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Toronto Maple Leafs Rumours: The latest on Eric Staal, Rickard Rakell, Mattias Ekholm (Friedman) – Maple Leafs Hot Stove

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In today’s Leafs Links, Elliotte Friedman gives the latest rundown on the various trade possibilities involving the Toronto Maple Leafs and the latest rumour buzz from around the league.


Friedman: Eric Staal not likely for Toronto, Rickard Rakell could be too pricey, interest in Mattias Ekholm (SN)

On the 31 Thoughts podcast, Elliotte Friedman provided his latest feel on the trade talk around the league and who the Leafs might be in on ahead of the April 12 trade deadline.

Friedman on the Jets and Leafs‘ outlook for the deadline:

If you are the Winnipeg Jets, do you not have to go out and get Mattias Ekholm or David Savard? [I know] it is going to cost you a lot.

I do think the Leafs will sort themselves out. I don’t like what is happening in net, but if you are those two teams, it is now a go-for-it year.

I am sure the Jets are sitting there and saying, “We don’t want to deal with this quarantine again, and we have already given up a lot.” But there are seasons where you are sitting at the table with all of the chips in front of you, and you say, “Screw it, I am going in.”

Friedman on Kyle Dubas’ desire to make a trade, and the possible names he is or isn’t in on (Staal, Rakell, Granlund):

I think he has been [burning the phones] already. I find it hard to believe he isn’t looking to add.

I have heard Eric Staal is not likely a candidate. I hate to say it is not happening, but I have heard it is not happening. The reason: Pierre Luc Dubois is a guy in his early 20s, and look at how hard the quarantine was on him. Staal is in his mid-30s. Do you want to do that, make him sit for two weeks, and then have him ramp his way back up? I’ve heard it is a concern. I am not convinced Staal is going to be the answer for a Canadian team.

I have also heard that with the price of Rakell, I am not so sure Toronto is going to be in on that. I could be wrong again, but I have heard the price on Rakell is going to be… Maybe Anaheim thinks Toronto doesn’t have what it wants.

I go back to Granlund, and maybe anyone else i haven’t thought about there.

Friedman on the Mattias Ekholm sweepstakes and the teams involved:

One of the questions I often ask: Is there anyone new out there? Are there any new names on the trade block that I hadn’t heard of? Not everyone is going to tell you, but you always try. I still get the sense — and I heard this weekend — that the name that makes the biggest difference to the team that gets him is Mattias Ekholm.

He is the biggest name out there right now that I know of — and that people are willing to tell me — who is a difference maker.

They are looking for a Muzzin kind of package — two prospects and a first rounder. Someone is going to pay that. My question is: Who is it going to be? Winnipeg, I think, is in. Boston is in. I’ve had some questions about whether or not Toronto is in.

The thing with Toronto is: If you get Ekholm, you have three lefties — Rielly, Muzzin, and him — and what are you doing with that? How are you sorting that out?

I’ve heard at times that Montreal is in, but I have also had people tell me that Montreal is not. I don’t know what to make of that.

The other wildcard is Philly. Again, I have had people tell me that Philly is not going to give up what they need to give up to get Ekholm unless they can solve an expansion-draft issue at the same time. Plus, do they really think this is their year?

I’ve had other people tell me Philly is going to go for it anyway, but some people have pushed back on that.

That’s at least five teams: Boston, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, and Philly. I think he is the guy.

The other team out there, although it’s not a defenseman: Detroit could be pretty interesting… What does someone think of an Anthony Mantha or a Tyler Bertuzzi?

I still think Ekholm, as far as I can tell, is the guy. I am not so sure Anaheim is going to deal Rakell. As we sit here on Sunday night, Iam not convinced they are going to do it.

Friedman on Kyle Palmieri:

I think they are beginning their phase there: What are we doing here? Can we get a deal done here? What it is going to take? How do we feel? How do you feel? Yes/no, and if no, where are we going here?

I think that process is beginning.


Dreger: Dubas isn’t close on anything but has been making calls (TSN1050)

On First Up, Darren Dreger discussed how close Kyle Dubas might be to pulling the trigger on a move during the lull in the Leafs‘ schedule.

Is there a possibility that Kyle gets some business done during this stretch? Yes. He has been making his calls. We know that he has been targeting a forward. There has been some speculation about the potential of a defenseman. Mattias Ekholm’s name is out there. In saying that, those two transactions are difficult to complete in a healthy world — even during the offseason when you have more flexibility.

I am not saying Dubas can’t do both. I am saying it is going to be a significant challenge with where the Maple Leafs are on the cap, the pieces they are going to have to give up to acquire the forward or defense. It is doable and it makes sense given the break and quarantine restrictions in Canada that he would be pushing to some degree, but there is no evidence — as we are having this conversation — that he is close on anything.

Dreger on the Leafs’ trade chips:

The Maple Leafs do have currency to apply to try to lure one of those pieces, either a defenseman or a forward. We talk more publicly about their want for a forward because it solves a couple of problems — it gives them more push in their top 6-7, takes some of the stress off Joe Thornton, and maybe buys you a bit of insurance to go into the negotiation with Zach Hyman, especially if that player you acquire has a year or two or three left on his contract.

Toronto has some depth. If you look at their top prospects, there is Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren, Nick Robertson, Rodion Amirov, a first-round draft pick, and a second-round draft pick. I don’t think they want to part with any of that — they don’t — but if the perfect fit materializes….


Johnston: “I think there is an opportunity for the Leafs to do something pretty big in the next few weeks” (SN590)

Chris Johnston joined Leafs Hour to discuss the outlook for the trade deadline and the Leafs’ desire to buy within a difficult trading climate.

Johnston on the Leafs’ desire to make a move while dealing with a cap predicament:

I’d caution you against saying there is only one move. If they make a larger trade, there might be opportunities there to add a player that is on an expiring contract. This is a unique opportunity. There isn’t a huge seller’s market because the Leafs are one of the few organizations in hockey that is weathering the pandemic and is still able to spend money. I think they are highly incentivized given how many years they are into building around this team. Making a bold move to get them over the top isn’t outside the realm of possibility.

They aren’t in a position to add players without subtracting, but given the unique circumstances, I don’t think we can entirely rule out a bolder play here. It is time to be bold. It may not be DeRozan-for-Kawhi-Leonard bold, but I do there is an opportunity for them to do something pretty big in the next few weeks.

On it being a buyer’s market with the cap situations around the league constraining player movement:

I think it is going to be hard for Buffalo to move Taylor Hall this year. That is no comment on the season he is having, but with an $8 million cap hit, even if they are eating 50%, there is really only a limited number of places where that trade would make sense, where he would waive his no-move clause to make it happen.


Biron: You don’t always need an Andrei Vasilevskiy to win a Cup (TSN1050)

TSN Hockey Analyst and former NHL goaltender Marty Biron joined First Up to discuss the play of Frederik Andersen of late.

I think Andersen is good enough. Is he Andrei Vasilevskiy or Marc-Andre Fleury level? He is not. He is in that second tier. That is good enough to get you past a round or two. The Dallas Stars went to the Final last year with Anton Khudobin. It doesn’t have to be Vasilevskiy every year.

I like Andersen and think he is good enough. Are there some trends this year that need to be fixed? Absolutely. He has given up a lot of goals above the glove. The catching glove is supposed to be your strength as a goaltender. That is the thing you will live and die on. You are not getting beat on a clean shot above the glove. If you do, you know you are struggling.

In the last few games, he has gotten beaten up there quite often. I think he is getting more shots at the high glove. Teams are picking away at it. I think they are going high glove when they can, and it has been paying off.

I watched all 17 goals he gave up in the last five games before he went into the game against Ottawa yesterday. There are a lot of deflections, a lot of Royal Road passes across. There are a lot of grade-A scoring chances the Leafs are giving up. It definitely weighs on Andersen and his numbers and the way he feels in the net.

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Drouin must return to mentality that’s led to success this season – Sportsnet.ca

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It was something Dominique Ducharme said after his Montreal Canadiens played an abysmal game against the Ottawa Senators last week, something that only truly resonated after they lost 3-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday — a game that emboldened the struggle Jonathan Drouin’s currently enduring.

“Ninety per cent of the mistakes we made were mental, and the rest of it was above our shoulders.” the coach said after the 6-3 loss to Ottawa last Saturday, somewhat channelling New York Yankees legend Yogi Berra with this bit of wit and wisdom.

It was hard not to think of those words watching Drouin play the way he did on Wednesday. For much of this season, the talented left winger has played a primary role in Montreal’s success. He’s led them with 19 assists, been tenacious on the forecheck, physically engaged all over the ice, cerebral as always in his execution and, as he’s said on several occasions, relatively unconcerned by whether or not his name has been featured on the scoresheet.

But it seemed clear, after watching Drouin dump a breakaway into Jack Campbell’s chest with one of 32 shots the Maple Leafs goaltender turned aside to set a franchise record with his 10th consecutive win, he had diverted from that. And that affected the way he played the rest of the game.

It was Drouin’s fifth in a row without a point, his 18th without a goal, and he’d have to be a robot not to be suffering the mental wear of not seeing the puck go in more than twice since the season started, the torment of seeing only three per cent of his shots hit the back of the net through 36 games after 10 per cent of them resulted in goals through the first 348 games of his career.

“It is weighing on me where, when I have a chance and miss the goal, I might be trying to score too much,” Drouin said. “It’s something I obviously think about — every player would — and I’ve just gotta put it past me and just keep shooting pucks.”

Ideally, the 26-year-old wouldn’t be thinking about any of this. These are thoughts that weigh a player down and right now the Canadiens are in tough without Brendan Gallagher for the rest of the season and Drouin needs to be light and free to help account for that loss. And in order for him to do that, he needs to focus on what he does best.

Because the reality is that even though Drouin can score more, scoring isn’t what he needs to do in order to be at his best and really help this team.

“When his feet are moving and he’s making plays, Drou’s a pass-first guy,” explained Jake Allen, who made 29 saves in Carey Price’s absence. “When his feet are moving, his head’s always in it. When his feet are moving, he’s controlling the play, controlling the puck. He’s a guy who really can control the play for a whole line. You want the puck on that guy’s stick and let the other guys do the dirty work and he’ll find them.”

But when Drouin’s feet aren’t moving, there just isn’t enough of that other stuff happening.

When Drouin’s feet weren’t moving, he lost a battle for the puck in the offensive zone and allowed the NHL’s leading goal scorer to start the rush that resulted in the winning play of Wednesday’s game.

Auston Matthews to Mitch Marner, back to Matthews, off Allen and slammed into Montreal’s net by Zach Hyman with 9:39 remaining in the third period, with Drouin watching from just inside his own blue line.

“You give a 3-on-2 to the Matthews line and it’s the kind of play they’re going to make you pay on,” said Ducharme.

Was Drouin still thinking about that shot he didn’t bury in the second period?

It’s understandable if he was, but those are the kind of thoughts he needs to shake right now.

“He wants to do well, and I’m sure it’s getting a little bit in his head,” said Ducharme. “I think the best remedy for him is to be scoring that goal or making that big play, and I think he’s going to be energized by that and less thinking, more acting.

“It is a fine line. Those kind of thoughts is not something that you want to happen. But when you receive that puck and you see the opening and stuff, (the slump) comes back to (your mind). That’s why the mental part of the game is something that’s very tricky. It’s not his will to be thinking that way. Every player who’s going through a time like that will have that thought and scoring that goal will take him to a different level. At those kind of times you need to make it even simpler and being even more inside going at the net and finding a garbage (goal) right there and you put it in and sometimes you go on a little run. It might be that kind of goal that he needs to get that monkey off his back.”

It’s the kind of goal Corey Perry scored twice to give the Canadiens a chance in this game.

But Drouin isn’t Perry, who rightly pointed out after the game he’s made a career of scoring goals that way. And even if Drouin can borrow from what Perry does next time he has a chance like the one Brett Kulak set him up with for that breakaway, there are other ways he can positively impact the game.

You can appreciate that Drouin said he’s putting pressure on himself to score more and help make up for the goals the team will be missing with Gallagher sidelined, but that might not get him to where he needs to be mentally to contribute as much as he already has this season.

What would, though, is a sharp turn towards the mentality he described just days ago. The one that’s enabled him to be a much more consistent player this season than he has in seasons past.

“When I was younger, I’d stay on one game or stay on one play for too long and wouldn’t be able to let it go for a bit or a couple of days,” Drouin said. “But I think for me now it’s can I look at myself in the mirror after a game and did I give my good effort? Was I a part of this game? Was I doing something right in a lot of areas?

“That’s what I do now. I think points are there, goals are there, assists are there, but it’s just about playing that real game and playing to help your team win.”

Drouin’s done a lot of that this season and has a chance to get right back to it when the Winnipeg Jets visit the Bell Centre Thursday.

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Scioscia to lead U.S. baseball bid for spot at Tokyo Olympics

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(Reuters) – Mike Scioscia, who won World Series both as a player and manager, was named manager of the U.S. men’s national baseball team on Tuesday, as they seek a spot at the Tokyo Olympics.

After 19 seasons as manager of the Anaheim Angels, guiding them to their only World Series win in 2002, Scioscia will make his international coaching debut in June when the United States hosts the Baseball Americas Qualifier in Florida.

For the tournament the U.S. will be grouped with the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Nicaragua in Pool A while Canada, Colombia, Cuba, and Venezuela will make up Pool B.

The top two teams from each pool will advance to the Super Round, where the country with the best overall record will earn a spot in the Tokyo Olympic tournament.

Second and third-place finishers will advance to a final qualifier, joining Australia, China, Taiwan, and the Netherlands.

“Mike’s tenure with the Angels’ franchise was nothing short of spectacular, creating and celebrating a culture of success with six division titles, an American League pennant, and its first-ever World Series title,” said USA Baseball Executive Director/CEO Paul Seiler in a statement. “More impactfully, his leadership, integrity, and character are unparalleled in our game, making him the perfect fit for the USA Baseball family.”

The Olympic tournament will take place from July 28-Aug. 7 in Fukushima City and Yokohama.

Hosts Japan, Israel, South Korea, and Mexico have already secured a berth in the six-team field.

 

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Toby Davis)

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Masters 2021: Tiger Woods says he'll miss Champions Dinner, running up DJ's bill – Golf Channel

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AUGUSTA, Ga. – Dustin Johnson will host his first Champions Dinner on Tuesday night in the Augusta National clubhouse, and he’ll be joined by several past Masters champions.

One former winner who won’t be there is five-time champ Tiger Woods, who is still home in South Florida recovering from a serious car accident in February near Los Angeles. Justin Thomas, who is still working toward his invite to the prestigious dinner, said Woods texted him Friday night and was “bummed” to not be at the Masters this year.

Woods then tweeted Tuesday afternoon that he’ll miss one of his favorite nights of the year.

“I’ll miss running up @DJohnsonPGA’s bill at the Champions Dinner tonight,” Woods said. “It’s still one of my favorite nights of the year.”

Johnson responded to Woods’ tweet, saying: “Will miss having you here. This week isn’t the same without you.”

The PGA Tour announced that the club would leave a seat open for Woods at the dinner, though the tweet has since been taken down.

Johnson will serve a menu including filet mignon, sea bass and peach cobbler.

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