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From the Branches: Happy Canada Day from the land of the free...agents!

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Dan Girardi is on the loose — who will duck for cover?

Er, what?
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Hello Toronto, I am in you!

It’s been a lovely time here so far.

I got to meet a bunch of people at Puck Talks a few days ago, including Scott Wheeler (much taller than he was in my head), JP Nikota (same voice), Species (exactly how I imagined him, but he didn’t bring JvR along, ah well), El Seldo (hair not quite as red as I’d imagined), Nafio (lovely human), Cad_Yellow (awesome person who chatted with Alba a lot), Brigstew and the missus (I’ll see you in Tampa soon I hope), LatinHeat (awesome fellow), and vlog star Matthew Henriques, who made everyone giggle when he treated me like I was Steve Dangle levels of famous.

Puck Talks itself was pretty fascinating. There were a lot of interesting takes, but one of the most was Chris Johnston saying with a degree of certainty that the Arizona Coyotes will be the Seattle Coyotes in a year’s time. Also, I got teased for mispronouncing “Jonathan Drouin” to a Montreal media personality. I pronounced it like a southerner, y’all, but apparently there’s a hidden “g” at the end of his name. Now I know!

(As a result of Puck Talks, Chris Johnston followed me on twitter, just in time for me to post a photo of myself completely dressed as a small sea creature sitting in the mouth of a rendered blue whale skeleton. Glad he’s getting a dose of who Blog Mom is right off the bat.)

Today I’m looking forward to seeing more Ppppeople and heading to Hockey Hall of Fame! But first, the news.

The Leafs

Five NHL free agents Maple Leafs could use | Toronto Star
"Franson never wanted to leave the Leafs in 2015 and would probably welcome a return. ... His best years were in Toronto and he’s been a shadow of himself since he left, with declining production (down to 19 points last year). ... He’s six-foot-five — “all the time,” as Leafs coach Mike Babcock is fond of saying. ... His career possession numbers are over 50 per cent. ... Another coveted right-handed shot and just 29. … His cap hit last season was $3.325 million, and contract talks always seem to take longer than they should with Franson."

NHL Free Agency Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs | MLHS
"The apparent strong interest in the 37-year-old Patrick Marleau on the Leafs’ behalf – Mike Babcock, a massive fan of Marleau’s from their time together with Team Canada, has reportedly been “hard selling” the 12-time 25+ goal scorer on Toronto – suggests that the Leafs could be looking for a top-nine winger at the right price."

Toronto Maple Leafs, James van Riemsdyk and a New Contract | Editor in Leaf
With the Leafs current cap situation, they could definitely afford JVR at $6 million, but that likely won’t be the case for long. The club has one more year before William Nylander’s entry-level contract runs out. Two years before Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews need new deals.

On the Connor McDavid effect, The Big Three, and the Toronto Maple Leafs’ “two-year window” | MLHS
“Watching this Leafs team last season, you couldn’t help but think to yourself, ‘they are only going to get older, stronger, and better.’ That is almost certainly true individually, but on a team level, parity rules the day in a hard-cap NHL.”

Maple Leafs' Lamoriello laughs at 'win-now' notion | Toronto Sun
“The Maple Leaf general manager gave a hearty laugh at the notion free-agency shopping would tempt him to accelerate with willy-nilly signings instead of William Nylander-type drafting. To those who insist the Stanley Cup window is a small one in the post-lockout NHL, Lamoriello had a wry comeback on Thursday.”

Defence, back-up goalie targets of Leafs during free agency | Toronto Sun
“As trade rumours went deep into Friday evening, Toronto was said to be a dark horse on a couple of trades, such as Matt Duchene of the Avalanche, but not in the running for UFA defender Trevor Daley who many had moving to rival Detroit.”

Also there is a giant duck in your harbour.

Happy Canada Day! It’s lovely here.