Leafs sign Nikita Gusev to a PTO

With the Toronto Maple Leafs tight up against the cap, and having lost Zach Hyman to free agency, the Leafs were going to need to get creative to bring in offense to replace him.
While Gusev is an admittedly low bar, he still provides some intrigue, especially at the low risk bet of a PTO contract.

Professional TryoutNikita Gusev (RW, LW) | TOR#LeafsForeverhttps://t.co/cqiON02mJ1
— CapFriendly Transactions (@CF_Transactions) September 17, 2021

Gusev is coming off a bit of a down year, as he scored just four goals and six assists in 33 games for the New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers, but his first NHL season saw him get 13 goals and 44 points in 66 games. So, it’s easy to see why there’s some potential playing in the Leafs top six.

Now, some of that can be attributed to some bad luck, as he shot just 5.56% but his shot rates were down slightly as well, so it could be a skill issue.
It wasn’t too long ago that Gusev was highly sought after, as several teams were trying to acquire his rights from the Vegas Golden Knights. He was an excellent player in the KHL, so maybe the Leafs …

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Author: Scott Maxwell / The Leafs Nation

BJN Radio – Ep. 42: Just scraping by the Trash Birds

We are back after a short hiatus!

The series against the Baltimore “Trash Bird” Orioles was one we’ve all had marked on our calendars for quite some time as three automatic wins. That didn’t happen.
Robbie Ray put up an amazing start and Vladdy hit two homers in the opener, but a sixth-inning meltdown from Hyun Jin Ryu and some limp bats resulted in a loss in the second game. Finally, in the third game, Toronto narrowly squeezed out a victory on what was probably the most 2021 Blue Jays play possible, a go-ahead fly-ball double play. Sexy stuff!
We talked about the limp bats at the bottom of the order, what Nate Pearson can bring to the team, and we also looked ahead to the upcoming series against Oakland, which can ultimately sink or swim the season.
You can listen to the episode here…

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

BJN Radio – Ep. 41: Ups and downs with Chicago, the bag of cash on Robbie Ray’s horizon, and more!

A 2-2 split against a good team is pretty good, but not exactly great when you’re climbing the mountain the Blue Jays are.

That was quite a week of ups and downs. Alek Manoah helped the team to a gritty win on Monday, Jose Berrios got shelled immediately after on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Robbie Ray threw one of the better starts we’ve seen from a Blue Jay in a while, on Thursday, Hyun Jin Ryu got knocked around.
All told, two steps forward, two back.
Anyways! BK joined the show and we distracted ourselves from the chase by taking a needlessly early look at the off-season, based on Ross Atkins’ comments when talking with Bob McCown earlier this week. We went into some depth about Ray’s season, what kind of contract he’s going to earn, and whether the Blue Jays will open up their wallets to make it happen.
Finally, we took a quick look at the easy schedule on the horizon.
You can listen to the episode here…

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

No matter how this series in Boston goes, it’s difficult to justify the Blue Jays being sellers

This weekend’s series against the New York Mets perfectly encapsulated the overarching experience of the 2021 Blue Jays thus far.

The team got shut down by a rookie starting pitcher on Friday and then they followed that up on Saturday by blowing up for 10 runs. Saturday’s game appeared to be a game-changer for Toronto’s momentum, as a new-look lineup injected life into the bats and George Springer fired up the team with arguably the best catch we’ve seen this season.
Then, on Sunday, they gave it right back. Ross Stripling had a solid start, the bats came through with a three-run rally in the sixth inning, and then the bullpen went ahead and did what it’s done so, so, so many times this season, melting down immediately after. To put a bow on top, the team flirted with a comeback late in the game but ultimately failed to do so.
One step forward, two steps back.
Since coming out of the All-Star break at full speed and kicking the shit out of the Texas Rangers in a three-game sweep, the Blue Jays have dropped four of five. They now sit 49-46, a distant nine-and-a-half games back …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

BJN Radio – Ep. 25: Dominating the Trash Birds, the catcher situation, trade proposals, and more!

The Blue Jays continued their dominance against the Trash Birds, winning three of four games over the weekend.

Despite the good result, it was still a bit of a downer given the fact the team threw away yet another winnable game on Friday night. That Blue Jays really should have pulled off a four-game sweep, but that ain’t easy to do when you only have one reliable bullpen arm.
We complained about the meltdown, talked about Charlie’s odd decision to use Tayler Saucedo in a key spot, and also looked at some positives from the series, like Vladdy mashing, Cavan Biggio doing well since coming back from the Injured List, and Reese McGuire’s hot stretch.
We then jumped into some trade talk because Silly Season is right around the corner. We discussed the idea of trading one of the five catchers on the 40-man roster and debated whether it would be wise to deal Nate Pearson to acquire a top-end arm such as Jose Berrios.
Finally, we previewed the upcoming series against the red-hot Mariners, an objectively bad team who somehow pulled off a four-game sweep over Tampa and won two of three against the White Sox.


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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Morgan Rielly’s shortcomings are significant, but his contributions far outweigh them

Morgan Rielly’s shortcomings are significant, but his contributions far outweigh them

As the final seconds ticked off the clock against the Montreal Canadiens in game seven, some bigger repercussions beyond the disappointment of the game began to swirl in the cesspool that was this season’s conclusion. The Maple Leafs have several significant decisions that are going to demand their attention over not only the short-term period of the draft and free agency but also over the next 12 months. Of course, the most important of those long-term decisions is likely going to be the contract of #1 defenceman Morgan Rielly, now just one year away from Unrestricted Free Agency after finishing his 9th year in the Maple Leafs organization. 
Way back in 2016, under the leadership of Lou Lamoriello, Morgan Rielly was signed to a 6 year/30-million dollar extension with a $5m AAV. While considered somewhat risky at the time, Rielly quickly blossomed in the years to come. Not only did #44 evolve into an offensive dynamo, peaking with 20 goals and 72 points during the Maple Leafs record-breaking 2018-19 campaign, but his leadership role on the team expanded dramatically. The team would add an A to his chest in 16-17, then three seasons later in 19-20 would be hotly debated amongst fans as the 25th …

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Author: Jori Negin-Shecter / The Leafs Nation

Ross Atkins talks about Nate Pearson, Thomas Hatch, Alek Manoah, Gabe Moreno, and more!

Before Sunday’s rubber match against the Phillies, general manager Ross Atkins had a media availability in which he provided injury updates on George Springer, Thomas Hatch, and Nate Pearson while also talking about a handful of prospects in the system who are on the team’s radar.

Here’s everything in note form…

The team doesn’t expect Nate Pearson to miss “too much time at all” with the shoulder injury he’s currently dealing with (Uh oh! When have we heard this one before??????). Pearson made one start for the Blue Jays last Sunday, struggled, and was sent back down to Triple-A. Once Pearson is healthy, it seems the plan this time around will be to keep him down for a little longer so he can get his command and rhythm under control.
The Blue Jays are apparently very encouraged by Alek Manoah’s showing thus far in Triple-A (duh) and his MLB readiness is something the team is discussing currently. Atkins wouldn’t put a timeline on when Manoah will get called up but he did say there wasn’t a major concern about any kind of innings limit for the 2019 first-round pick this year. Manoah only …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Kawhi Leonard and Clippers are what Toronto Raptors could’ve been

Kawhi Leonard and Clippers are what Toronto Raptors could’ve been

The Toronto Raptors’ game against the Los Angeles Clippers is more than just a matchup between a team looking to make it to the play-in tournament and an opponent looking to get some distance between themselves and the rest of the pack in West. It’s a chance for the Raptors to catch up with old […]
Kawhi Leonard and Clippers are what Toronto Raptors could’ve been – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

Leafs enter three-game series against the Canadiens in position to clinch North Division lead

The Toronto Maple Leafs begin a three-game set against the Montreal Canadiens in prime position to clinch first in the North Division. Any combination of Leafs wins or Oilers losses that add up to a six point differential will give them the division title. Additionally, a single win in this mini-series with Montreal will secure the Leafs with a positive win record over each of their regular season opponents.
Meanwhile, the Habs look to continue their two-game winning streak off the back of Cole Caulfield’s first NHL goal. Their play of late (accompanied by a faltering Winnipeg Jets team), has seen them get to within striking distance of third place in the North, they are currently just two points back of a Jets team that has lost six straight games.
Despite the possibility that the Habs could leapfrog the Jets, the Leafs are still sizing them up as a potential first round matchup per Jake Muzzin at today’s morning skate:

Jake Muzzin says Maple Leafs just had a meeting about these three games vs. Montreal being a Round 1 preview: “It’s a little introduction to maybe the playoffs…. A little chess match here.”
— luke fox (@lukefoxjukebox) May 3, 2021

The Leafs …

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Author: Dylan Murphy / The Leafs Nation

A big first inning on Tyler Glasnow leads the Blue Jays to a win at The Trop

A slumping offence going into a game against a guy with a 0.73 ERA? Seems like it’s going to be a bad time, right? Nope! The Blue Jays spanked Tyler Glasnow for a four-run first inning and hung on to beat the Rays by a score of 5-3.

Things worth mentioning…

Just about all of Toronto’s offence came in the first inning. Glasnow struck the first two guys he faced out but then Vlad Jr. kept the inning going with a single. After that, Rowdy Tellez drove him in with a double, Randal Grichuk drew a walk, and then Marcus Semien clubbed a three-run bomb to centre field. Glasnow allowed twice as many runs in the first inning of Friday’s game than he had in 24 2/3 innings coming into the game. It looked like Glasnow was going to mow the Blue Jays down based on the first couple of at-bats. It’s amazing how quickly things can change…

That’s a 13 pitch, 0 run inning if Vladdy’s grounder is like 5 feet left. What a sport.
— bk (@_bkuh_) April 23, 2021

Steven Matz was solid on Friday, though he had to compensate for some ugly defence behind him. The Blue Jays made three errors …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation