in , , ,

Maple Leafs Mailbag: Should Toronto trade for Matt Murray?

If this week’s round of questioning is any indication, fans love trades.

Hypothetical trades, historical trades, goalie trades, who-says-no scenarios of trades that won’t happen in a zillion years… trades. And pranks.

They also like pranks. Oh, and free agents.

Trades, pranks and free agents.

Let’s get to the questions.

It was no small thing in the mid-season acquisitions of Jack Campbell and Kyle Clifford that Kyle Dubas had previous relationships with both. We’ve seen one degree of separation in Dubas’s hiring of Sheldon Keefe and his drafting of players from the Soo, like Rasmus Sandin and Mac Hollowell.

Relationships and familiarity matter in this business, in any business.

There are two issues with trading for Matt Murray, however. (And I do believe he can be pulled away from the Pittsburgh Penguins for the right price.)

First, I’m not convinced Murray — despite his Cup rings — is a better goalie than Frederik Andersen. Andersen posted a better save percentage in 2019-20 and has a better career save percentage. In the past four seasons (dating back to when Murray became a starter and Andersen joined Toronto), Andersen has 136 wins to Murray’s 108.

Second, Andersen represents a reasonable fixed cost ($5 million) next season. Murray is eligible for arbitration and has a championship resume. He’ll be looking for a significant raise from his $3.75-million cap hit. Even if the Leafs want to chase him, at what price would he arrive?

My bet would be an Andersen contract extension gets kicked down the road, to spring 2021, as the Leafs hope Campbell and prospect Joseph Woll both take a giant step. The Leafs revisit the goalie market at that time.

Ha. I love this question, AO. When us (cough) experts (cough) make our preseason predictions, we’d love to believe that no one will actually dig them up eight months later and reveal our foolishness.

Yes, I listed Edmonton as most likely to disappoint because (a) the Oilers’ bar for disappointment was higher than most of 2018-19’s bad teams (anything short of a post-season berth is a waste); (b) I was not a believer in Mikko Koskinen and had no idea the big man had a .917 season in him; and (c) I underestimated their special teams and readiness of their young defencemen.

Fun fact: Edmonton was my favourite team as a kid. So, I’m thrilled to be wrong on this one. The NHL playoffs need Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. And watching the Oilers’ penalty kill flip from second worst (74.8 per cent) to second best (84.4 per cent) year over year is remarkable.

Big props to Dave Tippett and Ken Holland.

Interest in turning Clifford into something more than a Leafs rental player is mutual, and there is an aligned mindset that Clifford injects some much-needed sandpaper and experience to a young, fast forward group.

“We’re both in a win-now mode. So, I think the fit is really good. I think what I bring to the team is really good. They have an abundance of skill, and I hope I can bring another element,” Cifford told Hockey Central @ Noon when asked about contract talks Wednesday.

“Wherever those conversations go, they go. It’s a little out of my hands with the cap and everything like that. There’s a lot of uncertainty. I’ve enjoyed my time in Toronto. I’d definitely like to be a Leaf and bring a Cup home to Toronto.”

There is a deal to be made here, but much like re-upping veteran Jason Spezza (another pending UFA openly proclaiming his love), it requires the veteran player accepting a form of hometown discount.

Clifford’s $1.6-million cap hit is currently split between the Leafs and Kings, which reminds us just how tight Toronto is squeezing its bottom-six forwards. And the ceiling ain’t going up soon.

How does a two-year, $2.5-million pandemic deal sound, heavily front loaded with signing bonuses?

If maximizing money and term is the more important thing to Clifford, he’ll fare better elsewhere.

I’m with you, Fred. We all need reality breaks these days.

Of those two pipe dreams, Alex Pietrangelo is way more likely to head east. The last thing the Maple Leafs need is to pay top dollar for the most enticing forward on the market.

An experienced, dependable right-shot defenceman with offensive upside, leadership skills and championship pedigree, Pietrangelo is everything the Maple Leafs (and about 16 other teams) need.

But we still believe his first choice will be to try to find common ground in St. Louis.

While I doubt either Jim Nill or Dubas is contemplating anything of the sort, it seems we’ve already rocketed to Planet Make-Believe, so why not play pretend?

The Toronto perspective (via me): Absolutely. Miro Heiskanen is a stud No. 1 defenceman at age 20, a young star with years of team control salary-wise. And while Mitchell Marner’s deal was negotiated on the (fair) assumption the salary cap would only go up, Heiskanen has another year on his entry-level deal and two more after that before he even gets arbitration rights. “They don’t come around very often like the way he is,” Jason Spezza marvels.

The Dallas perspective (via excellent Stars beat reporter Sean Shapiro): “Dallas would not do this trade. The more intriguing one to me is [John] Klingberg for anyone. Heiskanen untouchable.”

Phil Kessel and the Toronto media didn’t have the shmoopiest of relationships, to be sure, but I don’t believe Brendan Shanahan traded an offensive superstar and future Hall of Fame candidate because of the press. (We’re not that powerful.)

I take Dubas at his word when he says he has no intention of breaking up the Big 4, and I’d be jaw-on-the-floor shocked if either right winger was moved in the near future.

For the sake of entertaining the question, William Nylander is the likelier trade candidate because he’s less trusted in defensive situations, has not been anointed part of the leadership group, and — most important, by a mile — has a contract structure that would palatable to more teams. Meaning: He’d open up more options on the trade return.

Nylander’s $6.96-million cap hit looks very reasonable now that he’s a 31-goal scorer. That he only commands $6 million in actual annual salary through 2023-24 makes him an asset almost any team would be happy to afford.

I cannot do this story justice, but Jeremy Roenick can. And he did, on a Spittin’ Chiclets episode.

The lengths Roenick went to prank Torrey Mitchell and Devin Setoguchi, then San Jose Sharks teammates, in the summer of 2008 in Las Vegas cannot be topped. (And, in retrospect, no one should try to top it.)

The prank is a little spooky, a lot intense, and contains a couple PG-13 words. You might not believe it, but Setoguchi confimed it’s “1,000” per cent true.

Listen here if you’re up for it. I’ve cued it up for you.

What do you think?

0 points
Upvote Downvote

Written by Sportsnet

Four key issues the NHL could provide clarity on this week

World Cup of Hockey elevated Sidney Crosby to all-time great