The Fickle Fans Rumour Mill

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It takes so little for us Leafs fans to get wound into a tizzy when it comes to trade rumours.

So little, in fact, that saying absolutely nothing, no player names or teams, no specific position except for “winger” and no hint of cost, contract term, cap hits, left or right shot, height, weight, hair colour, meal preference, religious or political or sexual orientation, no mention of preferred brand name, ethnicity or nationality is needed. Nope, nada, nothing at all like that is required.

All you need to say is the Leafs, you believe, are looking at “a winger that can play in the top six with Matthews and Marner or Tavares and Nylander” and that you “have the name written down on a piece of paper but can’t say who” and the hype machine begins.

That, in case you haven’t heard, is from Elliotte Friedman. Likely the most reliable voice in hockey media since the semi-retirement of Bob McKenzie a few weeks ago. Elliotte was on Tim and Sid at the time and I must say, he knows his audience. This anything-but-juicy tidbit of information, this stale, dry, chaulky nibble will sustain this fanbase until the trade deadline comes around, on April 12th. Which, by the way, is around when he thinks the deal will happen.

Imagine that, would you, a trade for a winger at the deadline, by a team that started the season with “Father Time” Joe Thornton and Jimmy “Wait, They Promised Him A Chance In The Top Six?” Vesey at left wing in the top 6.

Mind blowing that they’d look for somebody to fill that role, really. Especially after the departure of Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson last offseason.

My own thoughts revolved around nabbing a legitimate checking centre for the 3rd line, but Alex Kerfoot has been good, and he was even better when they played the Blue Jackets last summer in their play-in series. Moving him to left wing and bumping him up the lineup is a thought, but keeping him where he is means that you know exactly what you have there.

Now we’re left to wonder, just who might the Leafs have interest in? And wonder we will.

So, here’s what we know:

  • Said player can suit up in the top 6. The fact that the team signed Jimmy Vesey, who has never produced more than 35pts in a single season and then publicly proclaimed that he would get a chance in the top 6, means that it could be anybody from a point-per-game player, to somebody that is playing on the 4th line on another team. Not much info there.
  • Said player is a winger. Which side? Who knows. We do know that the team has been playing William Nylander on the left side quite a bit. Getting him more comfortable there might be a precursor to a deal for another right winger, but could also be nothing more than prepping your players for roster flexibility.
  • The Leafs can’t afford a massive cap hit. How much can they afford? Well, let’s just say that there’s so much to unpack when it comes to the Leafs cap space, that I won’t even attempt to go there. Let’s assume that the team can take on very little though, which is fine, as it really only takes them out of the running for some big name rentals like Taylor Hall, who, at 50% of his 8M cap hit, would still cost them too much.
  • The assumption is that this mystery player will come from a team that isn’t making the playoffs.

There’s not a lot there to go on, but go on it I will, as foolhardy as that may seem.

Here, in all it’s glory, is a list of options that may be available to the Leafs, starting with some rentals:

Mikael Granlund

At nearly 21 minutes a night, Granlund leads all Nashville forwards in TOI/GP. He was left on the open market until late December, just weeks before the season began, but eventually chose to return to Nashville on a 1 year, 3.75M contract. The Predators would need to retain salary in order to make a deal happen, but that may just be the cost of business. So far this year he has played in 10 games, has 3 goals and 7 points, suits up on the powerplay and penalty kill, and can play all 3 forward positions. He’s the type of small, shifty winger that Kyle Dubas and Sheldon Keefe enjoy having on their teams.

Alex Iafallo

On the tail end of a 2 year deal, the 28 year old Iafallo has done nothing but improve his point totals since he broke into the league a few years ago. He has 2 goals and 8 points in 12 games so far this season, is second among forwards on the Kings in TOI/GP, behind only Anze Kopitar, suits up on the powerplay and penalty kill and would be able to hold his own within the top 6 of the Leafs. Like Granlund, he would require salary retention, as he makes more than they could handle, with a 2.45M cap hit.

Kyle Palmieri

Palmieri is usually a huge threat to score, as he has a terrific one timer. However, he hasn’t managed to score once in 8 games this year, he makes too much with a caphit of 4.65M per season and brings a lot of what the Leafs already have. That’s why I think they’d go for it. He’s a good player and would give the Leafs one of the deepest forward groups in the league.

Matthias Janmark

Not a traditional top 6 skater, but Janmark has seen his stock rise this year in Chicago. Playing extra minutes on a poor team, Janmark features prominently on the penalty kill, is earning powerplay time, has been producing on the scoresheet, has paid his dues in Dallas and went to the Cup Final with them last season, makes just 2.25M on the cap, so could easily fit onto the roster with some salary retention, and appears to be a good professional that plays a simple game. All great things that should earn Janmark a long look from a contending team.

Honourable mention rental options that I excluded for one reason or another: Erik Haula (not producing), Nick Foligno (too expensive), Bobby Ryan (because, I don’t know), Tanner Pearson (excluded for no reason at all, he’d be a solid option).

Players with term:

Rickard Rakell

Some people have thrown Rakells name into the rumour mill and he’d likely be a good fit on the Leafs roster. He has scored over 30 goals twice in his career, but is off to a slow start offensively this year, with just 1 goal and 5 points in 14 games. His cap hit (3.8M, through 2021-22) would fit if the Ducks are willing to retain, while the Leafs could send some money back as well.

Jake Virtanen

This is another player that is less about this particular writer thinking it’s a fit and more about his name floating around the rumour mill. Virtanen has long been thought to be on his way out of Vancouver. Drafted 6th overall, he never lived up to his potential. For a while last season he appeared to be on the cusp of putting it all together, but with just 1 goal and 1 point in 12 games this season, it appears that Virtanen may find himself in a new jersey before long. He’s big, he plays a powerforward game and has some untapped potential, for that reason some fans want him. He can’t play in the top 6 though, so I don’t believe he’s your guy.

Miles Wood

Miles Wood is having a terrific start to this season. With 5 goals and 8 points in 9 games, he’s proving to be an offensive threat, as well as a physical presence in front of the net. If he could continue that offense with the Leafs he’d be a huge addition. for them. He can play the style of game the team will need in the playoffs and that has to count for something.

Honourable mentions that I excluded for various reasons: Jeff Carter (too expensive), Max Domi (doesn’t make sense… or does it!?!?), Conor Garland (will need a big deal at seasons end).

The chance that any of these players are being considered by the team is around absolute zero, but it’s always fun to toss some names around to see what other people think.

So, let me know, would you consider adding any of these wingers at the deadline? If not, then are there any players I missed that you think the team would be well served to go after?

Let me know in the comments.