The Blue Jays pick up Rafael Dolis’ option and decline Chase Anderson’s option

It’s Transaction Friday and we have ourselves probably the most predictable and least surprising move(s) of the off-season.

The Blue Jays announced on Friday that they would be picking up Rafael Dolis’ team option and that they would be declining Chase Anderson’s team option. Dolis will have a $1,500,000 salary in 2021 while Anderson will cost the team a $500,000 buyout. His salary would have been $9,500,000.

ROSTER UPDATE:
We’ve exercised our 2021 club option on RHP Rafael Dolis and declined our 2021 club option on RHP Chase Anderson. pic.twitter.com/ld4RWI5DgA
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) October 30, 2020

Bringing back Dolis at $1,500,000 is a no-brainer.
While he was a little jarring to watch at times with his slow pace and propensity to make counts go full, Dolis was a very effective arm in 2020. Across 24 appearances, Dolis posted a 1.50 ERA while striking out 11.6 batters per nine. The 5.3 walks per nine were a bit of a concern, though. Still, at $1,500,000, you can’t go wrong.
And, in the same vein, not bringing back Anderson at $9,500,000 was also a no-brainer.
Acquired last winter from the Milwaukee Brewers as a salary dump, Anderson was expected to be a swing-guy for the Blue Jays who could …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Blue Jays pull off a commanding win in Taijuan Walker’s debut

That was probably the cleanest, easiest win of the Blue Jays’ season so far. We joke about “Never In Doubt” when they edge out a sketchy win, but, earnestly, we were never in doubt on Saturday night.

Things worth mentioning…

It all started with Taijuan Walker, who made his Blue Jays debut after being acquired from the Seattle Mariners on Thursday. After missing the majority of the last two seasons due to injury, Walker has enjoyed a nice rebound so far in 2020, and, of course, the hope is that continues with Toronto as the team pushes for a playoff run. Walker came as advertised on Saturday, throwing the Orioles a fastball, sinker, cutter, splitter, and curveball combination. He worked with ease through six innings, allowing four hits and three walks while striking out four. The Orioles couldn’t manage to muster any hard contact off of Walker, as their hardest-hit ball off of him was a 92.0 mile-per-hour groundout off of the bat of Chance Sisco in the sixth inning.

After Walker worked through six innings on 92 pitches, he turned the ball over to the bullpen. Ryan Borucki worked a scoreless frame, surrendering just one hit, …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Eurotrip: Jesper Lindgren to MODO

It probably goes without saying that the Leafs are now looking at any and all options for finding European clubs for their players, and yesterday they found a landing spot for Jesper Lindgren with MODO.
From the MODO team site:
MODO Hockey can today announce that defender Jesper Lindgren has been contracted as a loan from the Toronto Maple Leafs organization. “We are very happy that” Jeppe “has clearly shown that he wants to return to MODO and this solution with Toronto is very good for us. As a player, he has clear top qualities as an offensive back, but has also taken big steps in his entire game in recent seasons “, comments MODO Hockey’s sports manager Fredrik Glader.
That puts Lindgren, Korshkov, and Lehtonen overseas so far, and it’s doubtful those will be the last, as hockey won’t resume in North America until December.
Lindgren wasn’t a standout in his year with the Marlies, and perhaps some extra hockey can get him on track to compete for a bigger role with the AHL club in December.
 

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Do we see Jack Campbell in Game Four?

It’s probably a tad ridiculous to talk about Game Four before we’ve even got a whiff of Game Three, but my business card says planner, so that’s kinda where my mind goes. You might have excitedly noticed the Leafs are going to play on both Thursday and Friday. Two days of Leafs hockey sounds great. The one part we haven’t dealt with from that is typically that means goaltenders are going to split the games. And now we head down the road of processing exactly what that means.
Why we should see Campbell
Hoping in the way back machine to 2013, we find a Eric Tulsky article explaining why starting goaltenders two nights in a row is never a good idea.
Give the full article a read, but here is a key takeaway…
 I did a similar study but restricting things to games where a team was on the second half of a back-to-back, so that we could compare the instances where they started a goalie who played in the game before to the instances where they started a rested goalie (data through Thursday’s games):

Team playing back-to-back
Games …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Leafs practice gives us first look at what the Muzzin-less lineup looks like

It’s probably not what anyone outside of what TLN writer Nick Barden wants, but for the time being, it looks like Martin Marincin will be in the lineup.

August 5 @MapleLeafs practice lines & defensive pairings:
Hyman–Matthews–MarnerNylander–Tavares–MikheyevRobertson–Kerfoot–KapanenClifford–Engvall–SpezzaJohnsson–Gauthier
Dermott–HollRielly–CeciMarincin–BarrieSandin–Liljegren
Andersen Campbell#LeafsForever
— Leafs PR (@LeafsPR) August 5, 2020

These pairings really seem to underline the importance of having Jake Muzzin in the lineup, so hopefully his recovery is speedy and the Leafs get him back for the next round, assuming they can make it past the Blue Jackets.
Before we look at the defensive pairings, we’ll acknowledge the forwards remain unchanged from how they finished game 2.
Now the pairings…
Rielly-Ceci
Strangely, this is still being listed as the second pairing by the Leafs. Likely pointing to the need to shelter them a bit more, but while it is fun to criticize Cody Ceci, it’s important to acknowledge the Leafs have allowed one goal in the past two games, and there is nothing to say that breaking up an established pairing …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Auston Matthews and his chance at NHL history

It’s probably a bit of an understatement to say that this year has created an extremely unique situation for the NHL playoffs. We’ll be watching hockey in the summer, see an extra round in the playoffs, see an extra eight teams get into the playoffs, as well as the fact that a playoff team that gets eliminated in the playoffs will walk away with Alexis Lafreniere.
But, this year also creates another unique situation for hockey, particularly for Auston Matthews (and additionally Alex Ovechkin, but this is a Leafs blog, so that part doesn’t matter).
Matthews may have an opportunity to break the NHL record for goals in a single postseason. Initially it sounds far-fetched, but when you realize the record is 19 goals, it’s not out of the question.
I first realized this when I was putting together my NHL 20 simulation of the playoffs, and Matthews finished the playoffs with 15 goals, while the Leafs had only made it to the conference finals. In that scenario, Matthews would only need five goals if he had made it to the finals to break the record, which isn’t unrealistic considering that in two …

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Author: Scott Maxwell / The Leafs Nation

What to expect from The Goat this summer

Freddie Gauthier probably frustrates me on the same level that Martin Marincin frustrates a lot of you. It’s not that he’s a defense first forward, I’m thrilled the Leafs have those in the lineup. It’s not the lack of offense, in fact he seems to come out of nowhere every so often to prove me wrong on his offensive abilities as well.
Gauthier has landed in a platooning situation for the fourth line, and that seems like it is the permanent fit for him, unless the team and player decide to part ways this offseason with Gauthier being an arbitration eligible free agent. The playoffs will be the last chance to see if Gauthier is still ahead of Adam Brooks, Pierre Engvall, etc. as the fourth line center option. And does he bring enough to the Leafs to justify keeping him. Or is he just a great guy you like having around the team?
By the numbers

So Freddie doesn’t see too many offensive starts in his role, but one of the things I wasn’t really prepared to see was how consistently he has moved the puck up …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Top Leafs Outside the NHL: #9 Mikhail Abramov

Abramov is probably one of the most intriguing names on this list, and when it comes to his upside score, we was one of the highest rated players, but ended up 9th due to the fact that we don’t really see him as being NHL ready. Although I think our voting panel would be happy to be proven wrong here.
Abramov was an absolute steal being selected in the fourth round of the 2019 draft. Though a skilled center in the fourth round usually means he comes with the criticism that frequently comes up with Leafs prospects, he’s undersized. At 5’11, Abramov isn’t particularly short, but his 160 lb listed weight is probably the bigger concern.
So why did they draft him? Here’s some insight from 51Leafs from last summer:
Abramov is a smart, skilled playmaker who can play both in the middle or on the wing. With the puck on his stick in the offensive zone, Abramov is primarily looking to set up a teammate for a scoring chance. He is very patient with the puck on his stick, and will hold onto the puck and skate around the offensive zone if he …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Friedman has suggested the Leafs are kicking tires on Brenden Dillon, so we’re gonna look under the hood

You probably didn’t watch Saturday Night headlines this week because why would you willing watch a Senators and Habs game, just to get one possible little nugget of a potential trade rumour on the second intermission?
Simply you wouldn’t and you shouldn’t. Instead Sportsnet thankfully puts the clips on their website and at our leisure we discovered that Elliotte Friedman believes that the Sharks are making their unrestricted free agents like Melker Karlsson and Brenden Dillon available, and the Leafs have kicked tires on Dillon.
On Friday I put Dillon on a list of rental players I could more or less wrap my head around the Leafs going after. (Click the link for the full list, but here’s what I had to say about Dillon)
 Dillon’s salary is a drawback at $3.27M this year, but if San Jose retains or will take on Cody Ceci as part of the deal it doesn’t seem impossible.
Dillon would be a chance for the Leafs to add some physicality to their lineup and most importantly to their blueline. While I know eyes are rolling at the thought of this, …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Mike Babcock seems skeptical of Jason Spezza

It finally happened. Well, probably a decade later than anybody would have wished, but Jason Spezza is a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs. For now, at least.

After a couple of ugly campaigns with the Dallas Stars, Spezza inked a one-year, $700k deal to join the Leafs. The fit seemed perfect, as Toronto not only needed a fourth-line centre, but also savvy veterans to replace the likes of Patrick Marleau and Ron Hainsey. But, based on what Mike Babcock has been saying over the past few days, Spezza’s role on the roster doesn’t seem to be guaranteed.
After the Leafs’ first pre-season game against the Senators in Newfoundland the other day, Babcock had this to say about Spezza…

Babcock on Spezza: “There’s a role here for him, but he’s got to be able to do it so we’ll see over exhibition whether he likes it”
Jason: “Basically, it comes down to, do you want to keep playing or do you want to hold on to the old days & I want to keep playing”
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) September 17, 2019

Then, this morning, this came out…

Jason Spezza, notably, on the wing at Leafs practice today. Teamed up with Frederik …

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Author: Cam Lewis / The Leafs Nation