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Mailbag: Morgan Rielly and Entire Teams of Connors

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The masthead gets together to answer your questions.

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Edmonton Oilers Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

For this edition of the mailbag, I decided to rope in my colleagues, because frankly I didn’t want to have to work that hard. So this is a team effort. Enjoy!

Brigstew: The fact that Martin Marincin has not been given his token NHL game per season is nothing less than a travesty, but with Zach Bogosian out I think we may see him get into one game whenever Keefe decides that he’s upset at Sandin for some reason.

Katya: I really like Martin Marincin (in the AHL), and for me he’s a symbol of a thing I’m a bit monomaniacal about, so I shall bang on about it. Leafs fans — you in other words, dear readers — went on and on and bloody on about Mean Mike Babcock not playing Peter Holland, Seth Griffith, Frank Corrado, Connor Carrick and likely a dozen guys I’ve forgotten, and you still won’t stop going on about Justin Holl sitting in the pressbox after a very uninspiring first NHL tryout the year before.

And yet this year, because the NHL branded the popcorn brigade the Taxi Squad and everyone fell in love with the idea, all the guys like Marincin who are getting hosed on playing time are ignored. Veini Vehvilainen has played two games this year in the AHL/NHL. Timothy Liljegren has 14, Marincin has 5. This is not a good way for any player to be utilized, and the real story is the total failure of the NHL and AHL to come up with a meaningful way to get people in games — safely — and not be sitting around or acting as practice dummies.

Now, sorry to cut this short, but if I don’t stop now, I’ll go on about this for six more paragraphs, I’m that obsessed.

Hardev: I agree, why aren’t the Leafs scratching Rielly for budding superstar Timothy Liljegren?

seldo: I wish they’d call him up, just once, so I can bust out this annual gem:

Arvind: In chess, I think that’s actually reasonably close to a fair trade? I’m not the chess expert here (that’s Gunnar Carlson), so she can probably give a better example.

Brigstew: I know teams are pretty desperate for goalies, especially this year, which is why I would not personally trade Bishop and Pawn for Rook. Bishop has that NHL experience, and an .859 sv% isn’t exactly stellar even if it’s in the vaunted SWHL league.

Fulemin: So to make a partial defence of NHL GMs: chess is a bilateral zero-sum game with a closed timeframe. The NHL is way broader and teams can be in very different positions, and if the bishop and the pawn are 20 and 22 and the rook is 30, well...

Hardev: Yes, because then I get to do that fun castle swap-a-roo thingy that always felt like a sneaky brilliant move in my head as a kid.

Brigstew: Ask this again in a year. Between this year’s playoffs, next year’s regular season and then playoffs, there’s a lot that can help or hurt Rielly’s next contract.

Katya: Someone, maybe Marek? said that this is the Jake Gardiner conundrum all over again. And with Jake, well... hard to say what he would have done on the Leafs, but the team honestly wanted him, and couldn’t do it. UFA prices on the open market are based on ice time/reputation/points and that means Rielly is going to get a lot more than Jake Muzzin earns. Jake Muzzin is the best defender on the Leafs and their only true top pairing guy, while Rielly is just a bit below him in overall value — now, and he will decline as he ages — so my honest belief is that, like Kadri, it might be time to consider him a cap casualty.

Fulemin: I agree with the questioner, I don’t have any interest in Rielly’s extension, and I at least explore a trade this summer. I don’t love the idea and I don’t think it’s addition like subtraction the way some seem to, but at the least I want to look really hard at converting assets for him because I think he might be worth more on the market than the last year of his deal is to Toronto.

Hardev: I’m not going to cheat on your question like everyone above me. You asked for a contract, here’s a contract. The UFA market price for Rielly is seven years, $6.5 million. That’s looking at Krug last year as the biggest comparable and some others like Ryan Ellis, Jonas Brodin, and Justin Faulk also in that range. Would I give him that? No, because that contract length scares me. This summer they’ll talk to him about numbers and to other teams about trades. Rielly will be 28 when his contract expires, so he can definitely ask for six or seven years. I would be shocked if he takes this deal, but I would put down five years at $6 million and hope he says yes (or no to save me from me).

As an aside, I know I’ll never be a GM because I’ve tried to trade Morgan Rielly in my head before and I just couldn’t do it. “Morgan Rielly, I’m trading you.” Yeah, no, I just don’t have the guts.

I could see Kyle Dubas being ruthless, but I could also see him being loyal, especially if Rielly does again what he did in last year’s playoffs but with a better team result. It also depends what Sandin can make of himself this year if he is the heir apparent.

seldo: In NHL 21 I can usually get Rielly to take a 2 yr $8 million deal, but there’s no flat cap in a video game and this is real life where you take as much money as you can, when you can. I would offer Rielly a 3 year deal this summer, knowing he wouldn’t take it just to say I did something then see how next season goes. Trade him if you can get a windfall, keep him and let him walk if you think you can can go deep.

Brigstew: The Leafs get to choose their playoff opponent in the first round, and it can include minor bantam AA teams if they so choose.

Katya: There must be some kind of reseeding each round or the playoffs become lopsided and silly. I like the KHL format, where eight teams in each conference are seeded in order within the conference, the only exception being the winner of the divisions goes one-two in each half. Then you play off, and you reseed each round. There’s no wildcard, no bad teams in over dramatically better ones, and the final is East vs West. It all just makes sense. Russians: known for their simplicity.

Fulemin: Straight 1-16, highest seed plays lowest seed every round. Makes the regular season the most meaningful, gives diversity of playoff opponents.

Hardev: Top 8 in each conference. No guaranteed division leaders, no reseeding, no bullshit.

seldo: I won’t lie, I do like a divisional playoff round as round one. You never hate someone as much as you hate them in the payoffs.

There’s no proper way to handle the playoffs that would make everyone happy. My preferred way to treat things is 1-16. best vs worst no matter where teams are located. This was used in the QMJHL for a few years, but what they learned from that is the 16 seed never wins a game in this format. I don’t care, because they are a bad team to be the #16 seed. Also you can get some really unbalanced travel out of it. The #8 Rangers could end up playing the #9 Islanders down the road while the #1 Lightning have to fly across the continent and play the #16 Canucks in round one.

Tough, though. I would use the 1-16 seeding, and then re-seed after each round so the best teams will always face the worst because right now the Maple Leafs are the best team and the world revolves around them.

Brigstew: Oh, Jesmond, you don’t have to worry. We here at PPP do not believe in any favouritism among our commenters, who we view as our children. You all annoy us equally.

Fulemin: After all my way too many years online, the only people who really annoy me are ones who operate in bad faith. Every now and then someone pops up and is pretty clearly being malicious or trying to bullshit, or looking for a pretext to treat people like garbage. There are other people I’ve bickered with but who are coming at issues sincerely, and as I get older I try to keep that in mind.

I’m not really that eager to undo a UFA signing, but if I have to, Mikko Lehtonen. His entire utility was to get us an AHL goalie I’m sure we could have traded some other faint hope for, and we might have seen Sandin earlier without him.

Hardev: Eye have no idea what to say.

seldo: I no longer have a desk job, so I can’t read the comment sections all day anymore. I’ll just say anyone who corrects my spelling is my least favourite commentor. As for UFA’s? I dunno. Jimmy Vesey?

Arvind: Ben Harpur.

Omar: I sometimes forget Fulemin is a real person because of how witty he is and unfortunately, NHL players aren’t that. That being said, Connor Carrick. He thinks the game exceptionally well but the on-ice play doesn’t always match.

Species: I don’t ever remember what Fulemin’s actual name is, so I will say he’s a player whose name I can never remember, probably meaning he’s on the Minnesota Wild.

Brigstew: Kulemin is still technically active in the KHL. That’s my cop out answer.

Fulemin: The podcast is cancelled forever now.

seldo: Cancelled? But my debut was this week.

Hardev: Mark Donk.

Arvind: See above answer.

Brigstew: Whoever the best balance of tallest and youngest/most athletic is among us. So probably Omar or Hardev.

seldo: As the biggest one here I'd go in net to try to answer the question about sumo wrestlers playing goal.

Fulemin: I had a shutout to win a championship as a goalie once, I’ll have you know. In house league. I was eight.

Hardev: I played goalie in soccer? But I am no longer athletic. Don’t go to university, it breaks you. SAVE YOURSELVES!

Species: I’d put Authenticat in net. Every goal would be overturned for an interference error.

Arvind: I think the first one is a little shy of even against the Leafs. They have a considerable advantage in net, a disgustingly good first line, and then 3 below average lines thereafter (assuming the centre versions of Connor Brown take a hit compared to the winger version). The defence is probably a bit below average, but the depth is strong because Murphy is way better than the average 3rd pairing D, even if he has to play on his off side. The second team could beat the Leafs too, but that’s more because any team can beat any other team in a 7 game series. The Leafs would be clear favourites.

Brigstew: Between McDavid and Hellebuyck alone, yes. When you add 10 former Leafs from Toronto, that’s a guaranteed 10 goals against the Leafs alone. That’s just not fair.

seldo: I couldn’t do the math on this one. I went cross-eyed just reading the tweet.

Fulemin: The first team I think is about the 20th-best team in the NHL give or take. The second team sucks butt and needs Demko to win any games it will win.

Hardev: Throw in a couple Conor Garland’s on the first team and you might have something competitive. Maybe a Sheary, too. Tack on a couple prospects in Zary and McMichael. and you got the beginnings of a nice organization there. Oh, and a Carrick for motivation and coffee support.

Species: All those Connor Browns would all get a guaranteed goal against their ex-team though.

Arvind: IMO, sanding as an industry has been pretty stagnant. I’m not sure there has been too much innovation in the field, so I think we’ll see it continue to be more of the same going forward.

seldo: God dammit Arvind.

Brigstew: Dammit Arvind took my joke. Sandin will likely not be PP1 as long as Rielly is still on the team, but he might be the best power play defenseman on the team outside of Rielly. His time will come.

Fulemin: 3LD, PP2.

Hardev: I still think his peak is as a second pairing defenseman. His power play skills are quite good, but neither of those things come close to Rielly, especially next season. Third pair, maybe some dabbles higher in the lineup with Holl or Rielly, second power play unit.

Species: He’s gonna surprise all of you on the upside.

Brigstew: They’re comfortable and functional in many situations, but unsuitable for many other situations.

Katya: They exist because many men don’t carry purses.

seldo: Brigs partially got it right, but his last half was wrong. Katya is also dead on. I wear them at work as soon as it hits 12 degrees and overall it's just function > form. Anyone who derides them is a snob and a slave to the fashion industry / big handbag.

Hardev: I once left a pen in the cargo pocket of my cargo shorts before putting it in the washing machine. There was ink everywhere. I have since switched to a light backpack to store my sunglasses, lip balm, masks, hats, and security candy when I go into the great outdoors.

Species: I want to make sure everyone is aware that JvR has NEVER worn cargo shorts. Any photographic evidence to the contrary is photoshopped! It’s fake shorts!

Omar: I mean, he would extend Zach Hyman forever and ever and I think fans would like that.

Brigstew: I’ve already set up a tent in MLSE square in preparation for the riots.

Hardev: Couldn’t be worse than a potato.

Fulemin: Since people did the fun answers, the serious answer is that I would screw up a lot of little things that aren’t normally noticed unless I could delegate them all. What those would be, I don’t know, but that’s kind of the point.

Species: I do look forward to him hiring all the PPP staff to highly paid do-nothing jobs though.

Brigstew: Try and sign Ullmark or Driedger. Failing that, try and swing a trade for a good 1A/1B goalie who can play with Campbell. Keep stocking the goalie pipeline between the draft and signing young free agents from Europe, the NCAA, etc. Easy peasy, right?

Katya: Convince Frederik Andersen’s agent to post a photo of him with a sword driven through him. It worked for Fleury, and it’s as reliable as any other method of foretelling the future.

Nothing the Leafs have done this season has been bad, but perhaps the time has come to be the team taking the third goalie on waivers instead of losing one or two. But the starter decision is difficult and is so linked into what various players will command in salary, what the plan is for Hyman, or even Rielly in a year, that the Leafs can’t just make a goalie plan. It’s a big complex ball of twisted string.

Fulemin: Find a platoon partner for Jack Campbell. Jonathan Bernier, come on down!

Hardev: Chris Driedger, Alexander Georgiev, Linus Ullmark, or Jake Oettinger. That’s my target list in order. The Leafs need to find someone as young as possible in a situation where they’re they’re stuck in a numbers/contracts logjam. Driedger has Bob and Knight around him. Georgiev has Shesterkin taking over. Ullmark is a UFA. Oettinger has two old guys in Dallas stuck on big contracts. Hopefully one of these goalies slips through.

Species: Gotta be signing Reimer! (as a backup)

What would this team look like right now with JvR on it and no Tavares? Assume JvR had the same $7M AAV the Flyers gave him, which would mean the Leafs had $4M more cap space which could have been or will be used on anything you think. Would you prefer the “JvR still on the Leafs Universe” to our reality, or is that only a dream for basement dwelling bloggers?—Species

Arvind: It’s an interesting question. JvR is still a rather good player who has retained his offense and for whatever weight you put in play driving metrics, appears to be pretty decent there. He’d be a staple with Matthews and Marner, which is a pretty devastating first line because of how well his offensive game would mesh with theirs. Obviously, the second line loses out without Tavares, though with $4M in additional space, we probably don’t have to cap dump both of Johnsson and Kapanen, and we almost certainly don’t trade Kadri. Regarding Johnsson and Kapanen, keeping them could be viewed as either a positive or a negative; both had bad 2019/2020 seasons where they weren’t worth their money, and hot shooting from Kapanen aside, neither have proven those seasons were one-off flukes. Keeping Kadri would make fans quite happy, but he’s quietly declined a bit from his peak, and he might be below average for a 2C at this point. I’m fine with how things have worked out.

Brigstew: It’s hard for me to look into the future using my trusted crystal ball. For some reason when I look into it for that question, it’s very foggy or steamy...

seldo: They would be much poorer because I bet Tavares has sold a lot more jerseys than JvR.

Fulemin: It’s interesting. It’s worse, I think, although I genuinely believe JVR was underappreciated in Toronto and that he’s an exceptional offensive player. JVR + Kadri is almost enough to make it close, and aging could make me look wrong here, but I think JVR is going to age pretty badly given his injury history and Tavares is [knocking aggressively on wood] still holding up as a first-line calibre centre right now.

Hardev: I’m assuming if JvR is still here so is Kadri. Those two with Nylander would make a mighty fine second line in my opinion. The aging curves would definitely be more risky, especially with Kadri expiring soon and JVR very much not expiring for a while. Without Tavares, I would be extra desperate to draft and develop a future 2C. Fuck me, the Leafs could’ve had Sebastian Aho in 2015? He went a pick after Dermott? Christ.

Species: This is the most intelligent question anyone asked. Clearly the JvR Universe is the superior choice, and also some of that $4M would of course be used to sign TvR.

The writers on this site somehow manage to combine being prolific, timely, and tremendously well researched. It’s amazing. Can you share any insights into the content creation process that goes into running PPP?—Nirbo

Arvind: The honest answer is that Katya is responsible for like 85% of it.

Brigstew: Hire a Katya. Between the articles she churns out and the people she recruits, she’s the Kyle Dubas of site editors at SB Nation.

Katya: Always try to find people smarter than you to work or in this case volunlabour for you. It’s not really research so much as always having someone to bounce an idea off of who is not going to give you a talk radio sound-bite as an answer, instead they’ll tell you something you never thought of. We have a lot of commenters here who are very smart and add so much to the conversations as well. You can learn a lot just by reading the comments and never the articles, which I’ve heard no one does, but nonetheless.

Fulemin: I want to emphasize that without Katya this site would not function. This ought to be obvious but I think it can get taken for granted. This place continues to work because of her, full stop.

Hardev: Hire a Katya, she definitely taught me to know rather than guess, and to ask Google first before wasting someone else’s time. All of this has really helped me avoid talking out of my ass. Also we’re Leafs fans and we don’t pretend to be more wacky or more serious than we are. We post about the things we think about, and like in a classroom, someone else has probably had the same question circling in their head.

Species: I have a different answer! And I think Katya would agree too that Omar deserves recognition for supplying his GIFs to our site. They are the backbone of our recaps, and we use them in many other ways too for later articles about significant events in games that we write up separately, or simply to get a second and third look at exactly what happened if we missed it on TV. Omar is a big asset to the site. How he clips the game footage and creates 10 GIFs per minute is beyond my understanding though, but he’s so fast it allows us to publish our recaps literally the minute the game ends.

Seldo: If you worry about spelling and grammer, your wasting you're time.

If you could add any Leaf goaltender from the past 20 years (magically, in his prime) to the current team, but doing so meant you needed to part with Auston Matthews, would you make the switch? And if so, which goaltender would you choose?—JerseyLeaf

Arvind: Curtis Joseph had years of about 20 goals saved above average in 1999/2000 and 2000/2001, per Hockey-Reference. This season, Matthews has been worth 9 goals above average according to Evolving-Hockey, which is about 18 over the course of an entire season assuming full health. But you also have to remember that the Leafs have a decent replacement for Matthews in John Tavares, so they wouldn’t be losing that entire amount, and their weak goalies have been average or slightly below on the whole this season. If you could guarantee that the time-travelling Joseph would have the same relative league standing as he did in the early 2000s, then I think it would actually make the Leafs a similar or slightly better team this year, though probably much less fun to watch. If you’re just porting him forward as-is, there’s no way I take that risk.

Brigstew: Joseph or Belfour, surely. But no I would not part with Matthews to get them. Goalies are important, but Matthews is just too fun and too good a player.

Katya: Would I trade Auston Matthews for a practitioner of the art of variance who dresses like the Michelin man? No. This is kind of an answer to the goalie plan question as well, but I am a believer in having a team that can win if they have to with league average goalies, and I don’t think the Islanders have the only formula for that.

Fulemin: Absolutely not. I originally read this as any goalie ever, in which case prime Dominik Hasek or peak Tim Thomas give me some pause, but even then I probably don’t do it just thanks to goalie variance being what it is. If you can get the best moments of those goalies, yes, you can ride to a Cup, but both those goalies also have had enough down periods that I wouldn’t take the median outcome over what I expect from AM34.

Hardev: No, because I can add Jonathan Bernier for free this summer. But seriously no.

Species: Gotta be signing Reimer! But not at the cost of Matthews. Sorry, James.

What one move of Dubas’ tenure would you undo if you could do so? It could be a trade, a player/coach signing, a draft pick, a contract signing. I know a lot of the audience will gravitate to the Kadri trade, but to me I don’t think that’s what I would undo.—Rickap

Brigstew: If I’m undoing it, would Dubas be left to make the decision for what replaces it? Because I’d say the Marner contract, but I don’t really think Dubas thinks of it as that much of an overpay.

Katya: Definitely not the Kadri trade. I wish a different version of that trade had worked out, but no, it had to happen. Kyle Dubas’ biggest mistake is that he didn’t fire Mike Babcock when he wanted to, and thereby destroyed a season of prime Tavares — this is a grievous sin. You might say but, poor Kyle wasn’t allowed to, and to that I say that if he couldn’t win that fight with Shanahan or MLSE, that’s still his failure.

Fulemin: It’s the Kadri trade honestly, although with the gloss that I think they were going to trade him and the issue was just getting a better return, so I’m not that far off Katya on this one.

Hardev: Can I go back to 2015 and draft Sebastian Aho instead of Travis Dermott?

Species: Dubas should have drafted Gunnarwolfe Fontaine.

seldo: There are two kinds of people: sheep and sharks. Sharks are winners, and they don’t look back because they have no necks. Necks are for sheep.

In an alternate universe, where Burke somehow traded for Tavares when he was GM, what is the biggest difference/repercussion we would see from that now?—ShayeSaintJohn

Arvind: Sorry to cop out on you, but there are far too many variables to give a reasonable answer here.

Brigstew: We wouldn’t have Matthews and would already have ridden Tavares out of town.

Katya: Kadri would have been traded when he seemed to be a problem, because the Leafs only had one good player at any position under Burke. He was and is a terrible GM.

Fulemin: This team is probably too good to draft any of the core players the real team currently has, and is significantly worse for it because Brian Burke was a disaster in free agency and drafted poorly outside the top ten. That’s putting aside whatever we gave up to get Johnny. Tavares also probably gives Burke an extra year or two, which again, is bad, because he was terrible.

seldo: Yes, the team would be a middling failure who can never draft low enough but never gets past round one. The Maple Leafs would be, I don’t know, the Devils.

Hardev: Tavares would sign as a free agent in NYI and we would see Leafs fans making “you betrayed us” videos. You know for a fact this is exactly what would’ve happened.

Would a team of all Auston Matthewses (including goalie) be better than the current team? I believe he has a 1.000 sv% if that influences your answer.—TripleQ

Arvind: As good as Auston Matthews is, he is probably not an NHL quality defender or goaltender (which is the real issue), so we’re probably the most entertaining last place team in NHL history.

Brigstew: All I know is I want to watch this team, for science. It would be ridiculously fun.

Fulemin: I will spin a little bit here and say if you give me almost any NHL-calibre goaltending, this team is notably better than the current one; I think Matthews Clones 13-18 could figure out defence enough for us to enjoy having what’s easily the best forward group in the history of the league. But goaltending is a completely discrete skill-set, Matthews doesn’t have it, and that sewers the team entirely.

Hardev: I think Matthews’ skill-set lends him to being able to work with players like him — ask him to be a passer and he’d do it better than most. They could maybe get away with him at defense, but not in net. The offense would be incredible, though.

Could we get your thoughts on whether Galchenyuk has done enough to earn a spot next year. If so, do you want him here and how do we make it fit?-Lou’s Lupul Loophole

Arvind: He’s certainly worth a look. He’s been a solid third guy on both of the top two lines, which sounds like it should be easy to find, but as the Vesey/Mikheyev/Simmonds experiments have shown, that’s not always true. You don’t want to overcommit to him - part of his value to the Leafs is that he’s a decent third guy on a top line who commands very few resources, and you undercut that if you actually pay him commensurate to his on-paper position in the Leafs lineup. He also has notable defensive flaws, though I want to point out that these aren’t errors of laziness or sloth, but rather his tendency to be a bit slow reacting to transitions and his positioning within them. I think a one year deal in the $1.2 - $1.5M range might be amenable to both parties. He still has a lot to prove, and will get a chance to do so in a full season with the Leafs. Galchenyuk gets to play with the best teammates he realistically can play with, and the Leafs get a seat filler who can do a job on either of the top two lines, so they can spend their scant resources elsewhere.

Brigstew: He has certainly earned a spot, but to stay on the Leafs he’ll have to accept a small contract. He might want to, since the Leafs like him, they had a lot to do with saving his career this season, and I don’t really know how much he could get on the open market. He’s played well here, but doesn’t have the big boxcar numbers that lead to an overpay, and his reputation might still be not great among the rest of the league. These playoffs would help a lot for him if he plays well and helps them get on a deep run.

Katya: I’ve been super wrong before about players like Calvin Pickard and Travis Dermott, but I’ve never been happier to be right about a guy than I am Galchenyuk. Finding the place you can fit in, and be your best self is the greatest outcome. And as others have said, it’s all about price. One caveat on how he “looks” right now: he doesn’t score much, and that’s not just random luck. I don’t think he has much of a shot, and that might keep his price low enough. I think he fits because he can play the up-tempo quick-thinking offensive game so many other players fail at.

Fulemin: I agree with my co-host Arvind on this: I am interested in giving him a 50% raise on a one-year. If he can command a number starting with a 2 or any term I think it’s time to let him secure his bag elsewhere.

seldo: co-host? Does that mean I can still be on?

Hardev: Yeah, let’s bring him back!

Species: Unless there is another Galchenyuk out there available for the next season whom they can sign for a cheap deal?

Or maybe I should say, another Alex.

——

Thanks to everyone who contributed!