Category Archives: Tor. Maple Leafs

The fight for the final NHL playoff spot will come down to the last weekend 

Heading into the final weekend of the NHL season, fifteen out of the sixteen playoff teams have been determined. The last spot remaining is in the Eastern Conference and has come down to the Maple Leafs, Islanders, and Lightning. 

With a shootout win over Boston on Thursday night, the Ottawa Senators locked up their playoff hopes. On that same night, both the Islanders and Lightning won in regulation while the Maple Leafs lost in regulation. The young Toronto team now finds themselves in a precarious situation, however they do control their own destiny. 

All three teams currently sit with 80 games played. Toronto has 93 points, whereas Tampa Bay and New York each have 90. In terms of ROW (regulation plus overtime wins), the denoted first tie breaker in the NHL, Toronto has 38, the Islanders have 37, and Tampa Bay has 36. 

For scheduling, Toronto has definitely been dealt the worst hand on the surface. They play Columbus and Pittsburgh over the final three days of the season. However, both of those teams have already punched their ticket to the playoffs and already have their seeding (second and third place in the Metropolitan Division respectively) locked down. The Penguins and Blue Jackets technically have nothing to play for heading into the final weekend, so it is possible that they will rest their star players and starting goalies. But, the argument could be made that the Penguins and Blue Jackets want to win in order to pass the Blackhawks in points, in the case that one of those teams meets up with Chicago in the Stanley Cup Final. 

The Islanders and Lightning each play a team in the playoffs and a team outside of the playoffs in their final two games. For the Islanders it is going to be New Jersey and Ottawa, and for Tampa Bay it is going to be Montreal and Buffalo. 

In order for Toronto to fall out of a playoff position, they have to lose their final two games in regulation and either the Islanders or Tampa Bay need to win their final two games. If Toronto loses one game in overtime or a shootout and loses the other in regulation, only the Islanders can overtake them if they win both of their games in regulation. Two overtime or shootout losses by Toronto would put them into the playoffs. 

There are still a lot of moving parts and a lot can change over the course of the next 72 hours. Tampa Bay plays tomorrow, Friday night, in Montreal. A loss of any kind and they will be eliminated from playoff contention. 

Although there is not as much as usual, the end of the NHL season will have some drama to keep an eye on. Toronto has their fate in their own hands, but New York and Tampa Bay remain knocking at the door. 

Keep up with our Twitter for updates on the playoff race. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles 

Toronto wins lottery, Jets move up to No. 2 

The annual NHL draft lottery was held on Saturday night and for the first time in six years the team that finished last in the league won the lottery. That team was the Toronto Maple Leafs, who will have the chance to choose either Auston Matthews or Patrik Laine with the pick. 

There will be internal debate, but Auston Matthews is Toronto’s man. The center, currently playing in the Swiss league, will be ready to jump straight into the NHL in sheltered minutes behind Nazem Kadri (at least to start). 

Interest will be there from teams to move up, especially Arizona, but I do not foresee it happening. The Maple Leafs endured a tough season and waited a long time for this to happen, and to relinquish the ability to make the first overall selection would come at a high price. 

In other news and notes, the Winnipeg Jets moved up from #6 to #2. They’ll likely get the chance to take Patrik Laine, the Finnish winger that has drawn comparisons to Alex Ovechkin. 

I think there was a shot that someone like Buffalo or Calgary would have taken Laine first overall, but I don’t think it’ll happen now. 

Most of the teams remained in the spots they were originally at. 

Edmonton is picking at #4 and Jacob Chychrun or Matthew Tkachuk would be nice fits. 

Montreal got the #9 pick and will have a number of options to look at. Can things shake out so that Alex Nylander falls down to them? Entirely possible. 

New Jersey is at #10. Clayton Keller would be good for them. 

The months leading up to the draft will be full of preparation for the fourteen teams involved in the draft lottery plus many more as they are eliminated from the playoffs. The top three players in this year’s draft makes it an exciting one. With things like the salary cap and the expansion draft in play, there’s a lot to look forward to in terms of player movement come June. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

Kadri trade highly unlikely, but not impossible 

Rumors have recently been going around that Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri could be traded before next Monday’s trade deadline. Although under Lou Lamoriello everything is kept a secret, a trade of that nature seems highly unlikely. 

Kadri has had a resurgence under new head coach Mike Babcock. The 25 year old center and former seventh overall pick has 30 points in 51 games on the now abysmal Leafs squad. His career high is back in 2013-2014 with 50 points. 

Last summer, Kadri signed a one year deal to remain with the team and prove himself again, which he has. The deal was for 4.1 million. The kicker about the whole Kadri situation is that he is a restricted free agent after this year. The team that would trade for him has full control, so that increases his value greatly. Kadri could of course go out and sign with another team this offseason, but the team that had previously acquired him would have a chance to match the offer. 

I would not think that Kadri’s next deal would be huge, either. Maybe somewhere in the 2-4 year range around 5 million per. Statistically, Kadri lines up to be a top-six forward for the future and one that Mike Babcock has taken a liking to, but not one (at least yet) worth six million or more.  

The time to deal Nazem Kadri is not now, and do not expect Lamoriello and the Toronto management to make a deal unless something knocks their socks off. However, nothing is impossible in today’s NHL. 

Keeping Kadri around for now and seeing where he fits in once the likes of Marner, Nylander, and whomever the Leafs obtain via the draft or trading is the plan Toronto likely will follow. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

Byfuglien’s new deal opens up trade market

The stalemate for NHL trades is seemingly coming to an end. Dustin Byfuglien’s new deal with the Winnipeg Jets signals the start of what appears to be an active and exciting trading period. 

Many teams were holding back from making a move while waiting to see what Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff would do with impending unrestricted free agents Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd. The former was solved on Monday, with Byfuglien inking a new five year, 7.6 million per deal. This in all likelihood means that Andrew Ladd will be traded and gives the teams around the league a clearer outlook on what is going to happen on the trade front. 

The second ripple came just a day after of the Byfuglien signing, with Dion Phaneuf being dealt to Ottawa in a monstrous nine-player deal. Salary, prospects, and picks were exchanged, leaving most fans shocked. 

A few hours later, it was reported by Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports that Justin Schultz of the Edmonton Oilers was going to be a heathy scratch tonight possibly due to a trade. Schultz has been awful, for lack of a better term, this year but has the potential to thrive in the right situation. Buffalo and San Jose could be two teams in on him (among others). 

With Byfuglien off the market, Roman Polak’s and Dan Hamhuis’ value have increased. A weak defensive pool both trade wise and free agent wise could leave the Leafs and Canucks in a good position if they choose to move said players. The Kings have been long rumored to be going after a tough defenseman and were linked to Byfuglien, so Polak would make sense. Colorado and Washington would also be fits. 

Kevin Shattenkirk and Keith Yandle have both been asked about but it is doubtful either move. 

The defensive market has definitely opened up and the forward group shouldn’t be too far behind. I would expect an active trade deadline, which is now less than three weeks away. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

Trade Winds: Defensive Addition 

It’s hard to find a solid, NHL defenseman on the trade market before the deadline, let alone this early in the year. However, some options are there. Teams like the Columbus Blue Jackets, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Carolina Hurricanes are looking for help on the blueline amongst others. None of the names available are flashy, but they can get the job done for any team desperate for help. 

The “biggest” name on the market as of today is Dennis Wideman. The 32 year old can still put up points with 56 last season and 6 assists in 12 games this season, but his contract is scaring other teams off. His teammate Kris Russell has also been linked to trade talks. Russell lead the league in blocked shots last year and is on good pace to do so this year again. Whether that’s indicative to Calgary’s play or Russell’s individual play, nobody will know unless a trade happens. 

Bob McKenzie also reported the other day that the services of Luke Schenn, Roman Polak, and Matt Carle are available for the right price. Schenn and Polak could be moved later in the year, but Carle is an interesting name. He’s been brutal this year for the Lightning but they are still a win-now team so the price could fluctuate for a guy like him. It’ll be interesting to see how his storyline progresses over the year. Carle has two season left on his contract after this year at 5.5 million per, which will significantly decrease his value if he doesn’t pick up his game. 

The Jets also have an abundance of defensemen. Dustin Byfuglien won’t be traded until later this year, but players such as Paul Potsma and Grant Clitsome (although he is currently hurt) may be in play. Clitsome is entering into the final year of his deal and Potsma has one year remaining after this season at a reasonable price. Neither player has seen any in game action this year which could scare some teams off. If it comes down to it, the risk would be worth taking because they don’t have the contractual issues some other options do. 

As the season progresses, we’ll get a clearer look at the standings to see who needs help and who doesn’t. Although it might not be for a defenseman, also keep an eye out for Anaheim and Ottawa to be exploring on the trade market soon. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

Could Toronto Trade Down with New Jersey?

The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of the most heavily covered teams headed into this draft. They have multiple big names on the trade market, including Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf. But, the Leafs first and smartest move could come via the trade board itself. 
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Babcock’s Descision: What it Means for Toronto, Detroit, Buffalo, San Jose, and New Jersey

The Mike Babcock sweepstakes is over. On Wednesday afternoon, it was announced that Babcock will become the 30th head coach in Toronto Maple Leafs history, as he inked an eight year deal at 50 million total salary. Babcock was sought after by multiple teams, but in the end, money and organizational power were big determining factors. 
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Jagr Traded to Florida, Clarkson to Columbus in Big Turn of Events

Well, general managers certainly don’t seem content on waiting until Monday to make trades after all? After a flurry of activity yesterday afternoon, today, by some grace of god, took the cake. Both Jaromir Jagr and David Clarkson (do you believe in miracles?) were traded, igniting what appears to be a fire sale for both franchises. Dave Nonis managed to partially erase the mess he started, and did what many people thought was to be impossible in trading David Clarkson.
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Big Day: Winnik, Sekera, and Tlusty All Traded

Less than a week before the trade deadline, some pieces up for sale found their new and temporary homes. Wednesday afternoon, all in a matter of three hours of each other, Daniel Winnik, Andrej Sekera, and Jiri Tlusty were all traded. Tlusty heads out of Carolina and will joins the Jets, while Andrej Sekera also leaves Carolina and goes to Los Angeles. Daniel Winnik, one of Toronto’s bright spots this year, was traded to Pittsburgh.
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