Maple Leafs Mail Bag: Does Lehtonen’s Signature Endanger Dermott?


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In this week’s Maple Leafs Mailbag, we look at the ramifications of signing Mikko Lehtonen on the rest of the defense, why the NHL salary cap should stay flat (albeit artificially), the advantage of the European list, and some of the reasons for the biggest commercial error in modern history for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

United correspondents!

“As far as Mikko is concerned and where he fits,” said general manager Kyle Dubas, “you really want to work on his strengths and what he does best and integrate that into our program.

“As for whether he will play on the left and the right side, it’s so hard to answer now. It would be easier if our season was over and we knew more about where we were. But I think we hopefully want to come back and end our season and assess the things from there that determine if we want to try it on both sides, but I think the versatility certainly helps. “

Lehtonen, a left-footed shot, played the entire 2018-19 season in the Swedish Elite League on the right, and said in his signing that he preferred sometimes.

However, Lehtonen’s best and most recent work has been done on his side, which leads us to bet that he will start the third left shot and take stock on the second unit in power play, Tyson Barrie signing elsewhere.

We don’t see Lehtonen supplanting Morgan Rielly or Jake Muzzin on the left side in the first four. Both prefer their strong sides and have earned their roles. Leftists Rasmus Sandin and Travis Dermott both received much of the change from their weak side while developing with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies in recognition of the organizational weakness. The two are ready to do whatever it takes to stay.

While it’s possible that Dubas will swing Dermott in an exchange, I think the smart game is to sign it again. The FRG did not have a monster platform campaign. He likes it here, and he has no arbitration rights. In addition, a fixed salary cap will do little for Dermott’s bargaining leverage.

Dermott’s signing of a reasonable transition agreement also protects against the type of injury problem that besieged the 2019-2020 Leafs’ blue line.

We still believe that Dubas will strive to sign or trade for a natural forehand to join Justin Holl in the top four, whenever the off-season is upon us. If that fails or injuries happen, maybe Lehtonen will have some looks from his weak side next to Muzzin or Rielly.

It’s a bonus, for sure.

It is not uncommon to see friends Andreas Johnsson and Pierre Engvall chatting in Swedish in the locker room, and their compatriots Rasmus Sandin and William Nylander huddled before the defender went to the show.

In signing, Lehtonen mentioned some familiarity with young Kasperi Kapanen, although he is much closer to Colorado Avalanche star Mikko Rantanen.

Ilya Mikheyev and Alexander Barabanov share the same agent, Dan Milstein, and I’m sure Mikheyev – diligent in his efforts to learn English – will welcome the idea of ​​speaking with someone in his own language.

“This is not an easy transition for a European player, especially for a Russian player who does not speak English,” said coach Sheldon Keefe. “We are very fortunate here to have gained a lot of experience in organizing the Maple Leafs with players in similar circumstances to make this transition. It’s really up to us to really help this transition as best we can, but I think all the different experiences that players and their families are going through make it seamless. It is up to us to make it happen and to make it happen that he can be himself and play as quickly as possible. “

Keefe winks at the development role played by Nik Antropov in the organization.

“We started to have Nik around more just to help with Mikheyev,” said Keefe, “and we think Barabanov’s situation is going to be very similar to this. We think he’s going to be a very important part of the team. Certainly, the addition of Antropov and its presence is another step that this organization is taking to facilitate this step and this transition period. “

The salary cap for 2020-2021 is expected to remain stable at $ 81.5 million, and I imagine it will remain there for 2021-2022 and possibly 2022-2023 as well. The league will take a long time to recover from the economic damage from the pandemic, but NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr should not punish clubs by lowering the cap and forcing them GM to trade or redeem players. they want to keep.

“Neither of the men has an interest in ruining NHL hockey teams. If we were to take things literally, you would probably have 28 teams that should really be dismantled. There are 28 sellers and not enough buyers, “Leafs president Brendan Shanahan said. Tim and Sid. “We are going to want to come back in force. We are going to want to go back to our fans with all of our star players that we have assembled.

“I hope whatever the cap is today, it will remain so. I am in fact more than hope. I am confident that the league and the union will find a way to do this. “

So this will be an artificial ceiling – as was the case during the 2012 lockout. This means that players will not bring back the money indicated on their CapFriendly profile. Either they will put huge chunks in receivership or they will accept a plan to cut wages at the next ABC.

Yes and maybe.

Lehtonen’s signing and the likelihood of a right addition should certainly increase competition for places, but in my eyes, Sandin is ready for a permanent leap in the NHL – even at the age of 20. That he is happy to play his weak side helps his case to stick.

Timothy Liljegren could go both ways. His 11-game call in 2020 was made necessary by an outbreak of injuries and looked purely like a test. Because he was selected a year and 12 places earlier than Sandin, fans tend to forget that he is only 21 years old. There are ways to get here on a developmental path that has been delayed by multiple injuries and, now, a frozen season.

Although he was used in NHL shelters and started 54% of his shifts in the attacking zone, Liljegren’s numbers weren’t that hot: no goals, an assist, two shots, minus-5, 44.2 Corsi for the percentage.

Like all of us, Liljegren is a work in progress. He will have to shine at training camp.

Nick Robertson.

John Ferguson Jr.’s decision to give Tuukka Rask the first round for Andrew Raycroft in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft was the most unfortunate decision since Ron Burgundy jumped into the grizzly bear exhibit.

But the former general manager of Toronto had his reasons. To begin with, Raycroft won the title Calder Trophy. Apparently a rising star, Raycroft’s .926 sparkling savings percentage in 2003-04 also earned goaltender Hart Trophy votes. Who knew that his first season would be his best?

In addition, Ferguson has been watching Raycroft since he was director of personnel for the Blues in the 1998 draft. Boston caught him a few choices earlier, at 135. In the 2005 draft, there were other teams targeting Raycroft , so the competition was strong. (Phoenix would have been willing to offer a second round.)

JFJ also owned the rights of another prominent goalkeeper of the future to Justin Pogge. A young Rask – who was outclassed in Finland by Raycroft during the 2004-05 lockout – felt redundant on his depth chart, and Ed Belfour was aging.

The GM wanted to win sooner rather than later. He guessed wrong.

I’m with you, Mikey. The guardian personality of the players – whether via social media, podcasts or Zoom calls – has been a rainbow in these cloudy times.

They have more free time than ever. They are in a relaxed setting. There is no game to prepare for. No p.r. representative hovering, hoping for pictures.

“It was incredible. There is a desire – and, of course, it’s unique to have time and to be at home – and an interest in getting out of what players would normally be, in going out and wanting to get involved and to talk to the fans and I want to entertain a little or send a message a little, “said Steve Mayer, NHL content manager.

“We all know there is some measure of being lightly guarded during the regular season. Now you are at home. It’s a more relaxed situation. Children run around. We are resting. “

Will players reach roughly the same level of loose engagement when normalcy returns? I doubt.

Has this great equalizer encouraged the rich and famous to realize that it is okay – heck, even fun – to let your guard down a little more often? To be a little more silly or laid back or spontaneous or opinionated? I think so.


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