It hasn’t taken long for speculation to arise tying Toronto Maple Leafs general manager (and former New Jersey Devils GM) Lou Lamoriello with a player on his former team. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports “more than one NHL exec” believes Lamoriello would love to acquire Devils center Travis Zajac.
The 30-year-old Zajac was selected 20th overall in the 2004 NHL draft by Lamoriello, and within two years made his debut with the Devils, netting 42 points in 2006-07. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound center’s two-way play swiftly made him a key forward. In Jan. 2013, Lamoriello re-signed Zajac to an eight-year, $46-million contract.
Since reaching a career-high 67 points in 2009-10, however, Zajac’s production has declined. Last season was the nadir, tallying only 25 points in 74 games while being demoted to checking line duty. Part of that decline can be blamed on the Devils lack of offensive depth, but it doesn’t fully explain the dramatic drop in his offense. Read more
The Toronto Maple Leafs have stockpiled veterans on tryout contracts for the upcoming season, but now you can add another well-known name via trade: Michael Grabner. The New York Islanders unloaded the speedy Austrian on the Leafs in exchange for prospects Matt Finn, Carter Verhaeghe, Chris Gibson, Taylor Beck and Tom Nilsson.
So what’s up with this trade?
(The AHL has undergone a season of change and one-third of the league has changed locations or logos for the 2015-16 season. Leading up to the new season, The Hockey News will be ranking the logos of the league’s teams and offering a brief look at the history of each franchise. See the rest of the rankings in our AHL feed.)
Thanks to divisional realignment and the birth of the Pacific Division, the Toronto Marlies will be playing in the Eastern Conference for the first time since entering the AHL in 2005, but don’t expect it to have a major impact on how the Marlies fare this season.
Instead, expect the biggest impact to be the continued improvement of Maple Leafs prospects such as Connor Brown, Brendan Leipsic, Ryan Rupert and, should he not make the Toronto roster, William Nylander. The Marlies are going to benefit greatly from the current turnaround/rebuild period in Toronto. A number of fresh young faces are going to come through the AHL and with Mike Babcock at the helm for the Maple Leafs, expect development to be patient and cautious.
The trade that sent Phil Kessel from Toronto to the Pittsburgh Penguins brought the Marlies two nice prospects in Kasperi Kapanen and Scott Harrington, both of whom project to suit up in the middle of the lineup at their respective positions.
In goal, expect 22-year-old Christopher Gibson to continue to improve. He posted a stellar .921 save percentage and 2.42 goals-against average in his second season in the AHL. He could be a future goaltender for the big club, but he’s going to continue to work the kinks out with the Marlies. Read more
A good number of goaltenders choose to go with bold designs and outlandish characters for their mask designs, but Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jonathan Bernier is going a much more classic route with his mask for the 2015-16 season.
Bernier put his newest lid on display for the world to see via his Instagram page Sunday, and the new design is sleek, simple and easy on the eye.
As always, his signature lion is on the crown of the mask, but it’s the way the mask’s other panels have been designed that really makes the helmet’s design shine. Read more
Saturday is set to be the day Hall of Fame Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Borje Salming had his statue unveiled as parts of ‘Legends Row’ outside the Air Canada Center, but another Swedish Maple Leafs legend will also be on hand to join Salming: Mats Sundin.
Sundin spent the bulk of his career in Toronto. Though he was drafted first overall by the Quebec Nordiques in 1989, he only spent four seasons with the organization before he was shipped to the Maple Leafs in a deal that brought another Toronto legend, Wendel Clark, to the Nordiques.
In 13 seasons with the Maple Leafs, Sundin suited up for 981 games, the sixth-most in franchise history. He finished his career as the franchise’s all-time leader in goals (420) and points (987). During his 13 years with the Maple Leafs, Sundin was captain for 10. Read more
2014-15 Record: 30-44-8 (68 pts.)
THN’s Prediction: 8th, Atlantic Division
What To Expect: After quietly evaluating his club in his first year as president, Brendan Shanahan tore apart the foundation of the Maple Leafs and began building a new one. Out is Phil Kessel, the face of the franchise since 2009, dealt to the Penguins for prospects. Installed as coach is Mike Babcock, who enters with a winning pedigree and the job security of an eight-year, $50-million contract – the largest ever for a bench boss. Shanahan stunned the hockey world with the Babcock hire and did it again when he recruited Lou Lamoriello as GM. With two hires, the Leafs solidified the brain trust to guide the rebuild. The suit-wearing segment of the organization is set, but the jersey-wearing segment is another story. Read more
Another day, another respectable veteran addition to Toronto’s island of misfit toys.
On Wednesday the Maple Leafs signed left winger Curtis Glencross, 32, to a professional tryout. That comes less than a month after right winger Devin Setoguchi joined the Blue and White on a PTO.
Glencross shouldn’t have much trouble making this team. He’s produced eight straight seasons of double-digit goal scoring. He’s a two-time 20-goal man. He’s an accurate shooter, 12 percent or better in seven of his eight full seasons. Glencross disappointed as Washington Capitals trade deadline acquisition from Calgary this past spring, but a guy who produces 35 points in a down year still has a place on any NHL roster.
Why Toronto, though? Why would a scorched-earth rebuild squad want a veteran top-nine forward? It’s all part of a master plan being confidently executed by the Leafs’ suped up new regime, including Brendan Shanahan, Mike Babcock, Lou Lamoriello, Kyle Dubas and Mark Hunter.
Welcome back to the Futures mailbag. We’re only one week away from real, regular season hockey being played in the Quebec League and other junior circuits will follow after that. In the meantime, here are more prospect and draft questions from you, the readers. If you have a query for me, hit me up on Twitter at @THNRyanKennedy and attach the hashtag #thnfutures to make sure I see it. Let’s get to the questions!