It’s the bye week and it’s time for thoughts!
1. Georgiev Fever! I discussed this at length in the most recent podcast, but here’s the short version. The New York Rangers are carrying three goalies: aging legend Henrik Lundqvist (who has an NMC he seems disinclined to waive), hotshot 24-year-old Igor Shestorkin, and hotshot 23-year-old Alexandar Georgiev. While Georgiev has shown well as an NHL backup thus far, Shestorkin is apparently considered the real diamond prospect, and so the natural inference is that the Rangers might trade Georgiev to improve elsewhere.
Either the Rangers genuinely want to make a deal, or they don’t. If they don’t, that is their prerogative, but when a team carries three goalies that usually ends in a trade because carrying three goalies is inconvenient. If they want to trade Georgiev, it sounds like right now they are demanding the moon and the stars for him. That is fine. Maybe someone will give it to them, if they’re very sure Georgiev is going to be their starter for years to come.
But 1B goalies don’t pull that much. When Washington traded Philippe Grubauer to Colorado, the price was a 2nd and a significant salary dump (Brooks Orpik, whom the Avalanche then bought out.) Frederik Andersen got the last pick of the 2016 first round and a second when the Leafs pulled him from Anaheim. Cam Talbot cost Edmonton a 2nd, 3rd, and an exchange of sevenths. The Rangers are free to ask for Kasperi Kapanen or someone similar and stomp their feet and shout that they aren’t giving him up for less, but if that’s their final offer (which I doubt) then the trade isn’t happening. That doesn’t mean we’d get him for Jeremy Bracco either, but Georgiev is not the first hotshot backup who might or might not be a starter. I doubt he resets the market.
2. Brenden Dillon Fever! The Leafs have apparently kicked the tires on this guy, which is fine and all, but I don’t see anything there I want much. Brenden Dillon has moved up and down the left side of the San Jose Sharks defence, but on net he doesn’t play especially tough competition. He’s a low-event left-shooting defenceman, big and nasty and physical. He does nothing on the power play, which is fine, but he’s only the fourth-most-used SJ defenceman on the admittedly excellent Sharks penalty kill. Most of all, he’s an expiring contract and he’s 29. I dislike rentals on principle and I really dislike rentals for guys who are an awkward fit anyway (again, he’s a left shot.) From what it sounds like, the Leafs are exploring an extension with Jake Muzzin, which would likely mean we’re not extending with Dillon if that’s consummated. So really: in the abstract I’m fine to replace Cody Ceci with Dillon; in reality I’m not paying assets to do it. Pass.
3. New Defence Auston Matthews! Apparently Auston Matthews is finally growing a defensive game under Sheldon Keefe. His impact this year has been outstanding, and for the first time you can point to him as being effective not only in generating offence but in preventing it. This obviously seems to be tied into a new system which sometimes has him playing less deeply in the offensive zone and thus getting back faster, but it’s encouraging all the same. He’s only 22, remember; there may well be substantial improvement still in front of him.
4. Obligatory Nylander Discussion Point. Arvind brought this up a couple of weeks ago on the podcast, and it’s been rattling around my head ever since. When Mitch Marner or John Tavares has a bad game, it’s acknowledged they had a bad game and that’s that. When William Nylander has a bad game or even one bad highlight, it’s taken as an opening to question his entire value as a player. There’s no reason to ever entertain those discussions anymore.
Nylander is having an outstanding season. The biggest difference is just that he’s finishing more of his shots than before, but he’s really, really effective at scoring and driving play and at this point if you deny that you’re just being dumb. The end.
5. Whoops I accidentally dropped the gif of the Brad Marchand shootout attempt and now we have to watch it again
6. Nick Robertson! Nick Robertson and his running mate Semyon Der-Arguchintsev are gleefully destroying the OHL. Robertson is scoring better than a goal-per-game and might well have the league lead in goals if he hadn’t missed time. SDA is third in the OHL in assists. Sure, these are OHL stats for kids who have already been drafted, but whatever, it’s fun having Leaf prospects dazzle. We’ll see how SDA does when he turns pro; I already think Robertson is going to be an NHLer.
7. Optimism! The Leafs are going to be in a dogfight for the playoffs the rest of the way, and they’re going to need better goaltending out of Freddie Andersen than they’ve gotten lately. Good news: I think Freddie is better than he’s shown the last month, and more importantly, the Leafs are legitimately back in the race after it looked like they might have wrecked themselves in November. That counts for something.