After signing Travis Dermott on Friday, the Toronto Maple Leafs have all but finished their offseason. Joey Anderson still needs a contract but there’s not much to worry about there. In total, the Leafs have top-pair right defenseman and re-invigorated their bottom six without moving a core player. It’s been a lot of great business from Kyle Dubas. The team feels refreshed and filled with possibilities.
A big difference from last summer to this offseason is the level of competition at every level of the roster. There is a genuine battle for the three final defense spots between four or more very capable options. No one feels like they’re being thrown in the deep end. And the same goes for the offense. There’s going to be a genuine battle for the sixth forward on the team, with as many as five available options for Sheldon Keefe. And in the bottom six, there is a mix of puck movers, finishing talent, and defensive suppressors within young players and vets who are all good at hockey. We think.
Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner
William Nylander - John Tavares - Ilya Mikheyev
Jimmy Vesey - Alexander Kerfoot - Wayne Simmonds
Guy? - Joe Thornton - Jason Spezza
Guys: Pierre Engvall, Alexander Barabanov, Joey Anderson, Nick Robertson, Travis Boyd
Leafs cap reallocation:— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) October 23, 2020
*Signed/re-signed Mikheyev, Simmonds, Vesey, Thornton, Spezza and Boyd for ~$450,000 less than they owed Johnsson/Kapanen.
*Signed Brodie, Bogosian and Lehtonen for $300,000 less than they paid Ceci/Barrie last season.
*Gave Dermott a ~$10,000 raise.
Basically, there is injury insurance at as many positions as realistically possible. And going into a season shadowed by COVID-19, it seems like a really smart way to spend money from Dubas. If you have the money to have depth, whether in a hypothetical practice squad or the Marlies, do it. Europe is dealing with this at the moment, and when a teenager like Rodion Amirov can go from being the first line winger on Ufa to a healthy scratch in the period of a quarantine, the Leafs should want as much depth as they can afford.
It seems pretty obvious that the Leafs have made promises to lots of free agents in order to get them on board. Mikko Lehtonen is probably not getting demoted to the Marlies unless he completely bombs. Ditto with Alexander Barabanov. You’re not taking Wayne Simmonds, Joe Thornton, and Jason Spezza out of the lineup. Blink, and all of a sudden there’s maybe one or two regular lineup spots up front for the likes of Jimmy Vesey, Pierre Engvall, Nick Robertson, Joey Anderson and Travis Boyd, and negative one on defense.
Obviously the Leafs can’t play everyone at once, but with an expanded roster or taxi squad, they can get around their lack of cap space and have more than a 20- or 21-player roster. There will be players who don’t perform, there will be injuries, and the Leafs appear to be as covered as can be possible.
To answer the q's wondering how the #Leafs become compliant, there are multiple options:— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) October 23, 2020
1. 21 player roster: 2 players clear enough cap
2. 22 player roster: bury a player with cap >= 1.05M
4. LTIR placement
A buyout is no longer an option, their 2nd window is closed https://t.co/kJTER0skvm
Various Hockey Branches
The NHL and GMs had some meetings yesterday where basically nothing happened.
NHL and its GMs finished their meeting last hour. Things to know: no certainty about starting date/format for the 2020-21 season. Too many unknowns (border, etc.) to commit to anything, although conversations with NHLPA Return to Play Committee should begin in next while (1/x)...— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) October 23, 2020
For context as the NHL finds its way through to the start of the 2020-21 season, here is what the NBA and OHL are reportedly doing.
Hearing some Ontario Hockey League teams are telling players they don’t expect to open training camps until mid-January at the earliest. Even that’s far from a certainty.— Rick Westhead (@rwesthead) October 23, 2020
OHL has publicly said it hopes to start season Dec. 1.
This was an interesting visualization. The NHL has definitely gone away from slot shots and more towards netfront attempts, with the pucks getting there from the edges. Really interesting.
So, inspired by this: https://t.co/3PR3graBEj— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) October 23, 2020
I decided to plot the nhl's 5v5 shots from 19-20 relative to league average from 07-08 and the results are, amusingly, much the same as in basketball. More from the points, more from in tight, less from the top of the circles. pic.twitter.com/KQIqlONgnX
Welcome back to the NHL, Nikita Nesterov!