Line combos, defensive pairings, and other news and notes from the Leafs first day on ice

The Leafs are finally back on the ice, and with that comes the first line combinations we’ve had to dissect in four months. With the acknowledgement that it’s day one, and while these are destined to change especially due to the notable absence of Auston Matthews, there was presumably some thought given to the combinations that we saw, and for that reason they warrant sharing and at least a couple of quick thoughts.

#Leafs lines from group 1 working on drills (Auston Matthews took the early skating drills, but is not participating in 5-on-5 drills) pic.twitter.com/OttTQeZrtq
— Kevin McGran (@kevin_mcgran) September 23, 2021

Leafs afternoon combos pic.twitter.com/TjnTSKPEnI
— Kevin McGran (@kevin_mcgran) September 23, 2021

It’s worth noting that Nylander swapped in for Douglas shortly after, and the one true additional absence for the day beyond Matthews and Steeves was Wayne Simmonds.
Rather than go line by line, and drive you and I crazy in the process, there are probably some interesting truths to what we’re seeing here, and we’ll take a look at what’s happening.
First thing that stands out to me are the main defensive pairings:
Rielly-Dermott
Sandin-Brodie
Muzzin-Liljegren
Dahlstrom-Holl
Rubins-Menell
We’ …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Trading prospects over draft picks is the right move for Maple Leafs

Trading prospects over draft picks is the right move for Maple Leafs

There comes a time where winning is everything, especially for the Toronto Maple Leafs. And that time is right now.
Kyle Dubas sought to take a massive step at the trade deadline last season by giving up a first-round pick for Nick Foligno. It was okay to take that risk last year with such a thin draft class. This year, though, is a completely different draft. The first-overall pick for is likely going to be Kingston Frontenacs centre, Shane Wright. You don’t get a player of his calibre after that, but it’s still a deeper draft than in 2021.
Toronto had three picks in this year’s draft and could have the same next year. With that being the case, the Maple Leafs might want to think twice about trading their first-round draft pick. Even the second-round pick wouldn’t be worth risking at this point. The Maple Leafs don’t have the deepest of prospect pools and would miss out on a good player if a pick is traded.
Could it make sense to trade a younger player instead? Perhaps so.
Looking at Toronto’s prospects, only three are off-limits: Nick Robertson, Rodion Amirov and Timothy Liljegren. Obviously, …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Leafs preseason starts September 25th

It’s the day before the NHL schedule comes out, there’s an expansion draft going on, and you are probably more interested in the entry draft, free agency, and whatever trades Kyle Dubas might have up his sleeve. Still, a preseason schedule is still news, so here we are joyfully dumping it on our website for you to reference.

Preseason dates are set #LeafsForever
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) July 21, 2021

Following a year that saw the Leafs only play against Canadian teams, I can’t think of anything I’m less enthused about than seeing that continue, but I assume there’s some recognition of the ease of limiting border crossings when possible, and that’s what drove this situation.
It also gives us a time frame for when we’ll start watching actual hockey again, which is nice and I can’t wait to read way too much into how the Leafs will do from these games.
The regular season will be released tomorrow, and we’ll take a much more meaningful look at that. I promise.

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Trade Targets: Three goaltenders to consider and Jonathan Bernier

When it comes to polarizing Leafs no one has been more polarizing of late than Frederik Andersen. It’s somewhat odd since up until last December he was without debate the best goaltender the Leafs have had in their net since the 2005 lockout (though I’m sure revisionist Reimer fans will try to debate it.) Unfortunately when Babcock left, he seemed to take Andersen’s game with him, and we’ve seen it with other players too, as Morgan Rielly was another player who thrived under Babcock, but has taken a step back under Keefe. Neither of these players have been bad, just not as good as they’ve been, and Mark Norman recently did a great job of exploring Andersen’s okay-ness. 
Given that Andersen’s playoff performances are at the heart of the concern for many, and his 2021 performance hasn’t inspired confidence, it makes some sense to consider who is available, but in the event that the replacement is under contract or a restricted free agent, that also means that a decision would need to be made about whether the Leafs would protect Jack Campbell or the new guy in the upcoming expansion draft.
Just yesterday, when …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

The Leafs’ taxi squad appears to be set

Hockey is finally back today and with it comes the final adjustments to the rosters for opening night. This year is a little bit different (not just because no one is allowed to attend the games live) as the NHL has implemented a taxi squad rule for the 2021 season to help fringe players stay on the ice and remain with the team instead of being stuck in hockey limbo.
It took them a while but the Leafs appear to have put together their taxi squad for the beginning of the campaign.

Toronto Maple #Leafs have opted to start with a 5 player taxi squad:
Forwards:RobertsonBrooksBoyd
Defense:LehtonenSandinhttps://t.co/BPt2vFET34
— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) January 13, 2021

Upon first glance, there aren’t a whole lot of surprises when it comes to who’s on the list at the start of 2021. Nick Robertson, Mikko Lehtonen, and Rasmus Sandin are all good enough to play in the Leafs lineup right away and them not being in the active lineup is a byproduct of simply having too many quality players. Adam Brooks and Travis Boyd both had impressive showings in the scrimmage last Saturday which might have been enough to earn them a spot on …

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Author: Michael Mazzei / The Leafs Nation

What to expect from Frederik Andersen this summer

When it comes to goaltending and predicting the future, two words spring to mind: “Who knows?” The prevailing thought for years about goaltending has been that it is (a) voodoo and (b) very hard to predict year over year. We’ve seen it happen so many times, where a journeyman goaltender goes on a tear or a star goaltender suddenly can’t stop a beach ball.
For a while there it looked like Frederik Andersen was the anomaly after putting up three consecutive seasons of almost identical save percentages. However, a very up and down 2019-20 season has injected more uncertainty than ever about what he will bring to the table once playoff games begin in August after a four-month pause of the season.
By The Numbers
The best you could possibly ask from your goaltender is that he makes the saves he should make. Anything above and beyond that is simply gravy. And since landing in Toronto, Andersen has delivered more gravy than a Smoke’s Poutinerie on 4/20.
For the better part of four season as the Maple Leafs’ starting goaltender, Andersen has been one of the top goaltenders in the league, as …

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Author: Mark Norman / The Leafs Nation

Elliotte Friedman reporting that no contract talks have taken place with Jason Spezza

It’s 31 Thoughts time, and with that comes a little bit of Leafs news…
Jason Spezza does not view these final five weeks (plus potential playoffs) as the end of his career. He says there have been no contract talks with Toronto, but he wants to play again next season.
So that’s something. We know that Jason Spezza wants to be in the league next year, but nothing as of yet on whether that will be with the Leafs. That gives us a fair bit to explore.
First, there is the fact that Jason Spezza has shown very clearly he’s better than a league minimum player and I’m not sure the Leafs would be fortunate enough to get him at a completely bargain basement price again. The fact that they are saying that contract talks haven’t started yet probably points to Jason Spezza wanting more than $700k next year, and this year a chance to play on a contending team, in his hometown, and to show the league that he still has hockey left in him.
Secondly, there is hockey left in Jason Spezza…
Spezza’s offensive outputs …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Hutchinson placed on waivers

It comes as no surprise, given the imminent return of Freddie Andersen that Michael Hutchinson has been placed on waivers today. And while we all knew it was coming, we’ll look at the logistics of it anyway.

Michael Hutchinson (TOR) has been placed on waivers
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) February 13, 2020
That stat line for Hutchinson isn’t particularly friendly this year…
GP
W
SV%
GAA
QS
GSAA
15
4
0.886
3.66
0.273
-9.72
And in three games, Jack Campbell is already to have of Hutchinson’s win total as a Leaf this season. So yeah, this move is understandable.
Will he get claimed?
I honestly can’t imagine why he would, unless another team is looking to move one of their NHL goaltenders, and they would rather ride out the year with Hutchinson rather than promote their third string guy. I’d look at a situation like Ottawa, where they are attempting to move Anderson or Detroit if they are looking to move Bernier or Howard, or the Devils if they realize that Hutchinson might be good enough to be their starter.
No matter what, it’s probably not happening.
Hutchinson on the Marlies
Given that the …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Doing the Marlies Shuffle: Petan Up, Liljegren Down

The Leafs aren’t wasting anytime when it comes to shuffling their roster and moves that were strongly hinted or outright promised last night are official today…

The @MapleLeafs have recalled forward Nic Petan from the @TorontoMarlies (AHL).
Defenceman Timothy Liljegren has been loaned to the Marlies. #LeafsForever
— Leafs PR (@LeafsPR) October 3, 2019
During his first period media availability Kyle Dubas stated that Liljegren would be returning to the Marlies and taking his rightful place as a top pairing defender on the farm team. It’s what’s best for his development, and no good comes from having him sit around the Leafs press box indefinitely. It’s best to level that someone with experience doing that like Justin Holl. Timothy Liljegren served his purpose by allowing the Leafs to maximize their LTIR cap space, and now most of the Marlies can be recalled without it interfering with the Leafs cap situation, with the exception of Egor Korshkov and Pierre Engvall who make slightly too much.
Additionally, Elliotte Friedman pointed out last night that Nic Petan was in the press box for the Leafs game last night and that created evidence based speculation that Petan was getting recalled. This really shouldn’ …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

How to Maximize the Long Term Injured Reserve

When it comes to understanding how injury reserve works in relation to the salary cap there are three key points to get your head wrapped around.
First, the injured player’s average salary is not subtracted from the total cap hit. Instead, the cap limit is increased. Second, when injury reserve is evoked, the salary for the injured player can be replaced by any combination of players as long as their total aggregate average salary is equal to or less than the player they are replacing. Third, the cap limit is only increased enough to accommodate the additional salary incurred by the replacement player(s).
If the team is below the cap limit when a player is injured, injury reserve is only invoked if the replacement brings them over the cap limit.
Consider an example where a team has a total cap hit of $79 million and a player worth $3 million becomes injured. The player will only be placed on injured reserve if his replacements are worth more than $2.5 million and bring the team over the $81.5 million salary cap limit. He can be replaced by any combination of players worth up to $3 million and the team’s cap limit is increased …

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Author: Adrian Pooley / The Leafs Nation