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Monday Mailbag: July 9th, 2018

Ain’t no party like a Monday Mailbag party because a Monday Mailbag party meets our commitment to the Nation Network to regularly provide this content on a consistent basis. WOOOOOOOOOOOO! Let’s get at it.

 

Ron Hainsey on the top pairing is something that no one should want. Not even Ron Hainsey, he’s getting up there in age and I’m sure when he signed up for the Leafs he was hoping to be playing 15 minutes a night with the occasional healthy scratch in the final year of his contract. It’s not fair to him, and it’s not fair to us. So let’s take a look at what the Leafs have to work with right now.

Rielly, Gardiner, Hainsey, Zaitsev, Dermott, and Carrick are all certain to be Leafs, and that’s probably the top six and it’s identical to what we are used to with the exception of upgrading from Roman Polak to Connor Carrick. That’s got to bum a lot of people out, and there’s no reason to believe that Mike Babcock will suddenly have a fresh new outlook on who should play with who, so there’s not going to be a Gardiner/Rielly top pairing, it’s pretty much certain the top four will remain the same but with an improved Dermott/Carrick bottom pairing.

The interesting potential for change comes with the 7th and 8th D, if the Leafs choose to carry them. Andreas Borgman looked solid last year, Calle Rosen had a nice run for the Marlies in the playoffs, Martin Marincin is still a player who should probably be in an NHL lineup, Justin Holl has shown a ton of promise, Igor Ozhiganov wasn’t signed to be Marlies depth, and Timothy Liljegren being ready now instead of the future would be a wonderful dream. Those potentially 2 big spots on the Leafs D make things very interesting and could improve the team for the better if they get the opportunity to challenge Hainsey and Zaitsev who under-performed last season.

The cone of silence put in place by Lou Lamoriello still seems to exist somewhat, as the Tyler Ennis signing came completely out of the blue, so it’s hard to say for certain what the Leafs are up to. Even grasping at rumours and speculation is a challenge now that Bob McKenzie has gone into margarita related hiding.

So let’s just flat out guess what they could be up to…

For all the pleasant things said by Dubas about believing in his defense, there’s a pretty good chance that he’ll still try and do anything he can to upgrade it, especially since he has the short term cap space. Justin Faulk would probably be the only player who is rumoured to be available that also stands a chance of finding his way to Toronto without the Leafs trading one of Marner or Nylander. I guess you could probably put Chris Tanev out there as well, but both of these moves would be fairly significant and seem unlikely to happen.

Instead I figure the Leafs might pursue one or two more depth options for the Leafs/Marlies.

Ryan Sproul is a player that Dubas would be familiar with from his time with the Greyhounds, and adding a youngish right side defender wouldn’t be terrible, except for the fact that it’s hard to even find space on the Marlies for defensemen now.

Toby Enstrom is an excellent option as veteran defenseman who could be low risk/ high reward acquisition depending on the term and cap hit he’s looking for. He might be another left side defender, but Enstrom, and for that matter Dan Hamhuis are two solid veteran defenders who would become comfort food for Babcock, but also improve the Leafs blueline.

And just because I personally root for him and want to get to see him be a part of a potential Leafs cup run, I’m going to throw Matt Stajan’s name out there as a potential fourth line center option. Another good in the room veteran probably holds some appeal to the Leafs coaching staff, and Stajan can probably handle the limited workload of playing behind Matthews, Tavares, and Kadri.

That’s the long answer to your question. The short answer is “I don’t know, but I hope they give us something to talk about.”

Call me crazy, but when Jack Eichel got $10M x 8 years in Buffalo, that basically meant that Matthews should get the same. Matthews has been more of a goal scorer so far in his NHL career, so you can make a case for why he’d think he should get more, but you could also make a case for Jack Eichel’s contract being a bit of an overpay. If Auston Matthews wants what John Tavares got as a completely known asset on open market free agency, I’d give him the $77M that Tavares got, but spread out over 8 years instead of 7.

It’s me, the guy who doesn’t hate bridge deals! I’m all for exploring this option with any of the big three, but think that the player who is most likely to take it and potentially benefit both himself and the Leafs the most by bridging is William Nylander.

Nylander is the awkward position of being the first one up for a new contract, and particularly in the case of Mitch Marner, he could find himself earning less than a player he could very well be outperforming. As interested as Marner probably is in the Nylander deal right now, Nylander’s going to probably wind up making less than Marner for reasons I don’t fully understand, especially since Nylander has the better potential to move to center, and has shown an ability to generate offence more effectively than Marner, at least 5v5.

This would also get the Leafs out of an immediate jam by having Nylander come in a bit cheaper than they expected. Let him have 2 years of making what a winger of his abilities should earn, and not pay him for the potential of what he may become over the course of an 8 year deal. He’s still not likely to be cheap, but you might get him for 2 or 3 years at the $6M cap hit of Nik Ehlers.

They will face the second best team in the NHL, the Winnipeg Jets. We will suffer through weeks of Auston Matthews vs. Patrik Laine discussion and watch Hockey Night in Canada do a month long victory lap about the cup being won by a Canadian team. It will all be worth it because the Leafs will win, probably in a sweep.

The second half of that question was already answered, but the first part of the question warrants a solid response.

While there will be an absolute desire to rush out and have the Maple Leafs parade as soon as possible, it seems more fitting to wait? Why? Because this is Canada’s team and we are just a few weeks away from Canada Day. Shouldn’t Canada’s team have their parade on Canada’s day? I certainly think so.

Obviously you will want Leafs roster in full participating in the Ontario based parade, but it seems fitting to have supporting Leafs parades involving alumni and family of the Leafs participating in all of the other major Canadian cities. As a resident of Edmonton I have to say this would be the greatest event in the history of the city of Edmonton, and nothing would come close, so let us have this even if it is Keith and Wil Acton waving at us from Miata as they drive down Whyte Ave.

For the core Leafs roster, the parade should start in Ottawa and proceed down the 401 arriving in Toronto in the late afternoon, the extra drunkness of the players/GM will only be an added bonus as they tour past Maple Leaf Gardens, the Hockey Hall of Fame before arriving at the home arena for what should be a large scale Maple Leaf Square party/concert ending in fireworks. Also no local politician speeches will occur because no one should ever want that.

There’s going to be a lot more to the parade/cup celebration events than just this. After reading through it, I can’t help but feel I’m thinking too small. Snowbird flyovers need to be a part of the day and possibly the Leafs can ride on some military hardware as a show of the strength of Leafs Nation.

 

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