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Final four teams set in AHL playoffs

From Official Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Marlies looking to win first Calder Cup for a Maple Leafs affiliate since 1982

The final four teams in the Calder Cup Playoffs are set, but it took an eventful spring for them to get there.

The American Hockey League’s postseason second round featured two Game 7s, a near rally from a 3-0 deficit and a long, physical slog series between two Southern California rivals that included two overtime games.

The final spot in the conference final was clinched Monday when the Toronto Marlies, who are chasing the first Calder Cup for a Toronto Maple Leafs affiliate since 1982, scored three third-period goals in a Game 7 win over the Albany Devils.

Marlies forward Richard Clune put the series away with a tie-breaking goal in the final minutes of Game 7, giving Toronto a 4-3 victory. Albany had rallied with a 4-1 win in Game 6 and held a 2-1 third-period lead in Game 7 before Toronto came back. The Marlies have reached the conference final three times in the past five seasons.

This season they will play the Hershey Bears, who endured a seven-game struggle with archrival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Travis Boyd ended Game 7 and the series on a goal 10:57 into overtime.

Against the Marlies, the Bears will see a familiar face on the opposing blue line. Marlies defenseman Connor Carrick, who is tied for the AHL playoff scoring lead with 14 points (six goals, eight assists), spent most of the season with Hershey before he was traded by the Washington Capitals along with Brooks Laich to the Maple Leafs prior to the NHL Trade Deadline in February for Daniel Winnik and a fifth-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.

Hershey goaltender Justin Peters will face a Toronto offense that scored 25 goals in seven games against Albany, which was the second-best defensive team in the AHL during the regular season. Peters, who has played in 80 NHL games, has a 7-4 playoff record, a 1.78 goals-against average and .938 save percentage. The Marlies’ 3.80 goals per game top all playoff teams, and their power play ranks third.

In the West, the Lake Erie Monsters will play the defending Calder Cup champion Ontario Reign.

Lake Erie took a 3-0 series lead against the Grand Rapids Griffins and led 4-1 lead in Game 4, but Grand Rapids stormed back to win 5-4. The Griffins won 6-1 in Game 5 and took a 2-0 lead in Game 6, but Lake Erie chipped away and tied the game early in the third period. In overtime, 18-year-old defenseman Zach Werenski, selected by the Columbus Blue Jackets with the eighth pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, ended the series with an overtime goal. Werenski is tied for fourth in playoff scoring with 10 points (four goals, six assists) in nine games and has found a home on one of the best blue lines in the AHL.

Ontario, which was locked in a season-long struggle with the San Diego Gulls, needed five games to move on.

Veteran goaltender Peter Budaj, the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award winner as the AHL’s most outstanding goaltender this season, has a 1.73 GAA in the postseason to lead all goaltenders. Ontario has allowed 1.89 goals per game in the playoffs, best in the AHL.

Source: Final four teams set in AHL playoffs

Leafs' Cheap UFA Gambit Already Paying Off

From Pension Puppets

What the market will pay for the Leafs’ expiring free agents is tough to gauge, but they’re a win for the Leafs regardless.

For many years, we here at PPP called for the Leafs to identify undervalued UFAs and sign them to cheap, short-term deals. We reasoned that if the player rebounded, he would either be re-signed as a useful player or dealt for assets at the trade deadline. If the player failed to produce the results desired, the team wouldn’t have wasted much in the way of money or long-term cap space, and in the meantime, would have sheltered prospects.

Instead, because the Leafs fixated for so many years on more expensive “blue-collar” players such as Mike Komisarek, David Clarkson and Dave Bolland, the team wound up spending extra money on an area of market inefficiency. While the Leafs slowly figured out that they could pay 3rd and 4th line players peanuts every year, other teams noticed as well, and started to pay less and less for their own bottom-six and bottom-pairing talent.

With the market bottoming out for short-term UFA help, there has been some consternation that the Leafs’ “pump’n dump” contracts won’t yield much of anything at the deadline, which is to say that most teams have a bunch of cheap, short-term contracts they can use to plug holes in their lineup already. The fact that a number of well-known NHL veterans have hit the waiver wire recently and gone unclaimed seems to add further credence to the idea that what the Leafs currently have on offer isn’t worth beans on the trade block.

Here’s the thing though: that’s fine. The Leafs’ cheap, short-term UFA deals are already paying dividends.

Even if the team gets nothing for any of the players signed/acquired this summer, they will have already had the benefit of three advantages: 1) the team got to take a chance on their bouncing back at next to no cost, 2) they didn’t plug up their cap situation with bad, long-term deals that will impede the Leafs’ ability to re-sign the likes of Mitch Marner or William Nylander, and 3) they got to keep prospects in their farm system for longer, instead of leaning heavily on young players in a hopeless losing season.

But what about their trade value, though?

Within the context that these pump’n dump deals are already a success, it doesn’t make too much sense to worry about the returns that these players yield for the Leafs – anything, absolutely anything they get in return is gravy. Having said that, it’s all but guaranteed that the Leafs will be able to get a pick or two out of the mix.

Certain contracts, like those of Roman Polak or Tyler Bozak each stand a realistic chance of netting the Leafs a tidy return before the trade deadline, so it’s not as though the Leafs are unable to acquire more assets without their pump’n dump deals, but let’s look at the list of players signed/acquired in this past off-season who are on the trading block:

Player Cap hit
Michael Grabner $3,000,000
Shawn Matthias $2,300,000
Daniel Winnik $2,250,000
Nick Spaling $2,200,000
P.A. Parenteau $1,500,000
Mark Arcobello $1,100,000
Brad Boyes $700,000
Rich Clune $575,000
Matt Hunwick $1,200,000
Martin Marincin $700,000
Frank Corrado $632,500

There are a few players on the above list that don’t strictly meet the pump’n dump criteria, but I thought I would include them for the sake of discussion. Grabner, for instance, cost the Leafs 5 middling prospects to acquire (don’t trade young goaltenders!), Spaling came over in the Kessel deal, Marcin cost Brad Ross and the 107th pick (not to mention the fact that Marincin is still young), and while Corrado was a waiver wire pickup, he is still young enough to have some limited upside. Nevertheless, the Leafs would probably love to flip and and all of them (with the possible exceptions of Marincin and Corrado) for other assets, particularly draft picks.

The most likely to go are Parenteau, Arcobello, Boyes, and to a lesser extent Matthias, since all of their contracts are quite reasonable given their production. Hunwick also stands a decent chance of being moved, since his usage has quite outstripped his income, even if it has also exceeded his abilities. For any of these players, the Leafs might expect in return draft picks in the later rounds or maybe even just a body back in exchange that has a lower cap hit – the Leafs are going to have to manage their cap carefully so as not to go over and be penalized for next season.

Several of the other players look less likely to be traded, though the reasons vary. Corrado and Marincin, for example, are still young and have looked good in their limited showing with the Leafs so far, and so one would think that the Leafs would hang on to them for next season. Meanwhile, Grabner, Winnik, and Matthias all have box score numbers that make their cap hits more difficult to rationalize, especially given that they’ve played on a weak offensive team all year and have been handed plenty of opportunity to score. Clune and Spaling, on the other hand, cost virtually nothing but also add very little in the way of scoring help that most teams will be looking for at the deadline.

As for concerns about the NHL’s waiver wire setting the tone of the market, it’s true that it does, but not in the way you would think. Yes, there have been veterans let go, and it is true that they have gone unclaimed. But rather than indicate that teams don’t need help, it instead signals that teams are looking for greater cap efficiency from their bottom-six forwards and bottom-pairing defencemen, and several of the Leafs’ players mentioned above have that in spades.

Brandon Prust and Mason Raymond? They both cost too much for playoff teams to bother claiming them. Same for Sam Gagner. Scott Gomez doesn’t cost much, but then, he’s old as dust anyway. None of Parenteau, Arcobello, Boyes, or Hunwick are prohibitively expensive or old, and so it is possible that a market exists for their services. These waiver wire snubs don’t mean that playoff teams aren’t looking for rental help, it’s just that the help has to be cheaper.

With the sudden “injuries” to Nazem Kadri and Tyler Bozak and the trading of Dion Phaneuf, the Leafs have the perfect opportunity to showcase their inexpensive wares, and other teams have undoubtedly taken notice. It’s a matter of time before the Leafs begin converting them into later-round picks that will only help the rebuild.

Source: Leafs' Cheap UFA Gambit Already Paying Off

Leafs get ready to rearrange the roster

From The Star

Ever tight lipped, Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello at least acknowledges now is the time that he, the team’s pro scouting staff and the rest of the front office staff earn their keep.

The trade deadline is three weeks away — 3 p.m. on Feb. 29. By then, this particular group of Maple Leafs could be vastly different than the one that heads west this week for a four-game trip through Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Chicago.

The prices have been set. Calls are being made. The other shoe could drop at any time.

“You never know,” Lamoriello said. “In your mind you have something you’d like to see transpire. Then you just have to see where it goes from there. If there was anything imminent, it would be done. That’s the best way to approach it. It’s no different for anybody. It just depends on the guys somebody is looking for.”

The Leafs certainly hope they have what other teams are looking for. The roster seems designed to be dismantled, with seven pending unrestricted free agents.

Need a goalie? Try James Reimer. How about a hard-nosed, penalty-killing defenceman? Roman Polak. Some offensive help? P.A. Parenteau. Depth forwards? Shawn Matthias, Michael Grabner, Brad Boyes and Nick Spaling.

The Leafs have 48 professionals under contract — two under the limit — and enough salary-cap space to add contracts valued at an average of $10 million annually for the rest of the season. So Lamoriello is in prime position to take on a bad contract if there is something else — a prospect, a draft pick — in it for him.

“The whole key is how do you get better,” Lamoriello said. “How quick do you get better? Things evolve, and that usually makes decisions for you. It depends on what can or cannot happen. Then you have to make a judgment call whether that’s the right decision for what you have to do.”

The Leafs made six trades heading into the trade deadline last season. Only one was close to big: Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli for Olli Jokinen (later traded), a solid prospect in Brendan Leipsic and a first-round pick (later traded).

The rest were depth players in trades designed for the Leafs to take on salary while being rewarded with mid-to-low level picks or cap relief

The players traded away: Jokinen, Korbinian Holzer, David Clarkson, Daniel Winnik and Spencer Abbott. Those coming in: T.J. Brennan, Zach Sill, Joakim Lindstrom, Eric Brewer, and Nathan Horton (with salary-cap relief because of his injury). Only Brennan remains, with the Marlies. Not exactly game changers.

But Toronto also acquired Anaheim’s fifth-round pick this summer, St. Louis’s sixth-rounder this summer, and Pittsburgh’s fourth-rounder last summer and second-rounder this summer. Again, not really game-changing. But volume matters. The Leafs could pick 11 times at the June draft.

The players whose names are sure to come up in trade speculation over the next few weeks are braced for it.

“I’ve been down that road before,” Parenteau said. “I know it’s part of the game. It’s tougher now, I have a family. You think about that. My little one is in school. I try to block it, and take it game by game and try to do my best.”

Parenteau signed with the Leafs over the summer in large part because of his relationship with Mike Babcock. He played for the Leafs head coach when they were in the AHL. He likes the direction he sees the Leafs going in and doesn’t want to leave.

“I have a great feeling,” Parenteau said. “I think it’s going to be a great team for a long time with what Mike’s building, and Lou. I think the guys appreciate me so far. It’s been a good fit. I’d like stay here.

“There are a lot of good kids coming up. They’re going to have a good team for a long time.”

Source: Leafs get ready to rearrange the roster

Game Journal: Game 50 – Maple Leafs vs. Devils

From Official Toronto Maple Leafs



4:45 PM:
Tonight’s officials will be Francois St-Laurent and Steve Kozari. Brian Murphy and Derek Nansen will be the linesmen. Those looking to tune in can watch on Sportsnet Ontario, listen on Sportsnet 590 The FAN and follow the Leafs on Twitter.

Paul Hendrick and Bob McGill get you set for tonight’s game with their Maple Leafs Game Preview.
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4:35 PM: Here are tonight’s projected lineups for the Maple Leafs and Devils.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Forwards
24 Holland – 43 Kadri – 47 Komarov
40 Grabner – 42 Bozak – 15 Parenteau
23 Matthias – 16 Spaling – 26 Winnik
19 Lupul – 56 Froese – 25 Clune

Defence
2 Hunwick – 44 Rielly
3 Phaneuf – 20 Corrado
51 Gardiner – 46 Polak

Goaltenders
34 Reimer
45 Bernier

New Jersey Devils

Forwards
64 Blandisi – 14 Henrique – 20 Stempniak
51 Kalinin – 19 Zajac – 21 Palmieri
12 Boucher – 16 Josefson – 48 Kennedy
23 Farnham – 11 Gionta – 22 Tootoo

Defence
6 Greene – 5 Larsson
44 Gelinas – 8 Schlemko
25 Helgeson – 2 Moore

Goaltenders
1 Kinkaid
35 Schneider



4:00 PM: Here’s what Joffrey Lupul had to say ahead of his 700th NHL Game…

Leafs TV

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On his journey to this point:

Yeah, I don’t know, it goes by so fast. I was a good player when I was a kid but never one that thought I’d have an NHL career in my future, let alone a lengthy one. If I look back that far it’s a pretty big accomplishment.

What stands out from your first game?

I remember I was playing the Dallas Stars and I always loved Mike Modano when I was a kid. I remember in warmup I was just more focused on him than anything else but once the puck dropped it was just a hockey game and a lot of fun. I can’t even remember that much about it, I think I got an assist. I’d have to check.

Does this game have meaning for you now or is it something that you’ll look back on?

No I’ve never really been sentimental about any milestones or anything but as you start to get older and maybe wind down your career, you certainly look at this as a big milestone for me. Especially for the fact that I had some years when I wasn’t sure if I was going to play. I had people tell me I couldn’t play any more. It makes getting to these milestones a bit more special.

Was there a welcome to the NHL moment you can remember?

Just probably that first game. Being out there against guys that I watched on TV for so many years. Mike Modano was one of my favourite guys and playing against Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic and these guys all in the first couple weeks of my career was pretty surreal. Like I said, I don’t remember that much about it to this day but I remember just kind of being in awe.  And now you look at young guys when they come in and they make such an impact on the game. I just seemed to be, for the first couple of months anyways, happy to be there. You didn’t hear a peep from me.



2:45 PM: Dion Phaneuf is set to play his 800th NHL Game tonight. Here’s what he had to say following Thursday’s morning skate…

Leafs TV

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Can you put 800 games in the NHL into perspective with recently hitting 400 with the Leafs?

It’s very special. Any time you hit any type of milestone in the game, you look at 400 as a Leaf, that was very special to me and now, playing my 800th, it just shows how fast time really does go. It has been a journey. One that I’ve really enjoyed every minute of it. We’re very lucky to do what we do, we play a game that we love, that we grew up loving and make a living doing it. It’s very exciting to be here and to be able to say this is my 800th game but the bottom line is it’s business as usual.

What do you remember about your first game?

I remember it was a long time ago, it sure feels like it. Every one is special, the first one you remember — I actually remember my first exhibition game the most because you get drafted and you get the opportunity to wear an NHL jersey for the first time. That’s pretty special. Your first regular season game is another milestone you don’t ever forget. Every game is special, they’ve got different meanings, there’s different outcomes in all of them and that’s what’s exciting as a player. You play the game but every one is different. I’m sure tonight will be different too.

How do you think you’ve changed since day one?

I look older, a little bit. You learn a lot. I’ve definitely learned a lot over my career and as you get older you keep learning. I don’t want to stop. I want to keep learning, I want to continue getting better and I want to keep playing for as long as I can.

What’s the key to being a good mentor to younger players?

I was really lucky when I started. I had a lot of older guys, I played on an older team and the guys really helped me. I look at my first partner Roman Hamrlik, he helped me a lot, Bryan Marchment, Jarome Iginla, those guys were big keys in developing me as a player, showing me what it took to be a professional. I think that’s important.



2:15 PM: Here’s what Mike Babcock had to say following Thursday’s morning skate…

Leafs TV
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How do you think you’ve changed over 1000 games as a coach?

Well I think every year, every day you just try to get better. Obviously experience is a wonderful thing. When you’re young and don’t have any experience you should be thinking experience is overrated, if you don’t have any why would you worry about it? I think as you get on, you understand how important it is, it helps you make better decisions. The other thing that has happened to me for sure is through my family’s support, having my kids grow up and having my kids be athletes, I’ve become a way better coach because I understand what they go through and the mental grind it can be. I think I got to be better at that.

What do you recall from your first game?

Beat St. Louis, Smirnov, Chistov and Andy McDonald were stars. Obviously my first year in the NHL was a good year. We lost to New Jersey in Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Final with a team that missed the playoffs by 25 points. Bryan Murray was a great general manager, a real good person, it was good to be around him and it helped you grow as a coach. I had a lot of good people on the team. I think one thing about coaching is, I’ve been fortunate to coach lots of good teams. You need good players and you need really good people. Players make you a better coach. Every experience I’ve had with good players, they see the game different than you do. If you’re willing to share with them they can teach you a ton. I learned a lot from a lot of good players.

What’s the most enjoyable thing about coaching to you?

It’s growth and development of your people. It’s the interaction, it’s being around the young people — the best in the world at what they do trying to get better. The other thing I know about players, I probably had two in my whole time in 25 years coaching that I didn’t think tried to get better. The rest try to get better every day. I think when you’re sharing something with them that they think can help them get better, I think most people are all-in. Sometimes there gets to be a point where they’re not the right fit for your team and it’s hard on them mentally, they’ve got to go somewhere else. The reality is most coaches that I know love their players and are doing everything they can to make them better. My goal as I’ve gotten older is I want to make them better people first and better players second. A little more perspective.

What attracted you to coaching?

I wasn’t good enough to play. I thought I was going to be a professor at McGill University for the rest of my life. I loved being on campus and I loved teaching. I thought that’s what I was going to do. I went to play overseas one year, I ended up being a player-coach. That gave me the experience to apply for the job. I just wanted to go to the Calgary Stampede, applying to the job at Red Deer College gave me a free way to the Stampede. I had no interest in stopping playing when I got the job. I lost my way and I’ve been doing it ever since… You think, ‘Oh this is my lifelong plan,’ and all that. I’ve got college-aged kids and one a little older than that. I always say to young people, the job you’re going to have hasn’t been invented yet. To go through struggles and figure out what your career is going to be is an important thing to do. I think your parents sometimes, when you’re an 18-year-old kid in high school, they want you to know what you want to do with the rest of your life, that’s crazy. You don’t even know who you are. Grow up, experience some ups, experience some downs, live a little. Then, if you’re fortunate and you love what you do — if you love what you do you have a chance to be great at it. If you don’t, you’re never going to be great at it.

What is your understanding of the concussion protocol and how injuries should be managed in a game?

I think when the player says he’s okay to play and keeps playing, he’s okay to play. I put an unbelievable amount of duress on my poor trainer when he’s taking some player off the ice when he should be killing the next penalty. You have no idea how kind I am during that interaction. So, this is a hindsight thing after the fact, everyone can blame everyone else, the people there, the medical people in Calgary would have done everything they could to make the right decision based on League protocol. They obviously didn’t think — Wideman played the whole game — I know nothing about this situation besides what I saw on TV so for me to even have an opinion here is scary… Well on our team when someone is unconscious or dazed or looks like they’re supposed to go to, I guess they call it the dark room or whatever. I mean, some of these things aren’t even anything and they’re going to a dark room, but that’s legal liability with the League and that’s concussion protocol. As we learn more and more you’re more and more careful with them.

How significant has Phaneuf’s role been this year in terms of mentoring younger players?

Huge. He’s a way better person than I could have ever dreamed. He’s way more committed. His off-ice living habits are fantastic. His weight room commitment, his practice commitment, his intensity, his ability to get on young guys supportively, but yet being demanding has been fantastic. He has been unreal and great support for the coaching staff.

On Darryl Sittler being honoured tonight for his 10 point game:

I watched it. Pretty cool, unbelievable. Who can score 10 points? You can’t score 10 points in minor hockey. I know I never did. I just think it’s a fantastic thing. The other thing I like about people like Darryl being honoured is when you’re around Darryl, what a classy, classy guy he is and how proud he is to be a Leaf and still be with us. People like that you can never get enough of. It’s great for our players to be around him and get a chance to talk to him. He’s a proud Leaf and wants the franchise restored to its rightful place so it’s great he’s being honoured this evening.

2:00 PM: The Maple Leafs return to action on Thursday night as they play host to the New Jersey Devils at Air Canada Centre.

The Leafs last played on Tuesday and earned a 4-3 overtime win in Boston over the Bruins. P-A Parenteau had the overtime winner, while the Leafs also got goals from Daniel Winnik, Leo Komarov and Nazem Kadri. James Reimer made 39 saves to earn the win. He’ll start against the Devils tonight.

The Devils are coming off of a 3-2 win over the New York Rangers on Tuesday. Lee Stempniak, Joseph Blandisi and David Schlemko scored for the Devils in the win, while Cory Schneider made 31 saves to earn the victory. The Devils have indicated that Schneider may be due for a night off and, if he gets one, Keith Kinkaid will get the start for New Jersey.

Stay tuned for projected lineups, comments from Coach Babcock and the Leafs and more.

Source: Game Journal: Game 50 – Maple Leafs vs. Devils

Leafs Win In OT

From Official Toronto Maple Leafs

Tuesday, 02.2.2016 / 11:03 PM ET / News

The Canadian Press



BOSTON 
Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau scored a power-play goal with 1:54 left in overtime and the Toronto Maple Leafs rallied to beat the Boston Bruins 4-3 on Tuesday night and end a four-game skid.

Leo Komarov and Nazem Kadri erased a two-goal deficit with consecutive goals for Toronto midway through the third period. The Leafs won for the first time since Jan. 19.

Daniel Winnik also scored for Toronto and James Reimer had 39 saves. Reimer didn’t let anything in after Brad Marchand and David Krejci scored 26 seconds apart in the opening minutes of the third period.

Marchand also scored in the first period. David Pastrnak added two assists for the Bruins and Tuukka Rask stopped 31 shots.

Toronto was scoreless on two power plays before getting another chance in overtime when Krejci was called for holding 1:48 in. The Leafs capitalized on the 4-on-3 advantage when Parenteau backhanded a rebound after Rask stopped a shot by Kadri.

Kadri tied the game at 3-all 11:31 into the third period, tipping in Matt Hunwick‘s slap shot from the blue line.

Komarov cut Boston’s lead to 3-2 on a goal 9:02 into the third after Rask lost the puck in his pads. There was no whistle before the puck trickled out to Toronto’s Michael Grabner, who sent it off the end boards as the Leafs worked it around to Komarov for a wrist shot from the point that beat Rask.

The Leafs regrouped after Boston broke open a 1-all tie early in the third period.

Marchand one-timed in a pass from Krejci 55 seconds into the third, then Krejci struck 1:21 into the period after Torey Krug’s shot bounced off the end boards to the front of the net.

Notes: Toronto was 0-2-1 against Boston entering the game. … Reimer played in his 200th career game. … Pastrnak spent the All-Star break playing for Providence of the AHL before being recalled to Boston on Monday. … Malcolm Subban was Boston’s backup goalie, with Jonas Gustavsson still on injured reserve after leaving a game the week before with an elevated heart rate.

Source: Leafs Win In OT

Rumor Roundup: Will Bruins be forced to trade Loui Eriksson?

From Hockey News

The contract status of Boston Bruins’ right wing Loui Eriksson continues to draw media attention. Eligible for unrestricted free agency in July, the Bruins hope to re-sign the 30-year-old right wing, who’s been among their best two-way players this season. Doing so, however, could cost more than they’re willing to pay.

Eriksson’s current annual cap hit is $4.25 million. Given his value to the Bruins over the past two seasons, The Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa believes the veteran right wing is justified in seeking $6 million per season. The Bruins will have the cap space to accommodate that, but not if he’s seeking a lengthy extension.

CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty doubts Bruins GM Don Sweeney will hand Eriksson a five- or six-year deal at $6 million per. Eriksson is represented by agent J.P. Barry, and Haggerty points out Sweeney last year traded away Barry clients Carl Soderberg and Dougie Hamilton.

Shinzawa and Haggerty agree Eriksson could fetch a first-round pick and a top prospect, but the Bruins need a return that helps them now and in the future. They speculate Sweeney could offer up Eriksson to the Minnesota Wild for a young defenseman like Jonas Brodin or Matt Dumba. Haggerty also suggests the Anaheim Ducks or Winnipeg Jets as potential destinations.

The Wild and Ducks could be the best fit. Both clubs are deep in young blueliners and need scoring punch to remain in the Western Conference playoff chase. The Jets, however, are fading in the postseason race and are unlikely to acquire a rental player.

JETS FOCUSING ON SIGNING BYFUGLIEN, TRADING LADD

With the Winnipeg Jets mired near the bottom of the Western Conference standings, there’s growing speculation over GM Kevin Cheveldayoff ‘s plans for pending UFAs Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd. As their playoff hopes fade, Cheveldayoff could re-sign one and shop the other by the Feb. 29 trade deadline.

Recent reports suggests the focus is shifting toward re-signing Byfuglien. TSN’s Gary Lawless claims contract talks between the Jets and Ladd recently broke off. He suggests uncertainty over the contract status of their captain is contributing to the Jets’ struggles this season.

It’s believed Ladd, 30, seeks a six-year deal worth over $6-million annually, which Lawless doesn’t believe the left winger will get from the Jets. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman guesses Cheveldayoff won’t go over $6 million.

If the Jets part ways with Ladd, his leadership, experience and Stanley Cup pedigree (championships with Carolina in 2006 and Chicago in 2010) makes him an attractive playoff rental. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun suggests the Florida Panthers as a good destination, though he’s unsure if the Panthers have the assets to swing it.

Ladd carries a modified no-trade clause, but maybe he’ll be receptive to joining the Panthers. They’re surging in the standings and he knows Panthers GM Dale Tallon from their days with the Chicago Blackhawks. It was Tallon who brought Ladd from Carolina to Chicago at the 2008 trade deadline.

LEAFS TRYING TO DEAL BERNIER, WINNIK

The Toronto Maple Leafs’ trade candidate guessing game continues. While it’s anticipated the Leafs will peddle most of their pending UFAs, The Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle reports players with term remaining on their contract could be shopped. He claims forward Daniel Winnik and goaltender Jonathan Bernier are available.

Winnik, 30, has one season remaining on his contract at a salary-cap hit of $2.25 million, while the 27-year-old Bernier carries $4.15 million for 2016-17. Mirtle acknowledges their poor performances this season makes those contracts difficult to move.

Bernier’s fate could also depend upon the Leafs’ contract talks with pending UFA James Reimer, who’s been superb this season but plagued by injuries. If the Leafs can’t reach an agreement with the 27-year-old Reimer before Feb. 29, they’ll likely listen to trade offers.

Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.)

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Source: Rumor Roundup: Will Bruins be forced to trade Loui Eriksson?

Leafs overcome slow start to salvage a point

From Official Toronto Maple Leafs

Not every game in an NHL team’s regular season can be a spirited, emotional affair. But on Saturday at Air Canada Centre, there was no absence of passion between the Maple Leafs and their arch-rivals from Montreal – and with Leafs legend Dave Keon in the building for a pre-game ceremony in front of a raucous crowd, the Buds rebounded from a 2-0 deficit to earn a point in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Canadiens.

“It was really good,” Leafs goalie James Reimer said of the overall vibe in the ACC. “The fans got into it and that always makes it a lot more fun, gets us energized, gets us going. When the barn’s rockin’ like it was tonight, that’s fun hockey to play.”

“The atmosphere was great, the pre-game stuff was awesome, I was glad to be a part of that,” added winger Joffrey Lupul, whose 11th goal of the year evened the score early in the third period. “The crowd was great the whole game, their fans and ours, it was just a fun atmosphere out there.

That said, the Leafs had to overcome one of their worst starts of the season – the Habs out-shot them 14-3, and Toronto’s first official shot on net didn’t come until nearly 12 minutes into the game – to earn a point. After being given Friday off to conserve energy, their flat beginning to Saturday’s contest left a bitter taste in the mouth of head coach Mike Babcock.

“I thought (Reimer) was good, I thought we were poor,” Babcock said. “We gave them yesterday off, we won’t be doing that again. We weren’t ready to go, we didn’t compete hard.”

The Canadiens built their two-goal lead on markers from David Desharnais and Tomas Fleischmann, but a much more resilient Leafs team emerged for the second and third periods, and Toronto finished with 19 shots on net. It was the type of rebound that the Buds had become known for under Babcock’s tenure, until a five-game losing skid earlier in January saw them abandon their structure and dig holes they couldn’t climb out from.

“I think we showed a lot of character, playing much better in the second and third,” said winger P-A Parenteau. “I think for five games there, we got a little bit unlucky, but we didn’t have the same resilience. It’s nice to have that fight-back, that attitude, that’s going to get us wins down the road.”

“We didn’t do as good of a job as we would’ve liked today (in the first),” added Lupul. “You have to give credit to them, too; they played like a desperate team right at the start, and came out and they put a ton of pressure on us in our own end, and we were unable to break out clean. But we had a chat in here after the first, and we really turned it around, so that’s a good thing.”

Prior to the game between the two Original Six teams, Keon and the families of fellow icons Tim Horton and Turk Broda appeared at centre ice to be honored as part of the players’ induction into Legends Row outside Air Canada Centre. In addition, Keon made an appearance in the Leafs dressing room and interacted with the squad earlier in the morning. That nod to history was welcomed by Leafs players.

“The whole thing was really cool,” Lupul said. “I know a little bit of the backstory about how (Keon) hasn’t been around here, and for him to come in here this morning and say hi to all the guys and then have the great ceremony for all three of them, that was a cool day.”

Still, if Toronto is intent on getting back into the win column, they’ll need to reverse their habit of allowing the first goal of the night. Babcock pointed to the fact the team’s best line was their fourth line of Rich Clune, Daniel Winnik and Byron Froese as an indictment of the effort of the rest of the forwards.

“You get embarrassed when you’re getting outworked that bad and you’re not competing hard,” Babcock said. “Froese and Clune, that line was the best line, they’re not supposed to be the best line. They’re allowed to be the hardest-working line; they’re not allowed to be the best line.”

Source: Leafs overcome slow start to salvage a point

Hurricanes break scoreless struggle to beat Leafs in overtime

From The Star

Like a suspense novel, the Maple Leafs keep you guessing until the end. Whether it’s last-minute goals, as in games with Boston or Philadelphia in the last week, or playing in their 12th overtime game of the season, as they did Thursday night, the outcome is never a sure thing.

Toronto held Carolina scoreless until overtime Thursday, then lost 1-0 when Jordan Staal scored at the Air Canada Centre. It was a heartbreaker of a loss for the Leafs, but all the close games, all the grit they show, make for a positive sign.

“It sends the message we’re going in the right direction,” said Leafs forward Brad Boyes, who was playing in his 800th career game. “We don’t let off. There have games we’ve come back and won. We’ve got to keep pushing.”

The Leafs, 1-5-1 in their last seven games, are now 0-4 when the game is decided in three-on-three. Head coach Mike Babcock wasn’t biting on the “but it was close” argument.

“I like winning,” Babcock said. “It’s how I measure my enjoyment.”

Goaltender James Reimer, who faced 40 shots, was at his best in the first period, especially early when the Hurricanes came on strong. He made three big saves in the first minute and Carolina had a 9-1 shots advantage through the first half of the period.

Eddie Lack earned the shutout for Carolina. He made his best save in second, getting a glove on a short-handed breakaway chance by Michael Grabner.

“There’s no moral victories, but we feel good about our game,” said Leafs centre Nazem Kadri, who had the best Leafs chance in overtime. “We gave ourselves a chance to win. Both goalies played great. One bounce popped out to Staal and he put it in. That was the difference.”

Though it was a low-scoring affair, the crowd seemed to love it. The ones that loved it the most were there to see Boyes. A bunch of his buddies were shown on the big screen wearing Boyes jerseys from some of the other six teams he played for before returning to the Leafs, the team that drafted him in 2000.

“I didn’t know they were going to do that,” said Boyes, almost embarrassed when the subject was brought up.

Still, Boyes took a trip through memory lane before his 800th game. He remembered his first game in the NHL like it was yesterday. He was on the ice for two goals against on his first two shifts.

“I remember being minus-2 and thinking, ‘It can’t get any worse,’ ” said Boyes.

Things, of course, got better for Boyes: 43 goals one year in St. Louis, 33 another, 208 overall. But as Thursday night showed, the game of hockey has changed in the 13 years Boyes has been an NHLer. The freewheeling, high-scoring days are long over.

Each game is a grind, where scoring chances are celebrated nearly as much today as the goals at the beginning of Boyes career.

“You can’t dance through guys like you used to,” he said. “Guys read the play better.”

The players are more skilled, and better coached, the 33-year-old Boyes said.

“The gap, with skill, is so much smaller. Everyone can skate. Everyone keeps up. Everyone backchecks. There just isn’t the room.

“The coaches figured out to take away a guy’s time and space is the biggest thing. You give a guy with skill some space, he’s going to make you pay. That’s the biggest thing . . . a lot more focus on the defensive game over the years.”

Boyes didn’t think 800 games was a big deal.

“A thousand games is a big deal,” said Boyes. “As a player, we look at things day to day. I don’t step back and see what I’ve done. It’s: ‘What do I do today, what do I have to do tomorrow?’ That’s really it, our schedule. What do we do this week? We don’t go much further. It really is: ‘We’ve got a game to play.’ That’s the honest truth about how it feels.”

Babcock disagreed.

“Eight hundred is special,” said the coach. “Still ticking, still playing. (He) had no contract in the summer. (He’s) still playing in the NHL. Says a lot about his determination and his skill set. He should be proud and his family should be proud.”

NOTES: James Reimer has started five of the last seven games in the Toronto net . . . Morgan Rielly’s next game will be his 200th in the NHL . . . . . . The next game by Roman Polak and Daniel Winnik will be their 100th each as Maple Leafs . . . The Leafs entered the game tied for fifth in faceoff win percentage (51.2 per cent).

Source: Hurricanes break scoreless struggle to beat Leafs in overtime

Leafs lose fifth straight on Bruins’ last-minute goal

From The Star

BOSTON—Chasing hockey is losing hockey.

That’s been Leafs coach Mike Babcock’s mantra through a downturn in the Maple Leafs’ fortunes in January.

The team is struggling to score, struggling on special teams, and has had average goaltending of late. So it does itself no favours by surrendering early leads, especially when playing against teams with the ability to shut them down defensively.

Such was the case Saturday night in Boston when Patrice Bergeron — yes, him again — scored on the first shift of the first and second periods, putting the Leafs in a hole before many spectators at the sold-out TD Garden could take their seats.

The Leafs answered both times. Finally though, the Bruins did what they always seem to do: They beat the Leafs.

Brad Marchand jumped on a turnover from Jonathan Bernier, who had played the puck behind the net, and scored for the winning goal with just 47 seconds left in the third period. Not enough time to come back.

Leo Komarov and Shawn Matthias scored for the Maple Leafs.

For Matthias it was his fourth goal of the season, and first goal in eight games.

It was the first time in five games the Leafs scored more than one goal. But it wasn’t enough.

The difference was the Leafs’ power play, which went scoreless again. The Leafs have scored just twice on the power play over the past 10 games.

The two teams were in remarkably similar situations. Both were playing the second game of back-to-back games. Both had flown roughly the same distance to get here, Boston from Buffalo after a win over the Sabres, the Leafs from Toronto after a loss to Chicago.

The pre-game message from both teams had been about turning things around. The Leafs were on a downward funk, having lost four in a row before touching down in Boston.

“It’s been a tough week,” said Leafs defenceman Matt Hunwick.

The Bruins were on a 3-7-1 slide down the Atlantic Division standings, despite that win in Buffalo.

“There’s no . . . team in this league that we should look at and think it’s going to be an easy game,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “There are no such things. So consistency is a big part of this league now, as far as winning hockey games night in and night out. It’s about being able to bring it every night. So that’s what we’ve got to do here, simple as that.”

Outside of struggling special teams units, Babcock said he hadn’t noticed anything different about the way his team has been playing.

“I thought we’ve played really well,” the Leafs coach said. “But there are no moral victories in the league.”

The game had an “Oh no, not again” feel when Bergeron deked Jonathan for a 1-0 lead just 45 seconds into the game. It was Boston’s first shot on net.

Babcock had changed his goalie rotation, specifically to get Bernier in against the Bruins. James Reimer had lost his previous two meetings this season against Boston, so he drew the assignment against Chicago on Friday.

Komarov, who got his own rebound, tied the game at 4:31 of the first. The period was fairly even, and entertaining, from that point forward, with Boston holding an 18-13 shots advantage.

The second period was almost a mirror image of the first, with Boston scoring in the first minute. Zdeno Chara took the shot from the point through Marchand. Bergeron deflected it. It hit Bernier’s shoulder then hit the cross bar and bounced downward, across the red line just 39 seconds into the period. Again, it was the first shot of the period.

And again the Leafs caught up, albeit later in the period. Bozak knocked an off-balance Chara off the puck and fed a cross-ice pass right to Matthias’s tape. Matthias’s rocketed a wrist shot past Tuukka Rask at 17:16 as the second ended 2-2.

NOTES: Babcock sent Daniel Winnik to the press box for Saturday’s game, activating Rich Clune. That moved Josh Leivo to the third line with Peter Holland and Joffrey Lupul . . . The Leafs next game is Tuesday in Philadelphia . . . There were empty seats, no doubt fans preferring to watch the Patriots. But the Bruins announced a sellout for the 276th straight game.

Source: Leafs lose fifth straight on Bruins’ last-minute goal

Blackhawks’ stars show Leafs how it’s done: Arthur

From The Star

Mike Babcock was talking about Chicago’s Joel Quenneville, and about what allows the lifetime coaches to last. Babcock spoke about working hard, reinventing yourself, treating people right, being demanding yet appreciative, and one other thing.

“The other thing, the key to having a long shelf life, is good players,” Babcock said, before the Toronto Maple Leafs lost 4-1 to Quenneville’s Blackhawks, whom Babcock watched beat Montreal on Thursday night. “Don’t kid yourself. Good players make the game a lot of fun. I saw some stuff (Thursday) night that we don’t dare try.

“But we will. But that’s what good players do. Good players create something out of nothing within the structure of the game. And they beat the defensive structure, and you go ‘wow.’ And other players we put out there, and they forecheck and they grind.”

The Leafs have grind by the barrel, but no wow. The Blackhawks are the NHL’s standard: three Stanley Cups in six years, plus a Game 7 overtime loss in the conference finals to the eventual champs. They are skilled, tough, impossible to rattle. They are what Babcock’s Leafs, among others, want to be.

But even if you do everything else right, you can’t do it without the wow players. As a smart NHL man puts it, if you get your four or five best players right, you can fill out the rest pretty easily. For Chicago, it’s Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Marian Hossa, and a rotating fifth. You can do the same thing with the L.A. Kings: Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Jonathan Quick when he gets hot, and the last time they won, Marian Gaborik. Even in the NHL, how much does a superstar change the game?

“Unbelievable,” says Babcock. “Because it makes other players better . . . and you learn a ton from him. When I was in Detroit (with defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom), I called them Nick-isms. So you learn by watching ’em, and you add it to the structure of your game.”

Very few can do it every night, of course: Joffrey Lupul thinks Kane and Toews are the two most consistent performers in the league. Friday, Toews drew a second-period penalty, and Kane batted in a goal seconds after it expired. Kane then drew a cross-checking penalty, and scored his league-leading 27th goal on the power play after a cross-ice pass from the next core Blackhawk, Artemi Panarin. Kane zipped it to Panarin for another power-play goal to start the third. Kane got an empty-netter, too. It’s nice to have, talent.

“I don’t think our bottom six forwards were near good enough tonight; I thought our top six were very good,” said Babcock. “In the end, they were better than us, that’s all there was to it.”

“There’s always a way to shut down one guy,” said Lupul. “I played a playoff series against (Alexander) Ovechkin, and the focus was just ‘we’ve got to shut down this guy, and the rest of the team comes next.’ Chicago, you can’t do that. You can say, we’ve got to try to stop Patrick Kane, but then Toews and Hossa can beat you.”

“You need stars,” said Babcock. “You need enough of them, you don’t need the most, you need enough, and then you need a lot of foot soldiers with you. But foot soldiers have an easier job, because they’ve just got to do their own job.”

There just aren’t that many true stars, and the road to getting them is the biggest challenge of Toronto’s attempt, under team president Brendan Shanahan, to build a Cup-contending team. Toronto’s Daniel Winnik, listing game-changing forwards, doesn’t count many.

“Ovechkin, Kopitar, (Ryan) Getzlaf, (Sidney) Crosby, (Evgeni) Malkin, Toews, Kane, (Tyler) Seguin, (Jamie) Benn, you can throw (Corey) Perry in there,” says Winnik. “I’d throw Jeff Carter in there, too. And (Steven) Stamkos. And I’m not discrediting anybody in the league, but realistically, those are the guys. And what, eight of them play for four teams?”

(He could have added Vladimir Tarasenko, and John Scott, of course. The Coyotes’ King Kong, who was voted an all-star team captain by fans in a bit of fun, was traded to Montreal Friday and is destined for AHL exile. It’s comforting, knowing the league can still find new ways to make itself look silly.)

So who are Toronto’s best internal candidates to be difference-makers? Defenceman Morgan Rielly, who scored Toronto’s lone goal. Maybe even Jake Gardiner. William Nylander, who was lighting up the AHL before his concussion at the world juniors. Mitch Marner, though there are those who weren’t impressed with his showing at the world juniors or at Leafs camp last year, even accounting for his age. And the Leafs will still need a centre. The best teams have centres.

No, this team probably needs one more great draft or even better, two, and maybe a Stamkos in the summer, before a contending-calibre core can be collected, and even that’s no guarantee. And that’s why the next few weeks are so important. If this team will decide what it is, as some say the team’s thinking goes, it needs to decide that it’s a real seller, because Babcock’s coaching and James Reimer’s goaltending could yet lift them clear of the best lottery odds, where big, brilliant players may await in the top three.

They are grinding, these Leafs. But some more falling might be best.

Source: Blackhawks’ stars show Leafs how it’s done: Arthur