Leafs commerce down at NHL entry draft to shed goalie Petr Mrazek’s contract

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The Maple Leafs had been attempting to maintain a Plan B for his or her goaltending open because the crease image across the NHL modified dramatically all through Thursday.

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They freed up cash for Jack Campbell or maybe one other netminder and erased a mistake from final 12 months, all with a commerce of problem-plagued backup Petr Mrazek to the Chicago Blackhawks throughout Thursday evening’s opening spherical of the NHL draft in Montreal.

Simply earlier than they chose at twenty fifth total, common supervisor Kyle Dubas moved Mrazek and the decide to the Hawks with Toronto dropping to thirty eighth. That took the Leafs out of the primary spherical for the third time in 4 years, shifting all their picks to Friday, with the Hawks’ second-rounder, Winnipeg’s within the third (79th total) and a seventh-rounder (218th).

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The Leafs will save $3.8 million US this 12 months and subsequent with Mrazek shifting on.

On Wednesday, Dubas was attempting to drum up commerce curiosity, by extolling Mrazek’s virtues, writing off his first-year points in Toronto, together with a few accidents and an .888 save share, as an anomaly. With the deal accomplished, Dubas is shifting on from his mistake.

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“With the cap house we’ve got now, each possibility is out there to us,” he informed reporters on the Bell Centre.

However Campbell will nonetheless be seeking to a minimum of double and maybe triple the $1.6 million he was paid final 12 months and get a long run. That may probably require Dubas to save lots of much more wage as the beginning of free agent buying looms on Wednesday.

Toronto hasn’t precisely been flush with single-season 30-game winners in internet since Felix Potvin, Curtis Joseph and Ed Belfour had been every large elements of convention closing appearances between 1993 and 2002. But Campbell, who’s among the many high 20 in franchise wins and ranks third in membership historical past with a .916 save share (minimal 75 video games) can -likely get far more than Toronto can afford with golf equipment comparable to Edmonton additionally on the lookout for assist in internet.

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Darcy Kuemper has come on the radar because the Colorado Avalanche traded for Alexandar Georgiev as their major stopper. Georgiev was in Igor Shesterkin’s shadow in New York, whereas Kuemper has the bonus of a Stanley Cup to lure suitors. Dubas mentioned when the prospect he wished was gone at 25, Dubas obtained on the telephone to Hawks’ counterpart Kyle Davidson.

Marc-Andre Fleury, 37 years previous however only a 12 months faraway from a Vezina Trophy, made a late-day resolution to return to the Minnesota Wild for a two-year deal at an AAV of $3.5 million US. Earlier than that, Toronto, Washington and his draft crew, the Pittsburgh Penguins had been linked to him.

Ottawa’s Matt Murray is way extra an extended shot for the Leafs, however one with a historic connection to Dubas and head coach Sheldon Keefe by way of their time along with the Soo Greyhounds. Murray is sad as one among three Senators’ goalies and able to transfer after a wonky season of accidents and one controversial demotion. Some buyout or commerce voodoo must occur to get him to the Leafs or wherever else, working across the $6.25 million owed the following two seasons. When commerce talks with Buffalo heated up this week, with the Senators’ first spherical decide (seventh total) in play, Murray refused to take town off his no-fly record.

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The shine got here off Campbell in post-season play, with two of the membership’s six straight first-round failures on his watch. And Dubas should not solely watch out with money the place Soupy is anxious, however be cautious of the long run Campbell seeks to take full benefit of his restricted free agent window. Dubas already has six gamers making in extra of $6.9 million as much as $11.6 that’s consuming main cap house.

Dubas insisted the Leafs have good choices for a brand new back-up between Erik Kallgren and Joseph Woll who noticed restricted motion final 12 months.

RUSSIAN AROUND

Dubas is attempting to navigate what’s happening with Russian hockey in these turbulent occasions, every thing from the potential of additional restrictions on NHL gamers there now or the potential pitfalls of drafting somebody with their membership and nationwide groups being banned all over the world within the wake of the invasion of Ukraine.

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“Heading into the draft, Russians are eligible,” concluded Dubas on Wednesday when requested to evaluate threat. “It’s been a bit harder gathering the identical data on them. We’ll consider as they arrive ahead on our record.”

The Leafs have made scouting Russian free brokers from the KHL and researching draft picks a precedence in recent times, choosing 4 Russians the previous two years.

“There’s a lot uncertainly (now), a state of affairs I’ve not encountered in my time right here,” Dubas mentioned. “We’ve individuals on our employees who had been concerned when it was very troublesome to get gamers out of Russia for various causes than immediately. At the moment, a number of excellent gamers got here to the NHL a bit later.

“I’m simply talking of hockey choices. There’s clearly a a lot better human state of affairs taking place there.”

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The Leafs have a few 6-foot-1 Russian goalies with Kazan within the KHL proper now, Artur Akhtyamov (drafted 106th total in 2020) and Vyacheslav Peska (185th final 12 months).

LIGHTNING STRIKES

Was Dubas pulling for Tampa to beat the Avalanche within the Cup closing for higher optics after the Leafs failed to complete them within the first spherical?.

“I by no means consider issues that method. In the long run we didn’t get it accomplished. To pause the time and house continuum and say we’d have accomplished the identical factor … we simply should give attention to ourselves. The ‘what ifs’ don’t actually assist, don’t remedy the sleepless nights, or make you’re feeling any higher. If something, it’s most likely a bit bit the opposite method.”

“We simply should give attention to ourselves in avoiding that very same feeling, avoiding the identical questions of ‘does it make you’re feeling higher that this crew you performed nicely towards was two wins away (from the Cup)?’. We have to be the crew in that place shifting forward and we really feel we’re poised to try this. Extra essential, our gamers imagine they’re.”

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LOOSE LEAFS

Dubas obtained one second and one third place vote from govt friends for the Jim Gregory GM of 12 months award, ending tenth total behind deserving winner Joe Sakic of the Avs … That is Wes Clark’s first draft accountable for Leaf beginner scouting after shifting as much as substitute John Lilley. “His communication with the employees was similar to John’s,” Dubas mentioned. “He was glorious all year long at hammering dwelling with the employees what he wished everyday, assembly to assembly, by way of wanting the fellows to complement all their reside viewings with extra proof with video, to examine your work. Wes leans closely on our analysts’ division and our analysis and improvement” … Dubas did the speaking for now on the numerous strikes this week for the his hockey division, particularly new assistant GM Hayley Wickenheiser and new goalie coach Curtis Sanford. On Wickenheiser changing into the sixth lady to be named assistant within the NHL in a short while, Dubas mentioned “I feel it’s an awesome development. It simply exhibits the various totally different individuals, genders, races, sexual orientations, no matter it might be, which might be able to doing nice issues in hockey. The hirings within the final 12 months and the final week changing into extra various (together with Mike Grier of San Jose as the primary Black GM) is nice for the long run and the state of hockey.” New Jersey’s new assistant GM, Kate Madigan,  introduced the Devils’ first decide, defenceman Simon Nemec … Wickenheiser received’t probably tackle her historic appointment till improvement camp later this month, whereas Keefe received’t touch upon Sanford till September coaching camp … Bringing in Fleury would have continued a slightly curious fixation many Leaf GMs have had with buying another person’s No. 1 total decide. Fleury would have been the ninth, after Dale McCourt (Detroit 1977), Rob Ramage Colorado ’79), Mats Sundin (Quebec ’89), Owen Nolan (’90 Quebec), Eric Lindros (’91, Quebec), Bryan Berard (Ottawa ’95), Thornton (Boston ’97) and John Tavares (Islanders, 2009).

lhornby@postmedia.com

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