- Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe told reporters, including Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun (Twitter link), that things are progressing with regard to the Marlies’ COVID-19 situation. Their AHL affiliate last played on April 10th before the team was shut down due to protocols. Keefe also mentioned that there’s no timeline for them to resume playing; their next scheduled game is May 2nd.
Maple Leafs Rumors
The Toronto Maple Leafs had played the same six defensemen for nearly two months straight until recently but now may have to look for a new mix. Zach Bogosian went down with a shoulder injury in Tuesday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks and head coach Sheldon Keefe told reporters including Kristen Shilton of TSN that after further evaluation, the veteran defender will miss a minimum of four weeks.
That means Bogosian will miss the rest of the regular season and could even be out of the picture for the first few games of the playoffs. Rasmus Sandin has played the last two games for the Maple Leafs after an early-season foot injury and last night paired with Travis Dermott on the third pair. Bogosian’s injury could mean a longer runway for the young Sandin, but it also could potentially open the door for trade deadline addition Ben Hutton.
This kind of injury is exactly why the Maple Leafs added Hutton, though losing Bogosian certainly isn’t an ideal situation. One of only two right-handed shots on the active roster, the 30-year-old had been strong in his limited role. Penalty killing and a physical presence are exactly why Toronto added the Stanley Cup champion, and Bogosian provided both while averaging under 15 minutes a night.
Interestingly, the Maple Leafs could now move Bogosian’s $1MM salary on long-term injured reserve retroactive to when he last played. Normally after the trade deadline that doesn’t provide a huge bonus, but there is still at least some thought that Frederik Andersen will be healthy enough to play before the end of the year. Activating him is tricky at the moment given how little cap space they have, but perhaps the team can find a creative way to get around that. If Bogosian is placed on LTIR he would have to miss a minimum of 10 games, meaning he would not be able to return before the end of the year.
It is incredible just how injury-prone Bogosian has been throughout his career. After playing 81 games in his sophomore season as a teenager, he hasn’t been able to total more than 71 in a single year. In fact, only once since that second season has he even played in more than 65, with just 689 total across his 13-year career.
The Department of Player Safety has decided that Joe Thornton’s hit on Mathieu Perreault last night did not rise to the level of a suspension, issuing the Toronto Maple Leafs forward a $3,017.24 fine for interference instead. Perreault left the game for a time but ended up returning to action for the Winnipeg Jets. That is the maximum allowable amount under the current CBA.
The incident occurred partway through the third period and Thornton did receive a minor penalty for it. Still, this is now the second time a Toronto player has been fined in the last week for a dangerous play against the Jets, following Zach Hyman’s high-stick on Neal Pionk. Between those incidents, Alexander Edler was given a two-game suspension for a hit on Hyman.
It’s getting physical in the North Division as the playoffs approach, especially between the Maple Leafs and Jets who are still battling it out for the top spot. The lack of serious injury likely helped Thornton’s case here and Toronto will certainly be happy their veteran forward will be available going forward.
The trade deadline may have come and gone, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be any more trades over the courses of the remainder of the league year. The NHL Expansion Draft is right around the corner, with protection lists due on July 17, ahead of the draft on July 21. By that time, all 30 participating teams must be able to submit a protection list that complies with the exposure requirements of the draft. As a reminder, teams may protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and a goalie or eight skaters and a goalie. However, they must also expose two forwards and one defenseman signed beyond this season and who have played in 27 NHL games this season or 54 games over the past two seasons, as well as a goaltender under team control beyond this season.
For many teams, this is easier said than done though. Long-term forwards and defensemen with considerable games played who are also deemed expendable are not all that common. With the trade deadline completed, teams are stuck with the group that they have unless they decide to make a trade in the time between their regular season end or postseason elimination and the week of the draft. Some can solve their problems internally, while others may be more hard pressed. Based on their most likely protection scheme, here are the teams with work to do:
Problem Area: Forward
Internal Solutions: The Flames may be having a difficult season, but they have a talented top-six who are all signed long-term. Except, that’s where the term forwards end. If Calgary cannot convince Milan Lucic to waive his No-Movement Clause, the team will be missing both of their required forwards for exposure by protecting Looch and the top-six. Even if Lucic does waive, the team will need to make another forward available to Seattle. RFA Dillon Dube meets the games played criteria, but the team is likely to protect the young forward or, if not, will not do anything to make him more attractive to the Kraken. That leaves fellow RFA Dominik Simon and impending UFA’s Derek Ryan, Josh Leivo, and Joakim Nordstrom, as well as Brett Ritchie with six more games played, as other names who could earn extensions due to otherwise meeting the exposure criteria.
Likelihood of a Trade: Medium. With so many affordable, bottom-six role players that the team could hand new one-year deals, the Flames have options. However, if Lucic does not waive and the team feels pressured to re-sign two of those players, they may look for outside help rather than bring back too much of a forward corps that has underachieved this year.
Problem Area: Forward
Internal Solutions: As one of the top scoring team’s in the NHL, the Avalanche will want to keep as much of their forward corps as they can and with the likes of Gabriel Landeskog and Brandon Saad heading to free agency and not in need of protection, the team can do just that. However, if Colorado does protect their top nine scoring forwards minus Landeskog and Saad, that leaves them with, at best, one forward to expose and zero if they choose to protect both Valeri Nichushkin and J.T. Compher. If the Avs do choose to protect the duo, that should leave RFA Tyson Jost unprotected, who they could extend in order to meet the exposure requirement. However, Jost has arbitration rights and may not rush into a new deal. Other candidates to re-sign would be UFA’s Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Carl Soderberg, or Matt Calvert. Fortunately, the Avalanche have an even easier internal fix and that is simply playing Logan O’Connor five more times before the end of the season.
Likelihood of a Trade: Low. Between playing O’Connor and exposing one of Nichushkin or Compher, Colorado may not have to make any move at all. If they do, they have options. Who wouldn’t want to re-sign in Colorado right now, even if its only for the purpose of being expansion draft fodder.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Problem Area: Forward
Internal Solutions: It’s easy to guess six forwards that the Blue Jackets will protect, but the seventh is a bit trickier. Do they expose star Gustav Nyquist, who has missed the whole season due to injury and is on a substantial contract and on the wrong side of 30? Or do they expose Eric Robinson, who has been a hard-working depth presence this season but has limited upside? Well, if they choose to protect either one, it only leave the other as meeting exposure criteria. Only if both are exposed is Columbus good to go and that scenario seems unlikely. However, the only forward currently meeting the requirements other than term is RFA Kevin Stenlund, though UFA Mikhail Grigorenko requires only two more games played (and a new contract).
Likelihood of a Trade: High. The Blue Jackets surely want to bring Stenlund back, but he has arbitration rights and may not be keen to sign quickly just to help with expansion requirements. If a Stenlund deal can’t be reached sooner rather than later, Columbus may not have a choice but to bring someone in from the outside. A Grigorenko extension seems unlikely, as does exposing both Nyquist and Robinson.
Problem Area: Forward
Internal Solutions: The Stars’ protection scheme at forward is fairly obvious, as they have seven core forwards who stand out above the rest. However, those seven are also the only regular forwards with term on their contracts. Of all other expansion-draft eligible forwards for Dallas, only Joel L’Esperance has additional time on his current deal and he cannot reach the games played requirement. As a result, the Stars must find two forwards to expose, whereas most of these other problematic teams can at least scrounge up one forward. Among the options to re-sign are veteran UFA’s Blake Comeau and Andrew Cogliano or younger UFA’s Tanner Kero and Justin Dowling. However, it may be easier to re-up an RFA like Jason Dickinson or, with three more games, Nicholas Caamano.
Likelihood of a Trade: Medium. The Stars have a number of options, many of whom will likely re-sign at some point anyhow or else Dallas will have to rebuild their bottom-six from scratch. However, with two slots to fill there is always a chance that acquiring a player could be easier than negotiating a pair of early extensions.
New Jersey Devils
Problem Area: Forward
Internal Options: A rebuilding Devils team has a number of regular forwards who are ineligible for the draft and many others, protected or not, who are restricted free agents. What they lack is many term forwards, especially of the the expendable variety. While New Jersey could go in a few different direction with their protected list, the reality is simply that they have only five draft-eligible forwards who are signed beyond this season and at least four of those are locks to be protected. The x-factor is Andreas Johnsson. The first-year Devil has fallen well short of expectations and it would not be a surprise to see him exposed, leaving the team with just one spot to fill to meet the quota. However, if they are determined to give Johnsson a second chance and not lose him for nothing, then that becomes two slots that must be filled. The other problem in New Jersey is that the team doesn’t want to give Seattle any added incentive to steal some of their promising young players. Michael McLeod, Janne Kuokkanen, Yegor Sharangovich, and Nathan Bastian would all meet the exposure criteria if extended, but it’s safe to assume that the Devils will protect two or three of that group and may not be too excited to lose any of the others. Nick Merkley, who requires seven more games played and a new deal, could be seen as more expendable and may be okay with accepting a quick extension, even if it just for expansion purposes.
Likelihood of a Trade: High. With the possibility that New Jersey could protect Johnsson and, in any scenario, will want to steer the Kraken away from their young forwards if at all possible, the Devils seem like a prime candidate to bring in some outside help with meeting exposure criteria.
San Jose Sharks
Problem Area: Forward
Internal Options: Much like the Stars, the Sharks are not an elite team right now, but possess a solid group of top-six forwards who will all be protected. Also like Dallas though, the team has complete lack of long-term commitment to any forward outside of that group. The only other eligible forward signed beyond this season is Jayden Halbgewachs, who has not played a single NHL game, nevertheless enough to meet the requirement. There is not a great list of internal options to re-sign either. Of the players who would meet exposure criteria with an extension, Patrick Marleau is likely to retire, Marcus Sorensen seems to need a fresh start in free agency, and one of Rudolfs Balcers and Dylan Gambrell is likely to be the seventh forward protected. That really leaves UFA Matt Nieto as the lynchpin. If the Sharks can re-up Nieto and whoever they don’t protect between Balcers and Gambrell, they are good to go. If Nieto isn’t keen to re-sign and if Balcers or Gambrell wish to pursue arbitration, the Sharks will be stuck without any forwards to expose.
Likelihood of a Trade: High. The Sharks are in as tough a position as any team on this list. If left exposed, Washington native Gambrell seems like a very likely pick by Seattle, but San Jose needs to meet the exposure quota all the same. That could involve bringing in one if not two forwards before the draft. There simply aren’t many other options on the roster.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Problem Area: Forward OR Defense (Scheme-Dependent)
Internal Options: It should come as no surprise that a team build entirely on a small, expensive core group and veterans on affordable, one-year deals is not well-prepared for the expansion draft. Of the ten Toronto skaters who currently meet the exposure criteria, four are forwards that will be protected in any scenario and three are defensemen that will be protected in any scenario. This leaves Alex Kerfoot at forward and Justin Holl on defense(with Pierre Engvall as the odd man out will likely be exposed regardless); only one can be protected and the other is the most likely Leaf to be selected. If the Maple Leafs value Holl more than Kerfoot, they will go with eight skaters in their protection list. In this scenario, they will not have any defensemen who meet the exposure criteria. Fortunately, any of RFA Travis Dermott or UFA’s Zach Bogosian or Ben Hutton could re-sign and fill that role. Alternatively, if the team values Kerfoot more than Holl, they will go with the standard 7-3 protection scheme. This would allow them to protect Kerfoot as well as extend and protect others like Zach Hyman, Joe Thornton, or Jason Spezza. Those three would all meet exposure requirements as well with a new deal, but Toronto will not offer them up to Seattle. Wayne Simmonds, Riley Nash, or Alex Galchenyuk could be more likely though. Unfortunately, these are all unrestricted free agents and not as easy to re-sign before the off-season as a restricted free agent. The Leafs could find themselves in a bind as a result.
Likelihood of a Trade: Low. There is still so much to be determined about the Leafs’ approach to the draft and they have options either way and player who would likely be eager to re-sign. It’s not a straightforward situation by any means, but they should be able to figure it out without taking the risk of adding salary that they can’t spare by making a trade.
Problem Area: Forward
Internal Options: The Jets are known for their depth at forward and eight of their top-nine meet the exposure criteria as a result, with RFA Andrew Copp not fitting the bill but almost certain to be protected anyway. The decision for the seventh and final protection slot is likely between the recently-extended Adam Lowry and upstart Mason Appleton. Whoever isn’t protected fills one of the two exposure roles. However, no one else is currently eligible. Extension candidates include UFA’s Mathieu Perreault, Trevor Lewis, and Nate Thompson, but Winnipeg may not necessarily want to commit further to any of those three. The solution: Jansen Harkins is signed through next season and requires just four more games to meet exposure level.
Likelihood of Trade: Low. Just play Harkins and move on. The list of teams in trouble is already long enough.
The New York Rangers will have another exciting young defenseman in the lineup tonight when they take on the Philadelphia Flyers. Head coach David Quinn confirmed that Zac Jones will make his NHL debut, skating on the right side with Libor Hajek. Jones recently signed his entry-level contract after winning the national championship with UMass and will jump right into the fire of the NHL.
The 20-year-old defenseman scored 24 points in 29 games this season for the Minutemen and has quickly risen from mid-round lottery ticket to potential impact NHL player. Selected in the third round in 2019, the 5’10” Jones is a dynamic playmaker who glides smoothly around the ice controlling play in every inch of the rink. It’s hard to expect him to be as dominant right away for the Rangers, but he’ll get his first chance to show what he can do tonight.
- It likely won’t be tonight, but Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen is getting close to his NHL debut as well. The Buffalo Sabres goaltending prospect will back up Dustin Tokarski for the team tonight but is expected to start tomorrow’s game against the Boston Bruins in the second half of a back-to-back. The 22-year-old netminder has long been a top prospect and was selected 54th overall in 2017. In his one year of CHL hockey, he not only won the OHL Goaltender of the Year award but the Red Tilson Trophy as the league’s most outstanding player as well. He has been slowly built up in the Sabres development system since, spending time in the ECHL, AHL and even a short time back in Finland, but now will get his chance to see some NHL rubber.
- If you could pick a pair of linemates to skate beside in your first game for a new team, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner aren’t bad choices. That’s what Nick Foligno is expected to get tonight as he makes his Toronto Maple Leafs debut, after serving his seven-day quarantine. Foligno came off the COVID Protocol Related Absences list and is ready to go, but tried to temper expectations by noting he hasn’t played in ten days. Expectations be damned; the Maple Leafs need a more consistent effort from their group after losing the last five games and barely holding onto their North Division lead.
Maple Leafs winger Zach Hyman is in the midst of a career season offensively although he has now been slowed with a lower-body injury that will keep him out for a couple of weeks at least. Given his improvement in that end, his stock is on the rise as he gets set to enter the UFA market for the first time this summer. On the latest TSN Insider Trading segment, Pierre LeBrun of TSN and The Athletic noted that a poll of several executives around the league pegged Hyman’s likely next contract anywhere between $4.5MM and $5.5MM, a significant raise on his current $2.25MM AAV. With Toronto already having nearly $70MM in commitments to just 15 players for next season, per CapFriendly, they may need to get creative to find a way to keep the 28-year-old in the fold and still be able to fill out the roster with what’s expected to be a flat $81.5MM salary cap once again.
When the San Jose Sharks dropped the puck tonight against the Vegas Golden Knights, history was made. Patrick Marleau was in the lineup for San Jose, the 1,768th time that he has suited up for a regular season NHL game. This sets a new NHL record, breaking the age-old mark set by the one and only Gordie Howe in 1961.
While no one is comparing Marleau to Howe, who played six additional seasons in the WHA in addition to 26 years in the NHL and is considered one of the greatest of all time, Marleau has had a storied career of his own. The 41-year-old began his NHL story as the 1997 No. 2 overall pick, just one spot behind eventual long-time teammate Joe Thornton. Marleau played immediately for the Sharks, earning Calder Trophy votes in his first season, and the rest is history. Marleau played 19 consecutive seasons with San Jose before finally departing for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2017. After two seasons in Toronto, Marleau was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes and subsequently bought out. He returned to San Jose, though the Sharks gave him potentially his last chance to win a Stanley Cup last year when he was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins. It unfortunately didn’t work out for Marleau, but he was still welcomed back to San Jose again this season for a chance to break the games played record. While Marleau’s long career may not include a title, he has many other accolades. A three-time All-Star, Marleau has also received votes for the Hart Trophy five times, the Selke Trophy four times, and the Lady Byng trophy a whopping 15 times, not to mention earning a number of Sharks franchise records as well. Altogether, Marleau has 566 goals and 1196 points in his career, second and fourth respectively among all active players and top-50 all-time.
Beyond the statistics, Marleau has always provided the most important ability as well: availability. Outside of the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season and these past two COVID-impacted campaigns, Marleau has never played fewer than 74 games in a season – and that low mark occurred in his rookie season. In fact, Marleau already shares in another impressive NHL games played mark. He, Jarome Iginla, and Henrik Sedin are the only players in league history to have played every game in an 82-game schedule 11 times (although Sedin holds the record with 12).
Marleau’s new career games played record could stand the test of time as well. The only active players within even 500 games of the mark are Thornton, 41, Zdeno Chara, 44, and Eric Staal, 36. Marleau has the remainder of this season to further tack on games as well. What happens beyond that point is unknown, though many speculate that Marleau could retire now that the record is set, but also given the drop-off in his performance this year. However, Thornton and Chara are also equally likely to retire, while Staal is about six full 82-game seasons from matching the mark. Marleau should be safe for quite awhile atop the all-time games played list.
Congratulations to Marleau on this tremendous achievement from everyone at PHR.
The Toronto Maple Leafs don’t even have trade deadline acquisition Nick Foligno on the active roster yet, but the team is already glad that they added some forward depth. Head coach Sheldon Keefe has informed the media, including Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, that forward Zach Hyman has suffered a sprained MCL, the result of a knee-to-knee hit on Sunday against the Vancouver Canucks that earned Alex Edler a two-game suspension. Hyman is expected to miss a minimum of two weeks.
By all accounts, this is actually the best prognosis that Hyman could have expected. The knee injury he suffered looked serious, both in terms of the actual collision and as Hyman had to be helped off the ice. The possibility that he could return by the end of the month or even early next month is an ideal result for the Leafs, all things considered. However, if the recovery takes longer than two weeks, there is a possibility that Hyman could miss the remainder of the regular season. Toronto has just 11 games remaining over 26 days, so all it would take is for Hyman to miss the “minimum” recover window by a week or so and he would miss out on a chance to return to the lineup before the playoffs.
Fortunately, the Maple Leafs are comfortably in a playoff position. The North Division leaders face no risk of dropping out of the postseason, even if they do miss Hyman for the rest of the season. While holding off the Winnipeg Jets (four points back) and Edmonton Oilers (seven points back with two games in hand), could prove more difficult without their top two-way forward, Toronto is still the favorite to take the top seed, especially with Foligno coming in to help make up for Hyman’s absence. Hyman does not seem to be in risk of missing any playoff action either, where his defensive ability and career-best offense will be most needed.
Matthews missed one game due to a wrist injury, but many feared that his wrist could keep him out longer. However, the 23-year-old skated at full speed at practice Saturday and now has been cleared to go on Sunday. Matthews has 32 goals and 53 points in 40 games this season.
Nylander has been on the COVID protocol list and has missed five games, but has tested negative since coming in contact with a person with COVID-19. The 24-year-old skated Saturday on the second line and is ready to go despite the layoff.
“I’m expecting him to play just as if he didn’t miss anything,” Keefe said of Nylander.
Nylander has 13 goals and 30 points in 39 games this season.
Despite being lauded for his trade deadline moves, Montreal Canadiens general manager finds that his team is struggling, much because of the team’s sudden roster inflexibility. The team has already used up all but one of their post-deadline recalls, bringing up Xavier Ouellet, Alexander Romanov and Paul Byron immediately after making the trades to acquire Jon Merrill and Erik Gustafsson as well as putting defenseman Victor Mete on waivers (and losing him to Ottawa). Most of these moves were made to accommodate the loss of Mete and the pending additions of Merrill and Gustafsson, both who have to quarantine for seven days before being able to join the team.
Now, with just one recall remaining and quite a few games left to go this season, head coach Dominique Ducharme doesn’t have many options to make roster moves, according to The Athletic’s Arpon Basu (subscription required). One significant issue the team could address is the sudden poor play of Eric Staal. Despite scoring the game-winning goal in his debut, Staal has struggled in the seven games he’s played since, scoring no points with just seven shots and boasting a minus-eight plus/minus. However, the team doesn’t have the ability to replace him in the lineup for a game or two with energy-man Jake Evans, who currently is sitting on the taxi squad since they are not ready to use their final recall.
That leaves the team with multiple roster issues for the next few weeks until the team is ready to spend their final recall.
- Toronto Sun’s Lance Hornby writes that Toronto Maple Leafs’ newly acquired Nick Foligno and Ben Hutton will have their seven-day quarantine expire in a couple of days. However, it remains unknown whether either player would join the team for their five-game road trip that starts today due to their quarantine as well as the recent COVID-19 breakout that forced the postponement of three Toronto Marlies’ games. Of course, getting both Foligno and Hutton into the Toronto lineup so both can pick up their system is crucial.
- The Edmonton Journal’s Kurt Leavins writes that the Edmonton Oilers have another internal candidate they should consider when it comes to boosting their offense: Ryan McLeod. The 2018 second-round pick has had a great season in the AHL so far with 14 goals and 28 points in 28 games. At $834K and the ability to play center, he could be a valuable chip for the team as the playoffs approach.