- Maple Leafs prospect Nick Abruzzese is someone that isn’t lamenting the cancellation of the Ivy League season. As Postmedia’s Terry Koshan notes, the forward was likely to miss most of the 2020-21 season anyway as he works his way back from hip surgery. His recovery is on track but instead of rehabbing towards trying to return for the NCAA playoffs, he can focus on prepping for next season already. The 21-year-old led Harvard in scoring last season with 14 goals and 30 assists in 31 games, good for a tie for third-overall among Division I scorers.
Maple Leafs Rumors
With the city of Toronto beginning it’s 28-day lockdown on Monday, there are many questions on how that might affect the Toronto Maple Leafs if training camp were to begin during that shutdown. However, the Fourth Period’s David Pagnotta reports that the Maple Leafs are exempt from the lockdown in that case as professional teams are free to practice.
The scribe adds that according to an NHL source, “at this point” the NHL does not “anticipate that any applicable restrictions would prevent the #Leafs from conducting camp in the normal course.” Of course, that assumes that the NHL season might begin in January, which would require training camp opening in Toronto in December, which is no certainty.
- Sticking with the Maple Leafs, The Athletic’s Joshua Kloke (subscription required) writes that time is running out for Toronto prospect Eemeli Rasanen, the Maple Leafs second-round pick in 2017. The 6-foot-7 defenseman came highly regarded, but has struggled to make an impact since being drafted, which included playing for four different teams in four different leagues last year. Despite his size and impressive shot, the knock on the 21-year-old was his skating which was exposed after signing with Jokerit of the KHL in 2018. He has struggled, playing very little at the KHL level and was eventually sent to Jokerit’s U20 team, then loaned to Kiekko-Vantaa of Finland’s second division and then finally loaned to Frederikshavn of the Danish league. Rasanen now is playing for HFK in the Liiga and hopes to establish himself there as Toronto must make a decision on whether they intend to offer him an entry-level contract next year.
- Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press looks at a group of Red Wings prospects and tries to evaluate which ones are ready to join the NHL club for the 2021-22 season. While some believe that Lucas Raymond, the fourth-overall pick in the 2020 draft, might need a few more years in the SHL, the 18-year-old has already surpassed his 10-point season (in 33 games) from last year as he already has five goals and 12 points in 19 games (second on his team) and taking a much bigger role with his Frolunda squad. St. James believes he will be ready to come over for the 2021-22 season
Barring a change in local health policy, the San Jose Sharks may have to make other arrangements for training camp. In response to the continued surge of the Coronavirus in California, Santa Clara County officials have mandated a number of health policy changes, one of which would prohibit the Sharks from having players skate in large groups. As a result, team president Jonathan Becher tells The Mercury News’ Curtis Pashelka that the team may need to hold training camp outside of the county. Becher calls moving training camp a “last resort” and states that the team has already sought permission to hold full training sessions and are waiting for the county’s approval. In the meantime, the Sharks have begun discussions with other facilities about the possibility of hosting training camp. San Jose is short on time compared to other NHL teams as well; as one of the seven non-playoff teams, the Sharks are expected to be permitted to have upwards of ten additional days of camp to make up for their lack of play time since the league paused the 2019-20 season in March. If the league is able to come through on their hopeful start date of January 1st, early training camp for the Sharks could open in just a few weeks.
- When training camp opens in Dallas, playoff hero Anton Khudobin will be in attendance and ready to play. The veteran goaltender, who re-signed with the Stars this off-season, underwent surgery last month to correct nerve damage in his right arm. However, NHL.com’s Tracey Myers relays word from Dallas GM Jim Nill that Khudobin is already “back to 100 percent.” With starter Ben Bishop still rehabbing from off-season surgery of his own after missing much of the postseason, a healthy Khudobin is hugely important for the Stars to get off to a strong start.
- The NCAA season is finally off and running (albeit not without some early issues), but one Toronto Maple Leafs prospect is already looking ahead to next year. 2020 seventh-round pick Ryan Tverberg has committed to the University of Connecticut, the Huskies have announced. Tverberg is set to join the program for the 2021-22 season and beyond after spending this year with the BCHL’s Alberni Valley Bulldogs. The Leafs selected Tverberg, a native of nearby Richmond Hill, out of the local OJHL but will watch him develop for several years south of the border.
Earlier today, the Toronto Raptors announced that they will begin the upcoming NBA season in Tampa after their request to play at their home arena was denied by the Canadian government. Because of the travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada, it always seemed impossible for the Raptors—the league’s lone Canadian franchise—to be hosting American-based teams in Toronto. A long quarantine is still required when you enter the country, meaning the logistics of holding NBA games was going to be incredibly difficult.
In the NHL, however, there may be a way around those difficulties. The league includes seven Canadian-based teams, meaning they could play each other in a realigned divisional structure to start the regular season. The seven teams are based all across the country, but would theoretically not need to quarantine between cities—though this is certainly not a guarantee, especially given Toronto’s increased restrictions today.
The idea of an All-Canadian division has been speculated about since the beginning of the offseason, with the general consensus being it would be necessary to get through the 2020-21 season. Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver would be battling it out to be “King in the North.”
If that division does happen this season, who does it benefit? Which team would be the ultimate winner, and who would face an even more difficult task?
The Canucks, Oilers, and Flames all already play each other in the normal Pacific Division, but none of them were able to top the Vegas Golden Knights this year for the first seed. Perhaps if they get away from the expansion powerhouse, they would be even more successful.
The Maple Leafs, Senators, and Canadiens are in the same boat, battling in a tough Atlantic Division that also included two of the league’s best teams. The Boston Bruins had the best record in the NHL when the season was put on pause, while the Tampa Bay Lightning won it all in the bubble. Getting away from the Bruins especially might be a blessing for the Maple Leafs as they try to finally get over the first-round hump.
Or perhaps it’s the lone Central Division team in Winnipeg who would get the biggest boost. The Jets have been an excellent squad for the last several years, but are in a powerhouse of a division with the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, and Dallas Stars all finishing ahead of them in the standings this year. Sure, the other Canadian teams may not be pushovers, but all seven Central teams were included in the 24-team postseason bubble, with the last-place Blackhawks even upsetting the Oilers in the qualification round.
Perhaps who gets the biggest boost is too tough to answer, given the changing rosters all around the league. But if an All-Canadian division does happen, who will come out on top? Make your prediction below and jump into the comment section to explain your thoughts!
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Lehtonen, 26, signed a one-year contract with the Maple Leafs in May that will represent his first opportunity in the NHL. The smooth-skating Finn was undrafted but continued to develop overseas, winning the KHL Defenseman of the Year award last season. He scored 49 points in 60 games to earn that honor, a pace that he was blowing out of the water this year as he scored at a point-per-game rate.
Unfortunately, Lehtonen was limited to just 17 games with Jokerit this year because of COVID-19. The defenseman contracted the disease in October and had to wait out a quarantine with the rest of his teammates, though he only experienced mild symptoms.
Still, his performance should have fans in Toronto excited about his potential as a top-four option in the NHL. Lehtonen’s not a flashy player but racks up points with quick breakout passes and a heavy dose of shots in the offensive zone. His ability to score from the point could make him a candidate to run one of Toronto’s powerplay units, taking over the role from the departed Tyson Barrie.
Like all the other players under contract, Lehtonen will have to wait on the league’s final decision for when training camp officially starts. But with no loan agreement holding him back, he can head to Toronto to start his quarantine and begin to prepare for his first chance in the NHL.
Howie Meeker, a four-time Stanley Cup Champion with the Toronto Maple Leafs and longtime broadcaster with Hockey Night in Canada died Sunday at the age of 97 at Nanaino General Hospital in B.C.
Meeker was the oldest living Maple Leaf and was an NHL star, winning the Calder Trophy back in 1947 when he scored 27 goals and 45 points in 55 games, beating out Gordie Howe in his rookie campaign. He played in a total of 346 NHL games (all with Toronto), scoring 83 goals and 185 points. His NHL career ended at the age of 30, but he continued to play throughout the next 15 years in different leagues.
Once retired, he did coach the Maple Leafs for one season, replacing King Clancy in April of 1956, but struggled behind the bench with a 21-34-15 record before moving upstairs as general manager the following season.
However, it was his broadcasting career with Hockey Night in Canada, that made him legendary. Meeker worked for 30 years between CBC and TSN, earning the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award in 1998 and was famous for phrases like “Jiminy Crickett,” “Golly gee willikers,” and “Stop it right there!”
Pro Hockey Rumors joins in with the rest of the hockey world with thoughts for the Meeker family during this difficult time.
As NHL teams have been forced to shuffle their rosters this off-season in response to the flat salary cap, this off-season has quietly been filled with meaningful trades. While free agent deals always seem to dominate the headlines, there have been at least 20 different trades that sent a notable player to a new locale. This started way back in August, even as the postseason was in full swing, as teams had to look ahead to next season as early as possible to get a jump on cap management. When 2020-21 kicks off, who will make the biggest impact on their new team?
August 25: In a trade that actually contained six players, the only name of immediate note was Kasperi Kapanen making his return to the Pittsburgh Penguins from the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs had initially acquired Kapanen from Pittsburgh in the Phil Kessel trade, but clearly the Penguins maintained interest in the player. Back with the team that drafted him, Kapanen will very likely slot in on the Penguins’ top line with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel after scoring at a 40+ point full season pace in each of the last two seasons.
September 2: After many years, the Montreal Canadiens finally landed a reliable backup to Carey Price. In what amounted to a salary cap dump for the St. Louis Blues, the Habs acquired former starter Jake Allen. Although Allen played second fiddle to Jordan Binnington again this past season, he returned to form and outplayed the starter with an impressive .927 save percentage and 2.15 GAA. After signing an extension, Allen also has some job security in Montreal and may even have the added incentive of playing well in order to land the starting job for the Seattle Kraken.
September 11: After acquiring Kapanen, the Pittsburgh Penguins knew they needed to shed salary. They turned to former front office exec Bill Guerin, now the GM of the Minnesota Wild. The Wild landed forward Nick Bjugstad at next to no cost and Pittsburgh retained some salary as well. Back in the state where he made his name as a high school and college star, Bjugstad looks ready for a fresh start. In a forward group that is week down the middle and lacking in size, the big center is almost guaranteed a meaningful role. Bjugstad has been streaky and injury prone in his NHL career, but has also shown on multiple occasions that he has 50+ point upside playing a full season on a scoring line.
September 16: The Wild were right back at it a few days later, adding another new face to the forward corps. This time it cost them though. Minnesota acquired Marcus Johansson from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Eric Staal. Johansson provides great versatility as a player who can effectively play any forward position and in any situation. He has also scored at a half-point per-game pace or better for nine straight years with four different teams. Johansson should be able to step in and make an immediate impact. On the flip side, Staal provides the Sabres with a bona fide second line center and veteran leader that they have been sorely lacking. The experienced pivot may not have the positional versatility of Johansson, but is still a superior scoring threat at 36 and knows how to grind out wins in the regular season and postseason.
September 24: The Penguins make their third different deal in less than a month, sending veteran forward Patric Hornqvist to the Florida Panthers for defenseman Michael Matheson and forward Colton Sceviour. While Matheson and Hornqvist are both overpaid, they each still bring value to their new team. Matheson, likely to play a bottom-pair role for Pittsburgh, is a huge upgrade to the players the Penguins rolled out on their final pairing last season. A perennial 20+ point producer and sound defensive player, Matheson will not be asked to play the same minutes as he did in Florida, but will still make the same impact in the minutes he does get from Pittsburgh. Hornqvist meanwhile has not played in more than 70 games in over four years, but is quietly still the same 50-point player that he always has been, just on a per-game basis. An expert net front presence and power play asset, Hornqvist will likely play a major role for a Panthers team that lost two of its top scorers to free agency.
September 26: In what was one of the more obvious salary cap dumps in recent memory, the New York Rangers traded away veteran defenseman Marc Staal and a second-round pick in exchange for “future considerations”. The lucky team on the other side was the Detroit Red Wings, who made out like bandits with a nice draft selection and a new veteran leader for their blue line. A young, rebuilding team who has seen countless veterans leave, many of whom just this off-season, Detroit adds a new face with years of experience and leadership in Staal. While he is definitely in decline at 33, Staal is still a strong defensive presence, a plus player, and a penalty kill asset. Even without much offensive upside, Staal seems locked in for at least a top-four role in Detroit.
October 5: It wasn’t the strategy that anyone expected, but the San Jose Sharks decided to try to solve their issues in net by bringing in another struggling veteran to compete with their current struggling veteran. Devan Dubnyk, who comes over from the Minnesota Wild, is just a few years removed from being one of the top keepers in the game. However, this past season he was not even close to that level of play, recording an .890 save percentage and 3.35 GAA, albeit in limited showings. He was one of the few goalies who performed worse was San Jose’s existing starter, Martin Jones. Dubnyk has more experience and his peaks are much higher than Jones’, but he is also four years older and may have less of an ability to return to form. Perhaps the goal is simply to elevate Jones’ game by giving him an established backup to compete with, but there is always the possibility that Dubnyk emerges the victor.
October 6: Two teams on the fringes of being contenders, each with specific needs up front, made a big swap that will have ramification far beyond this next season. The Montreal Canadiens and Columbus Blue Jackets exchanged restricted free agent forwards Max Domi and Josh Anderson, each of whom will look to rebound and play a major role for their new teams. Domi fills a need at center for Columbus and hopes to use his new two-year extension to finally earn a long-term home after bouncing around early in his NHL career. A player who has shown immense scoring potential, including a 72-point season in 2018-19, Domi could be a major difference-maker on the second line for the Blue Jackets, who desperately need scoring depth. Anderson was not able to provide that this past season, missing most of the year due to injury and underperforming when healthy. However, he too had a breakout 2018-19 campaign, recording 27 goals and 47 points. The Canadiens believe that this is his long-term yearly value, as they did not hesitate to sign Anderson to a seven-year deal. Montreal needs size up front and they hope the 6’3″, 220-lb. Anderson can be an impact power forward for years to come.
October 7: The Ottawa Senators have a deep pipeline of goaltenders, but did not have anyone ready to be a starter this coming season and perhaps for a couple seasons after that. As a result, they ignored that depth and landed a starter for the present who doubles as a starter of the future in young Matt Murray. A streaky, but accomplished keeper, Murray came over from the Pittsburgh Penguins at the price of a second-round pick and a prospect, but will be well worth it if he can solidify the net for the Senators. They certainly seem to think he will, signing him to a long-term deal. At just 26, Murray already has just under 200 regular season appearances and over 50 postseason appearances, with a pair of Stanley Cups backed up by stellar stats.
The same day, the Nashville Predators and Minnesota Wild swapped forwards, as the Wild continued to address the center position while the Predators got younger and faster. Minnesota acquired veteran center Nick Bonino to anchor the team’s third line, as he has for so many other teams. A two-way pivot who is good for 30-40 points and solid defensive play, Bonino is a useful addition for the Wild. Going the other way was 22-year-old Luke Kunin, who recorded 31 points in 63 games in just his third pro season this year. The 2016 first-round pick has found success at every level and on every team he has played for. Aiming for a top-six role in Nashville, Kunin could be an impact player right away and for years to come.
October 8: The Ottawa Senators continued to add via trade when they swung a deal for physical defenseman Erik Gudbranson from the Anaheim Ducks. A player who has now been traded three times in two years, Gudbranson is either in demand or expendable. He could be both for the Sens, who will give him a top-four role and let him be the defensively responsible counter to their other younger, more offensively-inclined defenseman, then could look to trade him away before his contract expires at year’s end.
Another defenseman was sold off for a late pick the same day and that was Ryan Murray. Though Murray has had immense struggles with health over the years, he had been a good player for the Columbus Blue Jackets when active. However, the team’s depth forced them to deal him away and the New Jersey Devils were the lucky recipients. While Murray is still remembered for his puck-moving pedigree as the No. 2 overall pick in 2012, he has taken on more of a two-way, defensive prowess in the pros and is very solid (again, when healthy). The Devils will almost certainly give Murray top-four and perhaps even top-pair opportunities and if they are fortunate enough to have him for a full season, they could be looking at one of the best value additions of the off-season.
October 9: As the Vegas Golden Knights cleared space for the off-season’s biggest free agent signing, it meant letting go of a proven veteran asset. The Knights traded center Paul Stastny to the Winnipeg Jets, letting go of a valuable two-way forward. While Stastny had an off year this past season, he is just one year removed from recording 42 points in 50 games, a 69-point full season pace. And he finished the season prior to that with none other than the Jets, with an incredible performance of 13 points in 19 regular season games followed by 15 points in 17 postseason games. Stastny has already shown that he can be an elite producer with Winnipeg’s talented forward group and has tremendous upside in the coming season. Even at 34, don’t be surprised to see the all-around forward return to form and potentially even rival the 70-point seasons of his early playing days.
October 10: If Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman knows one thing, it’s how to make a trade involving Brandon Saad. Saad was traded away to the Colorado Avalanche in a four-player deal, marking the third time in five years that has been traded away or to the Blackhawks. The key return for Chicago was young defenseman Nikita Zadorov. In Saad, the Avalanche add a legitimate top-six forward who will help their depth, especially in light of the injuries suffered by some of their top players last season. Saad has recorded 47+ points four times in seven full NHL seasons and would have hit 47 on the nose again this past season based on an 82-game pace. A consistent scorer with great finish and possession ability, Saad is a nice get for the Avs. Meanwhile, as Chicago begins a rebuild they have new cornerstone piece on defense in the 6’6″, 235-lb. Zadorov. A big, physical defenseman, Zadorov can sit back and be a reliable defensive presence, freeing up other members of the Blackhawks’ budding new defense corps, like Ian Mitchell and Adam Boqvist, to play their offensive game.
The same day, the New Jersey Devils made another buy-low addition, landing Andreas Johnsson from the Toronto Maple Leafs. A young player who has already shown signs of 50+ point upside, Johnsson will now find consistent top-six time and power play opportunity in New Jersey, which should get him closer to that mark. In need of impact wingers for Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes but not willing to derail the rebuild with high-priced trades or contracts, the Devils land a young player at next to no trade cost who is signed for several more years at an affordable price. It is the perfect fit and should pan out.
October 12: The Colorado Avalanche were back in the headlines a couple of days later when they dealt two second-round picks to the New York Islanders for RFA defenseman Devon Toews. The Islanders needed cap space and dealt from a position of immense depth and talent on defense. Yet, Toews was critically underrated in New York and the team gave up a very talented player. The rich get richer in Colorado, as Toews joins another strong blue line, but this time will be locked in for a top-four role and will get his due attention on one of the league’s top contenders. Even with only two NHL seasons under his belt, Toews has proven to be productive, defensively sound, an asset in puck possession, and overall capable of big minutes and an every-situation role. Toews may not be the biggest name traded this off-season, but could wind up as one of the best acquisitions.
Amazingly, the very last trade made in the NHL so far this season came nearly a month ago. In the final push needed for the Vegas Golden Knights to sign Alex Pietrangelo, the team dealt top pair defenseman Nate Schmidt to the Vancouver Canucks in order to clear the necessary space. It was quite a sacrifice and one the Canucks are happy about. At the cost of a third-round pick, a team who had had a disastrous off-season that point landed a bona fide top pair defenseman who is signed long-term. Schmidt did it all for Vegas: team-leading minutes, 30+ points, defensive awareness, shot blocking, possession, power play and penalty kill roles, and even locker room leadership. A player with a strong all-around game who is respected by teammates and opponents alike, Schmidt is a rare player to come across. Vancouver essentially lucked into him and it might just be the best trade of the off-season.
What do you think? Which trade acquisition will have the greatest impact in 2020-21 and beyond?
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The Toronto Maple Leafs have signed their final restricted free agent, inking Joey Anderson to a three-year contract. The deal is two-way in the first two years and one-way in the third while carrying an average annual value of $750K at the NHL level. Anderson was acquired recently by Toronto in a trade that saw Andreas Johnsson head to the New Jersey Devils.
Though the Johnsson deal was more about clearing some salary cap room for the Maple Leafs, they targeted Anderson as a potential return because he still possesses some NHL upside. The 22-year-old forward was a third-round pick in 2016 and has played in 52 NHL games with the Devils, scoring eight goals and 13 points in limited minutes. Once the captain of Team USA at the World Juniors, he brings a hard-nosed work ethic to win puck battles in the corner and in front of the net.
While Anderson may not possess high-end puck skills like many of the other Maple Leafs forwards, his playstyle could be a potential replacement for Zach Hyman, whose contract expires at the end of this season. Hyman, a Toronto native, has turned himself from mid-round afterthought with the Florida Panthers to multiple 20-goal scorer with the Maple Leafs despite not having outstanding offensive skill or playmaking ability. Scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year, he’ll be the success story that the coaching staff can point to when working with Anderson.
The three-year term may come as a bit of a surprise for a player who likely isn’t going to see full-time NHL action this season, but Anderson was obviously willing to take the security of a multi-year deal. Of course, it’s not only Hyman that is on an expiring contract. The Maple Leafs, in their attempt to make the flat cap work around their huge star contracts, have signed five players—Wayne Simmonds, Jimmy Vesey, Joe Thornton, Jason Spezza and Travis Boyd—to one-year deals. Unless they can repeat that next offseason, they’ll need players like Anderson to step in at league-minimum costs.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have brought back a familiar face, signing goaltender Michael Hutchinson to a two-year, two-way contract. The deal will carry an average annual value of $725K at the NHL level, making Hutchinson an inexpensive depth option at what has become a crowded position in Toronto.
Maple Leafs fans will certainly be pulling their hair out reading this news, after Hutchinson was basically run out of town for his poor performance last season. The 30-year-old goaltender posted an .886 save percentage in 15 appearances with the Maple Leafs, going 4-9-1 before eventually being shipped to the Colorado Avalanche. Perhaps it’s Colorado where his stock rose again, as Hutchinson was forced into action for the Avalanche during their postseason run and played admirably.
Though Hutchinson now comes to Toronto as the potential fourth option behind starter Frederik Andersen, backup Jack Campbell, and newcomer Aaron Dell, this move does check off a few boxes for the Maple Leafs. First, and likely foremost, Hutchinson would give the team another option should Dell be claimed on waivers if the team ever decided to send him to the minor leagues. Second, Hutchinson will now actually fill the expansion draft requirement for the Maple Leafs if they decide to leave Andersen unsigned and protect Campbell next year. Every team needs to expose at least one goaltender that is signed through the 2021-22 season, something that Andersen and Dell both do not represent.
If the AHL season goes as planned, it will be interesting to see how the Maple Leafs work out playing time though. Dell and Hutchinson are both veterans who could succeed at the minor league level, but the team also has two prospects in Joseph Woll and Ian Scott that will need seasoning. There is the speculation that the NHL may carry a taxi squad or increased rosters due to the COVID-19 protocols, in which point Dell or Hutchinson would be a strong option as a third traveling goaltender.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have sent another one of their prospects overseas, this time loaning Mac Hollowell to TUTO of the Finnish second league. Hollowell split last season between the Toronto Marlies and Newfoundland Growlers in his first year of professional hockey.
Selected in the fourth round two years ago, Hollowell is another Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds connection for the Maple Leafs—the organization that GM Kyle Dubas and head coach Sheldon Keefe both came from. The undersized defenseman is already 22 as he was an over-aged prospect when the Maple Leafs picked him, but certainly brings a lot of talent to the table.
In 2018-19 when Hollowell went back to the Greyhounds, he led all OHL defensemen in scoring with 24 goals and 77 points. While he was older than much of his competition, it still demonstrated the easy puck-moving capabilities that Toronto hopes to coax out at the professional level. Things didn’t go quite as smoothly in the AHL, but Hollowell did still record 12 points in 34 games for the Toronto Marlies.
A longshot to ever become an impact player at the NHL level (or perhaps even reach it at all), Hollowell nevertheless signed his entry-level contract in 2019 and is heading into the second season of the three-year deal. He’ll get his blades on the ice in Finland for the time being but is expected to be back in North America for training camp.