RUMOURS A landing spot for Andersen and the asking price for Nylander

Another week, another 31 Thoughts laced with our Leafs fix. Awww sweet rumours, you’ll make us forget about the fact that most meaningful hockey of the year is being played without the Maple Leafs. Well, that’s not completely true, but we’ll take what we can get.

The Panthers have talked to a ton of people, including: St. Louis assistant GM Bill Armstrong, Montreal scout Sean Burke, former Edmonton GM Peter Chiarelli, Boston executive director of player personnel John Ferguson, former Los Angeles assistant GM Michael Futa, Toronto assistant GM Laurence Gilman, former Philadelphia GM Ron Hextall, former Vancouver GM Mike Gillis, OHL London’s Mark Hunter, Montreal assistant GM Scott Mellanby, NBC’s Ed Olczyk and NHL Network analyst Kevin Weekes.

So Laurence Gilman is very much in the mix, as are former Leafs GM John Ferguson Jr., former AGM Mark Hunter, and if we want to go in the way back machine, former Leafs player Ed Olczyk is in the mix as well. I still can’t help but think Peter Chiarelli getting the job is the best outcome for the Leafs though.

Right now it seems like Mike Gillis could be the front runner, but Gilman has a real shot at the job, and if that’s the case there are some interesting AGM replacement options in this group as well, Futa being the name I’d want to draw the most attention to, but if Olczyk or Weekes are looking to move into Hockey Ops, both could be interesting options for Toronto as well. My guess is this is a three horse race between Gillis, Mellanby, and Chiarelli, and Gilman is more likely a candidate for the Coyotes.

Ekman-Larsson has seven years remaining at $8.25 million per season, and the team would like to test his marketplace. A no-move clause gives him control, but word is he’s not opposed to the idea pending the landing spot. It’s not an easy contract to handle at this time, but there are teams out there who believe Ekman-Larsson would be revitalized by a fresh start. Arizona has four other defenders — Jason Demers, Alex Goligoski, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Jordan Oesterle — with one year remaining on their contracts. All of them could help another team. Hjalmarsson, in particular, is much-loved around the league.

Okay so this isn’t a Leafs thought, but it is in the sense that the Leafs are a team that needs some defensive help. If the price is right on players like Demers or Hjalmarsson, it would be nice to see them as Leafs, but both come with a lot of injury concerns.

St. Louis and Alex Pietrangelo met this week as the grind begins on extension attempts in St. Louis. As I’ve said many times, I believe the captain wants to stay a Blue. But a couple of sources warned that it hasn’t been easy for Pietrangelo to see extensions elsewhere along the lineup (Justin Faulk, Marco Scandella, Brayden Schenn) while his talks completely stalled. A lot of emotion here, and that makes talks more difficult.

Again not really a Leafs thought, but damned if we aren’t all interested in what is happening with Pietrangelo. While I have next to zero hope of Pietroangelo becoming a Leaf, if no one is going to throw the Blues a life line, Pietrangelo could hit the market.

On the other hand, if the Leafs move on from Frederik Anderson, I wouldn’t mind the Leafs taking on Jake Allen’s contract along with a kicker to resolve their goaltending situation will likely getting rewarded for doing so.

The Carolina Hurricanes have interest in Frederik Andersen, but Toronto’s made it clear it has no desire to make a move just for the sake of change. If it happens, it’s for an upgrade, which means the Maple Leafs could wait to see how a loaded group of goaltending free agents shakes out.

Speaking of moving on from Andersen, here’s a potential landing spot. Now obviously the Leafs would love to get back their 13th overall pick, and would probably need to take one of the Canes goaltenders for doing so (preferably Mrazek because he’s better), but there are a lot of interesting roster players on the Canes that Leafs should be interested in as well, but I’d assume Pesce and Hamilton are off limits, obviously.

The Pittsburgh/Toronto trade surprised teams because they thought the Maple Leafs’ ask of a first-round pick and a prospect for Kasperi Kapanen was more of a “draft time” move than anything.

Most annoyed by the trade: the teams still playing, not really able to bid on a) Kapanen or b) the Penguins’ pick.

This is something that has honestly confused me for years. Why don’t non-playoff teams try to get more of a jump start on their offseason overhauls and set the market, build some panic in the competition, and reassure their fan bases. This year with the short gap between the cup being presented to training camps open makes this trade even more important, and if the Leafs waited they would have seen this deal dry up.

Unwilling to the pay the price for Kapanen, teams were asking Toronto what other forwards are available. Based on what I’m hearing, I don’t think William Nylander is going anywhere without a legit top-four right-handed defender coming in return. Filip Hallander was high on Toronto’s list when the Maple Leafs picked 52nd overall in 2018, although Toronto went with Sean Durzi — who went to Los Angeles in the Jake Muzzin deal. So it wasn’t a shocker that he’s the prospect they wanted from Pittsburgh.

I love the reassurances that Hallander was a big part of the return on Kapanen, and with Dubas being so high on him I’d wonder if he’ll have an honest shot at the roster this year, but that’s not the main part of this thought…

Nylander being worth a legitimate top four right handed defenseman has shades of Hall for Larsson all over it, and in that situation it’s pretty easy to pass on the idea of trading Nylander, even if you aren’t his biggest fan. I think “legit” is meant to imply the Leafs want either a young player already in the top four, or they want a top pairing RHD who might not necessarily be an All-Star. Either way, I think I can appreciate the hesitation on wanting to trade him as giving up a 30 goal scorer for a lackluster RHD for a second straight summer isn’t a good look for the Leafs.

The perception about Nylander is that he doesn’t care as much as other players. Maybe that’s true, but if him not caring results in what he produces, I’m fine with him being the way he is. Alex Kovalev had a very productive career with that reputation, and I see no reason why Willy can’t do the same.

Also, he probably cares a lot.

Pittsburgh is testing the market on Jared McCann, a surprising healthy scratch in the Montreal series.

I don’t know if the Leafs and Penguins will hook up again this offseason, but McCann is another former Greyhound who excelled under Keefe, and could potentially be an affordable solution as a bottom six center. McCann is an arbitration eligible restricted free agent that the Penguins value a little more than they valued Evan Rodrigues.

If you are looking for more on Andersen, Hallander, and Nylander, check out the posts below:

What do the Leafs have in prospect Filip Hallander?

The case for trading Nylander is entirely based around one thing

Five Potential Trade Partners for Frederik Andersen

Shaking up the core isnt as cut and dried as it sounds

Another first round exit. Another disappointing playoff performance from some of Calgary’s highest profile and highest paid players. Another off-season of calls for the Flames to make significant changes to their. That’s where we find ourselves right now, and those clamouring for a shakeup are perfectly justified.

I agree: Calgary needs to seriously look at moving at least one of their established core pieces this summ…um fall. At the same time, the Flames need to be smart and measured about how they approach decisions of this nature, as making a move for the sake of it is a surefire way to lose a trade. But that has to be balanced with the knowledge this team needs to do something, and something significant.

The dangers

A panic move. This isn’t meant as a shot at the Oilers, but isn’t the “shake things up” narrative exactly what we were hearing out of that market in the summer of 2016? Sure, circumstances were different (playoff disappointment vs. lack of playoff appearances), but it sure felt like sending Taylor Hall to New Jersey was a product of “something had to be done” thinking. The same applies four years later in Calgary.

The Flames can’t simply trade Johnny Gaudreau because the core has to be changed. That’s how you end up trading a top-flight winger for a number four defenceman. I can guarantee you general manager Brad Treliving has plenty of garbage offers for good players on the table right now. Yep, those would definitely change things, but they will also almost certainly make the team worse.

Fortunately, Treliving doesn’t seem to be the type of manager to respond irrationally to another disappointing early exit. At least he did when I spoke with him early last week.

“We have to step back and say, you know: I think our team is at a certain point now, so how do we take that next step? I know people are upset, and no one is more upset than we are. But all of a sudden, throwing a body overboard just to satisfy an emotion isn’t how you make your team better. That’s how you make your team worse.”

Poor value. Look, everyone knows Calgary isn’t happy with how this core group has performed in recent postseason appearances. As such, the team isn’t dealing from a position of strength as it stands right now. When every other GM knows Treliving is looking to make moves, how good are those offers going to be?

Additionally, players like Gaudreau and Sean Monahan haven’t done the Flames a ton of favours with their most recent performances. The rest of the NHL knows these guys haven’t answered the bell, which means getting a significant bidding war going likely isn’t going to happen. That’s not to say a good trade is impossible. It’ll just take more grinding and increased patience.

Flat cap. Another complicating matter for Calgary, and any other team looking to upgrade, is a flat salary cap. For the first time since teams became shackled by a hard cap, we won’t see an increase in the upper limit. The 2019-20 salary cap was $81.5 million, which is exactly what it’ll be for 2020-2021. No one knows exactly how that will affect this off-season, but it surely won’t be a negligible one.

The reality

Just because making a significant move might have more pitfalls this off-season than others, the Flames still need to meaningfully try to make one happen. As much as it’s true to say Calgary was 12 seconds away from a 3-1 series lead on Dallas, the fact is that didn’t happen. Yes, the margins are slim and they were more competitive against the Stars than they were against Colorado in 2019. That doesn’t change the fact this core hasn’t been able to get over.

It would be different if the likes of Gaudreau, Monahan, and Mark Giordano were the driving forces in a series where the Flames left everything on the table and were simply beaten by the better team. Dallas was the better team, but with how pedestrian those three players were in particular, it’s hard to convince me that effort was as good as it gets.

The core everyone was so excited about five years ago hasn’t gotten the job done. At the same time, a new group of players to build around has emerged in recent seasons. There’s nothing wrong with admitting it hasn’t worked and pivoting to a slightly different path. That’s the approach Treliving and company should be taking this fall.

“Now you have to look through a clear lens and say: okay, how do we make our team better,” Treliving said. “Not how do we react to an emotion, not how do we do something that makes everybody feel a little bit better. In times like that you can take a hell of a step backwards in your organization. We have to look at all facets as we do every year and if there’s change that we think is going to help propel us forward, then certainly we’ll look at it.”

And while the Flames aren’t dealing from a position of strength, it’s not like they’d be attempting to deal absolute duds. Gaudreau’s 99-point 2018-19 season is still fresh and I’m convinced fair value exists in a trade that would shake things up while also moving Calgary forward.

The same is true for Monahan, who scores 20 goals a season in his sleep. Calgary won’t be getting a “number one centre” type of return, because that’s not what he is. But you can’t tell me a team thin down the middle wouldn’t be interested in acquiring Monahan. He scores, he wins face-offs, and he’s on a cost-certain contract for three more seasons.

All this is to say the Flames really can accomplish two things this off-season: shake their core up and get better as a result. Yes, they need to avoid doing just the former at all costs, which will be tougher this off-season than most others. But challenging or not, I truly believe it needs to happen. Your move Mr. Treliving.

Former Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis interviewed for Panthers GM job

Former Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis has reportedly interviewed for the vacant GM role with the Florida Panthers.

Gillis, 61, has been out of the NHL for six years after being fired by the Canucks in 2014. He spent two years between 2016-2018 working for the NLA’s Genève-Servette HC as their director.

He’s been showing interest in returning to the NHL for some time. In July 2019, he spoke at a coaches conference where he talked about a five-year journey he undertook to better understand the game of hockey.

He said at the time he wanted an NHL role, but not of a GM. Since then, however, he’s interviewed for two jobs: the role of GM for the New Jersey Devils, and now, the Panthers job.

Gillis worked for the Canucks between 2008 and 2014 and helped to shape the team the Canucks took to the finals in 2011.

On Twitter: @zjlaing

A day late and a dollar short The NHL needs to take more action

Two days ago, NBA players chose to strike and not play their games after police shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, seven times in the back in Kenosha, Wisconsin earlier this week.

It’s hard to be anything but proud of those NBA players for taking that action. For using their voice and taking a stand for more police injustice. They opened the door to conversation and many were able to speak with government officials to push for justice. Teams from the MLB, WNBA, MLS and MLB, too, launched a strike and games didn’t happen Wednesday.

That same night, the NHL had two games on their schedule. The first game was between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins. They held a pause for a moment of silence with the words “End Racism” on the jumbotron — the modern-day equivalent of offering their thoughts and prayers. Nothing, not even a moment of silence, was held before the late game between the Colorado Avalance and Dallas Stars.

It’s far from what needed to happen at the time and that falls not only on the players, but on the league, too. The NHL should’ve stood in solidarity with the NBA and MLB teams at the time. In a Caucasian led league like the NHL, it wasn’t a surprise to see them do nothing on Wednesday.

Yesterday, the NHL’s players chose to take their stand and held a similar strike that will carry through tonight’s games. Players stood behind Nazem Kadri, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Ryan Reaves, Jason Dickinson and Bo Horvat in support. It was a powerful message, but one that came a day too late.

Reaves said Wednesday night, he went to bed unsure of wanting to play Thursday. He awoke to a text Thursday morning from Kevin Shattenkirk wanting to talk.

“If you look around this room there’s a lot of white athletes in here,” said Reaves. “I think that’s the statement that’s being made right now. It’s great the NBA did this, the MLB, the WNBA, they have a lot of black players in those leagues, but for all these athletes in here to take a stand and say we see the problem too, and we stand behind you. I go to war with these guys and I hate their guts on the ice, but I couldn’t be more proud of these guys. The statement they’ve made today is something that’s going to last. These two days aren’t going to fix anything, but the conversation and the statement that has been made is very powerful, especially coming from this league.”

It’s the first step in the right direction.

Across the Nation Network, our writers have taken a stand and I’m incredibly proud of them for it. Here’s what was written and I urge you to spend time reading every article:

At TheLeafsNation, Matthew Henriques wrote an open letter to the NHL calling for change, site editor Jon Steitzer wrote about how the NHL and its players need to care, and MerOutLoud wrote about how people are still asking for more from the NHL.

At CanucksArmy: Stephan Roget wrote about how the Vancouver Canucks not playing was the right choice, but is not enough, Jason Jhutti wrote about how it’s time to demand change, and Jeremy Davis wrote about how NHL players should be jumpstarting conversations.

The Edmonton Oilers have since stood in support of the league’s suspension of play.

The Edmonton Oilers stand with and wholeheartedly support the NHLPA, the Hockey Diversity Alliance and the NHL for suspending play this week. We are very proud of the players for using their individual and collective platforms to amplify the issues of systemic racial injustice and advocate for positive change. The Oilers support players and athletes in all sports advocating for social justice and equality.

I’m happy to see the Oilers release this statement and I hope it’s the start of something bigger.

It’s a small step in the right direction to create conversation and enact further change. The NHL as a whole needs to do their part, too. The Black Lives Matter movement is about social justice and enacting positive change. For those who say “stick to sports,” the truth is there’s been an intersection of sports and politics since sports were a thing.

I, and many others, want to see proactive work done by the NHL and its players in pressuring for social justice change. While their initial action Thursday was a day late and a dollar short, it’s the start of something that is hopefully bigger. Players have formed the Hockey Diversity Alliance, again, another great step in the right direction.

As a white man, I can’t relate to what Black, indigenous and people of colour have to endure on a regular basis. What I can do, however, is listen to their voices, educate myself, show empathy and use my platform to try and bring more awareness to this cause.