I think very highly of Hyman — but Thornton is certainly a great passer who excels in the cycle. At this point, I have no idea how sustainable these results are.

The next question becomes: How would he look with John Tavares and William Nylander for an extended run? Toronto’s second line is not producing much offense at 5v5 thus far, and we know that Hyman could play with Matthews and Marner if needed. On the surface, it seems like both Tavares and Nylander would be perfect candidates to benefit from Thornton’s playmaking ability. Thornton is also able to play at Tavares’ pace. Could Thornton be the missing puzzle piece for that line? I have no idea, but it’s worth finding out.

The third question is: Could Thornton drive his own line? Thornton played center his entire career, with play-driving metrics that were quite strong as recently as the 2018-19 season. Is he best-suited to play on the wing at this point in his career? Or could he be a good third-line center who could help replicate what this team had when Nazem Kadri was around? If Thornton looks like the same player he was a couple of seasons ago, maybe he could drive a strong third line, where the Leafs have been looking for answers offensively this season.

At this point, I am still mulling over how good Thornton is and where he fits best. It’s clear that he can be a valuable contributor for this team, but he’s only played in 10 games and they haven’t moved him around the lineup at all. It wouldn’t surprise me if he was still a first-line winger come playoff time. It also wouldn’t completely surprise me if he was a bottom-six center.

I’ll be watching Thornton closely over the next few games. Let’s hope that the strong results with Matthews and Marner continue. If he does switch lines, or perhaps moves back to center, let’s hope that he excels at that, too. He’s been incredibly fun to watch thus far, and for me, he’s Toronto’s biggest X-factor going forward. If he’s the 2018-2019 version of himself, the Leafs are a completely different team for the better.

Possible Lineup Changes


Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs
Photo: Canadian Press

Toronto’s lineup against the Flames on Monday night was mortifying. Injuries to Jake Muzzin, Zach Hyman, Joe Thornton, Wayne Simmonds, and Frederik Andersen obviously hurt this team’s depth, but they didn’t do themselves any favours with their lineup decisions. I’d rather not see Tavares with Matthews and Marner again this season except perhaps situationally within games. Making yourself a one-line team for a whole game just doesn’t make any sense.

John Tortorella’s eyes probably lit up when he saw that the Leafs were going with a stacked first line in game five of the play-in series. Sure, it’s a great line, but the opposing team can put their best checking line out there with their best defensive pairing and treat those shifts like they’re killing a penalty. If that line doesn’t completely dominate, the Leafs probably aren’t going to win.

The stakes were much lower on Monday night, but that’s a lineup that I don’t want to see again anytime soon. Alex Kerfoot can’t be the second line center on a team with Matthews and Tavares, especially if Alexander Barabanov is going to be one of his wingers. Sheldon Keefe loves to experiment — and I tend to agree with him more than I disagree with him — but that lineup was ugly. To his credit, he abandoned the stacked first line after 40 minutes, but I think it was doomed to fail from the start.

The Leafs clearly need more from John Tavares offensively at even strength. He has four primary points at 5-on-5 through 22 games, which is not going to cut it on a team built around having two first lines. Both of his 5-on-5 goals came in 7-3 wins, with one being a tap-in set up by Nylander and the other being a point shot. Sure, his shooting percentage is bound to bounce back a bit, but the Leafs need him to be far more dangerous as a facilitator as well. Perhaps the one-game stint on the first line was Keefe attempting to get him going, but if this team is going to go anywhere, they’ll need him to drive his own line eventually.

At this point, I think they have to at least consider breaking up Matthews and Marner. We know that Marner could play with Tavares and Matthews could play with Nylander. Tavares played well with Thornton and Marner on Saturday night, and if he continues to play with them, we should expect to see an uptick in goals from the captain. We’ve seen Matthews have plenty of success when playing with William Nylander and Zach Hyman in the past. This team is at its best when they have two high-end scoring lines instead of one.

With that being said, the Leafs are 16-4-2 and have time to figure things out. They can give the Tavares and Nylander line a few more games to prove what they can do, but at this point, I think they are at least in the process of considering changes.

The answer to the “is Kerfoot a center or winger?” question is simple: He can play both. Playing on the wing reduces his defensive responsibilities and allows him to show off his offensive skillset a little bit more. The question is: Do the Leafs have a replacement for him at center? The line of Mikheyev, Engvall, and Hyman might combine to have a 1% shooting percentage while playing together, but they play heavy shifts and look strong defensively. It’s fine to give Engvall a longer look there, but at this point, I think I’d move Kerfoot back to the middle eventually. It’s not about maximizing Kerfoot’s point totals; it’s about maximizing the team’s success.

The third line took a serious hit this offseason when they traded Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen. At this point, we can’t expect Kerfoot to have success as the third line center if he’s paired with Jimmy Vesey and Ilya Mikheyev. Kerfoot is usually the best player on the third line when he plays there — I don’t think that line magically improves by removing its best player. My preference is Hyman in the top six over Kerfoot.

Let’s put it this way: I’d argue a line of Vesey, Kerfoot, and Engvall won’t suddenly drastically improve if Kerfoot is on the wing and Engvall is at center rather than vice-versa. When people ask “is Kerfoot better on the wing?”, I think they really mean “is Kerfoot better in the top six?”. Like most players, he’s going to have better results with Tavares and Nylander rather than Mikheyev and Vesey, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that playing him there is best for the team.

Essentially, I don’t think that acquiring an average third-line center at the deadline is going to move the dial all that much. I’d rather not give up a second-round pick for the next Brian Boyle or Tomas Plekanec, and it’s difficult to acquire good centers. In looking for a potential difference maker, given the list of players who will likely be available, it’s probably going to be a winger. I’m fine with giving Engvall a chance at center for now and playing Kerfoot with Tavares and Nylander in the meantime, but I think it’s more likely than not that Kerfoot ends up back at center. Unless they want to try Thornton at center, I’m not sure that they have a suitable replacement.

It’s also worth mentioning that Alex Galchenyuk is going to get a chance eventually. Whether he could bring some much-needed offense to that third line is a question the Leafs will want to find out the answer to. I’d play him across from Engvall or Mikheyev to help him defensively, and I wonder if he would pair nicely with Kerfoot.

While I do think Jimmy Vesey is playing a little bit better as of late, he only has four points through 22 games and both of his goals were gifts from Nylander. In a season where Boyd, Petan, Engvall, and Barabanov have rotated in and out of the lineup, I’m not sure what’s keeping Vesey from joining that rotation as well. I certainly don’t know why he was ever on the first power-play unit for even a second. I like having the defensively-responsible Engvall-Kerfoot-Mikheyev line against Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers, but I would probably give Galchenyuk a chance on that line eventually. We’ll see how he does with the Marlies first.

On defense, I’d like to try Dermott with Brodie at some point, but it’s tough to make changes right now given how well the team is playing. They’re both strong stick-on-puck defenders who are difficult to gain the zone against. I also want to get a look at it for future reference, in case they consider moving a defenseman this offseason or in case someone goes down hurt in the playoffs. Knowing they will need to decide whether or not they protect Dermott in the expansion draft, I’d like to give him a chance with a veteran defenseman like Brodie. I’m not in a huge rush to do this, though, as Toronto’s defense looks great right now, but I would like to see it at some point.

If Matthews is back on Monday night, I’d try something like this:

LW C RW LD RD
Hyman Matthews Nylander Muzzin Holl
Thornton Tavares Marner Rielly Brodie
Engvall Kerfoot Mikheyev Dermott Bogosian
Barabanov Boyd Spezza

You can flip Marner and Nylander if you’d like.

I’d stack the top power-play unit and let that Kerfoot line take some minutes against McDavid or Draisaitl. Vesey should probably be on the outside looking in at this point. I love the Engvall-Mikheyev duo — they are both tall, fast, and it seems like their wingspans combine to cover the full width of the ice. Opposing forwards don’t have much room to operate when they’re out there.

A Marlies Update


Toronto Marlies v Manitoba Moose
Photo: Marlies.ca

The Toronto Marlies are 4-4 after their season-opening road trip, but they probably deserve a better record. I don’t think their roster is quite as strong as it’s been in previous seasons, but it seems like the NHL taxi squad is hurting AHL rosters for just about every team. It’s nice to see prospects like Nick Robertson and Timothy Liljegren play in a winning atmosphere. Hopefully, the team can play well and win their division.

Liljegren has been their best player thus far — by a fairly wide margin. He’s always been a strong transition defender, but his offensive game has grown by leaps and bounds since his rookie season and he’s playing with a ton of confidence right now. He’s taking more chances and effectively rushing the puck up the ice. The Marlies look like a completely different team when he’s out there.

The better Liljegren is offensively, the less pressure there’s going to be on his defensive game at the next level. He actually reminds me a little bit of a shorter (and more offensive) version of Justin Holl, as he can keep up with just about anyone in the neutral zone and continues to get stronger and stronger.

My only minor complaint: On Wednesday night, he was bad on the power play, where he took far too many non-threatening point shots. However, I think that was more of a one-off situation and the Leafs should be very encouraged by his start thus far overall. Moved to the taxi squad yesterday, the 21-year-old prospect has probably been called up because they want to give him a chance to play.

Perhaps good timing for his season debut would be Thursday’s game against the Canucks, which would allow Zach Bogosian some rest during the second half of a back-to-back. If a right-shooting defenseman gets hurt, it makes sense to me to have Liljegren play rather than move Dermott or Mikko Lehtonen to the right side.

Not playing all that well as of late, Nick Robertson only has the one goal through eight games thus far. He does have six assists, although a few of those were quite flukey. He’s averaging close to three shots per game and his shooting percentage is bound to improve, but I don’t think he’s barging down the door for an NHL job at the moment. He’s playing in their top-six and on both special teams, so he’s getting plenty of minutes to help with his development. He is one of their better offensive forwards — and he’s certainly been quite impressive for a teenager — but I don’t think there is a huge rush to call him up right now.

Joey Anderson has definitely been one of the team’s best forwards. He’s legitimately good in the middle of the 1-3-1 powerplay set-up. Like Robertson, he plays on both special teams units and brings a great work ethic to the table. He certainly looks like someone who could make the Leafs next year, although I think he’ll be a bottom-six forward.

The other big standout to me is defenseman Mac Hollowell. While he’s pointless through eight games, he’s a good puck mover who verges on an elite skater. He hasn’t looked out of place in a top-four role and he’s still only 22. At 5’9″, he has a lot to prove to make the NHL level, but I’ve been happy with his performances thus far.

Final Thoughts


Photo: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
  • As a team, the Leafs look so much better defensively this season. It’s a much improved blue line: T.J. Brodie is an excellent stick-on-stick defender, while the Muzzin-Holl pairing has picked up where they left off last season. Tyson Barrie has 18 points in 23 games with the Oilers, but I don’t miss him for a second. The Leafs are fifth (best) in goals against per minute at 5-on-5 this year after finishing 27th in the category last season. They couldn’t get a win from their backup goalie prior to the Jack Campbell trade. With Andersen injured, Michael Hutchinson came close to picking up a shutout on Wednesday night and Campbell kept a clean sheet on Saturday night.
  • The Canadian division is relatively weak, but let’s not get carried away here. A 16-4-2 record is impressive in any division. It’s not like the Leafs can demand to face Tampa Bay or Boston. The Central has the Red Wings, the Blackhawks, a Predators team that has taken a major step backward, and a Stars team that has injury problems. The West has all three California teams plus the Arizona Coyotes. The Leafs are in a division with plenty of offensive firepower. They are legitimately better defensively.
  • The Leafs got Jack Campbell (and Kyle Clifford) for Trevor Moore and two third-round picks. I like Moore, but the Leafs have had no problem finding good depth forwards and Campbell’s $1.65 million cap hit is a bargain. His teammates clearly love playing in front of him, and he’s only allowed four goals in three starts this season. That trade is looking like a complete steal.
  • The Predators are currently playing Mikael Granlund at center. I’ve been watching him closely — his versatility could be a great fit for the Leafs, as they could use him in the middle on the third line to upgrade on Kerfoot, or use his playmaking ability next to John Tavares. I’d be trying to acquire an even bigger name first, but Granlund is near the top of my wish list right now.

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