Andreas Johnsson, Mason Marchment, Patrick Marleau, Toronto Maple Leafs, William Nylander

Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Johnsson, Marchment, Trade Bait, Nylander

As always, the Toronto Maple Leafs are in the news. There is much speculation about trades, and I’m curious to imagine how general manager Kyle Dubas might creatively construct a new roster in the face of a menacing salary cap. This review of news and rumors focuses on those potential moves, as well as the continued play of Maple Leafs prospect Mason Marchment and forward William Nylander.

Item One:
Andreas Johnsson Interested in Signing

Although the focus has been mostly on what it might take for the Maple Leafs to sign Marner, there are other players the team would like to sign. Certainly, Andreas Johnsson is one of them. Clearly, Johnsson has the potential to become a Maple Leafs star. He had a 20-goal season in 2018-19 and, if he played consistently on the team’s top six, he’s likely to score considerably more.

Related: Shanahan Re-Signed: The History of the Shanaplan

Johnsson notes that he’s open to a deal but it seems he’s not getting too involved with the details. As he said, “The agents and the organization have to talk about that.” He added, “Whatever would work best for both (sides).”

In late April, TSN’s Darren Dreger reported that the Maple Leafs made an offer of four years with a $2.6 million cap hit. A two-year deal with a $2.1 million cap hit was also made. Both were rejected.

Item Two: Other
Teams Express Interest in Mason Marchment

In my May 15 post, I wrote about the continuing growth of the Toronto Marlies Mason Marchment. On May 17, Jacob Stoller of The Leafs Nation also wrote about Marchment and added some information I hadn’t learned from my research.

Mason Marchment

Specifically, Stoller reported that a number of NHL sources confirmed that the Maple Leafs had fielded calls about Marchment just prior to the trade deadline. Obviously, Marchment has drawn interest from teams because of his play. During the Marlies’ series with the Cleveland Monsters, Marchment played well, both offensively and defensively, and helped the Marlies sweep the Monsters.

As Marchment noted, “I think it just all came together.” Obviously, it did. And, he didn’t stop with that series. On Friday, May 17, Marchment’s goal during the first minute of the third period was the winner as the Marlies edged the Charlotte Checkers 2-1 in Game 1 of the American Hockey League’s Eastern Conference Final.

Related: Gardiner’s Walk to Free Agency Will Hurt More Than You Think

Item Three: Teams with Cap Space That Might Be Trading Partners

Certainly, the Maple Leafs must trade away salary. But, for a trade to lighten the team’s salary cap issue, the team simply cannot trade salary for salary. Their trading partner must assume more salary from the Maple Leafs than they move back. That can only happen if the Maple Leafs work with a team that has considerable salary cap space.

James Tanner of Editor in Leaf did a quick review of potential Maple Leafs trade partners who meet that criterion. He lists four teams that have significant salary cap space: the Detroit Red Wings, the Arizona Coyotes, the Ottawa Senators, and the New Jersey Devils.

As Tanner notes, the Red Wings are rebuilding and will probably be bad next year. However, they might take a gamble on Nikita Zaitsev.

Auston Matthews, Nikita Zaitsev
Toronto Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews celebrates his goal with Nikita Zaitsev (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

The Coyotes, he notes, always have cap space open. So, if Patrick Marleau could be talked into it, the team might be able to move him to the Coyotes. Marleau has an interesting contract because, although it takes up significant cap space, most of that contract is paid in two signing bonuses. If the Maple Leafs paid those signing bonuses, there’s little money owing on Marleau’s contract. A team with cap space could carry Marleau’s contract without shelling out its own money and might do so if the Maple Leafs tossed in a player with value. Might Marleau consider moving?

The Senators have little chance of making the playoffs, so might take a salary like Marleau’s off the Maple Leafs’ books if the Maple Leafs threw in draft picks or prospects.

Tanner notes that the Devils will have star-level players on entry-level contracts and might assume a bad contract from the Maple Leafs for a player like Kasperi Kapanen, who would help them now. That said, dumping Kapanen for salary cap seems wrong to me.

Item Four: Maple
Leafs Trade Bait

TSN’s Frank Seravalli created an offseason trade bait board of 15 players he felt are most likely to be traded this summer. That board has a distinct Maple Leafs aroma. At the top of the list was former Maple Leafs player Phil Kessel, whose time with the Pittsburgh Penguins is now on life support. After an early dismissal from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it seems clear the Penguins’ lineup will change over the summer.

Two current Maple Leafs are also on that list of 15. The first is Connor Brown, at number seven. He’s a third-line winger with a salary of $2.1 million. Given that he has trade value, he ought to be an easy move for the team. In fact, in a recent post I noted Marchment’s play with the Marlies. He’d be a much cheaper replacement.

Connor Brown Maple Leafs
Connor Brown, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

There were rumors at the trade deadline that Brown might be traded to the Edmonton Oilers with defenseman Adam Larsson coming back. If that were true, it would be a win for the Maple Leafs. The problem in Edmonton was not that Larsson was a bad player; he isn’t. It’s just that he was traded for Taylor Hall, and that made Oilers fans crazy.

The second player on the list is defenseman Zaitsev, at number 12. Zaitsev has five years left on his contact with a cap hit of $4.5 million. He had a good playoff series, and might bring something back on a trade. He has value, but the Maple Leafs might have to throw in another player to make his contract more palatable to another team. What are the chances former Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello, who signed the defenseman to that contract, might want Zaitsev on the New York Islanders roster?

For those interested, here
is Seravalli’s list of 15
trade-likely players.

1. Phil Kessel
2. Jacob
3. Ryan Callahan
4. Jason Zucker
5. P.K.
6. Michael Frolik
7. Connor
8. Kyle Turris
9. Kevin Shattenkirk
10. Artemi Panarin (rights)
11. Travis
12. Nikita
13. Olli Maatta
14. Colin
15. Milan Lucic

Item Five: Nylander Is Playing Well at the World Championships

It’s not like William Nylander hasn’t played well at hockey’s World Championships before. In fact, during the 2017 World Championships he was named MVP and scored 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in 10 games as he led Sweden to the gold medal.

Toronto Maple Leafs' William Nylander
Toronto Maple Leafs’ William Nylander (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete, File)

At this World Championships, he’s also scoring well. After four games, he’s tied for second in the tournament with 10 points (three goals, seven assists) with Michael Frolik and Jakub Voacek, each who’ve played five games. Nikita Kucherov is leading scoring with 12 points, and he’s also played five games.

Related – NHL Rumors: Spezza, Maple Leafs, More

What’s Next?

The Marlies continue their playoff run over the next week. That they beat the Checkers on the road speaks to the team’s strong play. Because the Maple Leafs have some players in this series, it will be fun to watch how the finals proceed. Perhaps under the radar is Sheldon Keefe’s coaching. He’s obviously doing something right.

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