Toronto Maple Leafs: Shutout by Matt Murray

Toronto Maple Leafs: Shutout by Matt Murray
Babcock: Leafs roster awaits having everyone on deck
As the Toronto Maple Leafs await the signing of restricted free agent William Nylander, head coach Mike Babcock suggested Friday the teams permanent roster makeup will remain up in the air until the winger returns.

Babcock was asked specifically about whether Swedish forward Par Lindholm, who opened the season as the teams fourth-line centre, would remain on the wing moving forward. Babcock said the teams roster will remain in flux for the time being.

McKenzie: The Nashville Predators sent Eeli Tolvanen to the minors during training camp and they said he needs to get more used to small ice and the pace of professional hockey. But he has also got a clause in his contract that says once he has played 10 games in the AHL, if he wants to leave the AHL and go back to the KHL and make millions more playing for Jokerit, hes entitled to do so. Hes now played five games in the AHL, one goal and three assists, the Predators are hoping that hell decide to stay for the whole year, whether its in the minors or whatever, but Tolvanen has got to make that decision. If he does go to the KHL, he cant come back this season to the NHL, so five games from now he has a tough call to make. 

“I dont predict the future, right? If we stay with the current lineup, hes going to be a winger,” Babcock said. “If we get everyone on deck here, its going to be different.”

LeBrun: Not the only guys going from their entry-level deals after this year. Brayden Point, pretty good young centre for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Im told his agent Gerry Johansson met GM Julien BriseBois of the Lightning this week and essentially they said listen, lets shelve these discussions until after the season, lets let him focus on hockey, its a big year again for the Lightning. But make no mistake, this is a very important contract when it happens for Tampa Bay.  And yet again because they draft so well and have so many good players, its going to be salary cap gymnastics for that organization when its time to re-sign him.

Lindholm has spent the five games at left wing on a line with Nazem Kadri and Connor Brown. Hes posted one goal and two points in those five games, while Frederik Gauthier has taken over his spot as the teams fourth-line centre.

#Leafs lines at practice: Hyman-Tavares-Marner Marleau-Matthews-Kapanen Lindholm-Kadri-Brown Leivo-Gauthier-Johnsson Ennis Rielly-Hainsey Gardiner-Zaitsev Dermott-Ozhiganov Marincin-Holl Andersen Sparks

Babcock shut down a question earlier this week on whether Kasperi Kapanen would keep his role on the top line with Auston Matthews when Nylander returns.

LeBrun: I dont think so, obviously with both sides being very quiet on this, but my understanding of the situation is despite that meeting, which is absolutely a positive step and a needed step to get this thing going again, but no numbers were exchanged. I think there is a lot of work still to be done in this negotiation to salvage this thing. Certainly the next week to 10 days are a critical juncture for this either way, but still a lot of work to be done.

“I just kind of worry about the guys that are here, so I dont have to spend much time speculating on that,” Babcock told reporters.

Dreger: Yes, the NHL is 100 per cent open to it, its inevitable it is going happen. What we dont have is a timeline as to when its going to happen. There have been women who have attended the NHL officials combine in Buffalo in the past, but I know the NHL is putting out the invite to say look the college players, national team women absolutely come to this combine go through the experience and if youre up to the pace, well find a way to get you in.

Maple Leafs dismantling by Penguins leaves sour taste

Nylander, meanwhile, remains in Europe as he continues to negotiate a contract with the team. General manager Kyle Dubas met with the 22-year-old in Switzerland on Wednesday, but TSN Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun reports a deal is not imminent.

Despite Kyle Dubas travelling to Switzerland to meet with William Nylander, no numbers were exchanged and the Leafs and their star winger remain far apart on a deal. Brayden Point will also be looking for a big contract out of his entry-level deal, has there been any progress with Tampa? The TSN Hockey Insiders discuss this and much more in Insider Trading.

“I dont think so, obviously with both sides being very quiet on this, but my understanding of the situation is despite that meeting, which is absolutely a positive step and a needed step to get this thing going again, but no numbers were exchanged,” LeBrun said on Thursdays Insider Trading. “I think there is a lot of work still to be done in this negotiation to salvage this thing. Certainly the next week to 10 days is a critical juncture for this either way, but still a lot of work to be done.”

When news broke that Kyle Dubas was flying to Switzerland to meet with William Nylander, there was a collective jump to conclusion from Leafs fans that a deal was imminent but not necessarily so.  

@wmnylander practising with Austrian hockey team Dornbirn Bulldogs this week. Image shows Nylander together with Bulldogs Head Coach @DaveMacQueen. pic.twitter.com/qFrtAPTqS0

Tampa Bay terminated the contract of Jake Dotchin when he reportedly came to camp really out of shape and the NHLPA launched a grievance. Whats the rationale here?

The Maple Leafs suffered their second loss of the season on Thursday, falling 3-0 to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The team will be back in action Saturday against the St. Louis Blues.

TORONTO – In the midst of a painfully slow offensive start to his season, Nazem Kadri got rewarded for one period on Thursday night with the matchup he loves more than any other.

Eeli Tolvanen was expected to have a big impact based on his international resume and still might, but is stuck in the minors and a decision looming.

The Maple Leafs centre, who has zero goals through eight games this year, was lined up across from Sidney Crosby to start the third frame between Pittsburgh and Toronto. Chances like those were familiar territory for Kadri in three seasons as the Leafs matchup centre, but that role has since been snatched away as coach Mike Babcock continues fine-tuning his lineup without restricted free agent holdout William Nylander.

Other than Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, there are other players coming off entry-level deals looking for big pay raises.

I always appreciate that [matchup]. I think it brings the best out of me and my linemates, Kadri said after practice at MasterCard Centre on Friday. Youre engaged every single shift. You know those guys, you cant have a bad shift because it could end up in the back of your net, and I think I thrive off that opportunity.

So does Babcock. Hes said in the past Kadri flourishes when given a specific assignment, especially when its against the NHLs top players like Crosby and Connor McDavid. With Nylander missing, Babcock has had trouble finding the right combination of wingers for Kadri that make his line trustworthy enough to be in the matchup spot.

To make that happen, Babcock got creative. Four games into the season, he moved Josh Leivo off Kadris left wing and slotted centre Par Lindholm there instead, with Connor Brown stationed on the right side.

Over the last five games, the newly formed third line has developed noticeable chemistry and played sound defensively, posting 58 per cent possession and zero goals-against.

We havent matched up Nazs line just because of the situation and whos on it, but we think were in a position to start doing that here, and thatll be good for Naz here as well, said Babcock. Hes an important player on our team. We need him to be mean, we need him to compete and compete hard and keep doing what hes doing.

Babcock added that for as long as the Leafs have their current lineup, Lindholm will stay as a winger in Torontos long-term plan but, if we get everyone on deck here, its going to be different.

Until another inevitable shakeup materializes with Nylanders return, Kadri couldnt hide his enthusiasm over a potential return of his matchup job in the near future.

Im ready, he said. Any matchup Im given Im going to do the best I can to keep those players off the scoresheet and make it as hard on them as possible. For right now thats obviously Babs decision, but if I get the nod, Im going to be more than prepared.

Resuming that role could be exactly what Kadri needs to see resurgence in his scoring, too. So far, he and Zach Hyman are the only Leafs top-nine forwards who havent lit the lamp, and Kadri has points in just two of his first eight games.

What Tyler Seguin can teach us about William Nylander

Four assists fall short of the production Kadri expects from himself, especially after compiling back-to-back 32 goal seasons from 2016-18, but last season he benefited from playing with highly skilled forwards Mitch Marner and Patrick Marleau on his wings, and he was more prominently featured on the power play. Kadri led the Leafs with 12 man advantage goals a season ago, but the additions of John Tavares and Auston Matthews to his unit has cut down on Kadris touches.

When he went through a 20-game slump in 2017-18 with only one goal to his credit, Kadri stayed relentlessly optimistic about how the chances he was generating would eventually turn things around. Kadris tried to invoke the same attitude now, when he leads the teams forwards in possession at 56 per cent and has put together a string of solid performances in recent games.

Malkin scores 2 as Penguins blank high-flying Maple Leafs

But his underlying emotions came through late in that third period against Pittsburgh as he smashed his stick on the Penguins net after the Leafs gave up a second empty net goal, the first of which had been put in accidentally by Kadri.

Scouting CGY-BOS, Leafs, Red Wings, Penguins, Hurricanes, and the Predators – MyNHLTradeRumors.com NHL Rumors: Scouting CGY-BOS, Leafs, Red Wings, Penguins, Hurricanes, and the Predators

I was pissed, for sure. I was not happy, he said. I had multiple opportunities to tie the game and it wasnt falling for me. And then a bad break on that empty-net goal going off our player. Thats as bad as its going to get, and I know its only going to go upwards from here.