TORONTO – The off-season is in full swing and the moves keep coming for the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Marlies. Both teams will see changes to their rosters from last season as the Leafs have made some major alterations, which will for sure trickle down to the Marlies roster.
With James Van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, and Leo Komarov leaving the Leafs in free agency, and Matt Martin being traded to the Islanders, it looks as if there are some big holes to be filled. Having signed John Tavares to a seven-year, 11-million-dollar contract the Leafs will need to be careful with how they spend money through adding smaller-value contracts to their team this season. Toronto does have a significant amount of cap space currently, but with a William Nylander contract on the way, and big contracts for Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner next year, it looks like the Marlies will have some big names promoted from their roster to the big show.
Keeping that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the names which could get the call-up to the Leafs next season.
Well, you could technically say this move has already happened since it looks like Kapanen won’t spend any time with the Marlies this coming season. Kapanen had seven goals and two assists for nine points in 38 regular season games with the Leafs last season. He has proven that his speed and his penalty killing abilities are where they need to be to stay with the big club. It’s expected that he will put up more points in 2018-19, especially with the amount of talent the Leafs have on their roster.
Johnsson is another guy whose spot should basically be a lock. In a small sample size, Johnsson had two goals and an assist for three points in nine games in the regular season with the Leafs. He is another guy with a bunch of speed who has proven he can hang around in the NHL. Johnsson accepted his qualifying offer with the Leafs, which is a one-year, two-way contract for $787,500 US. As a member of the Marlies last season, Johnsson was a point-per-game player in 54 games and was amazing when coming back in the series to win the Calder Cup. He was the playoff MVP with 24 points (10G, 14A) in 16 games. With the open wing spots available this year, Andreas Johnsson should have one of them and has the potential to be a great depth player.
Boy did Travis Dermott leave a great impression on Maple Leafs fans last season. In 37 games, Dermott was a plus-16 and had 13 points. It wasn’t only the plus-16 and 13 points that Leaf fans noticed though – it was also the way he carried himself both on and off the ice and energy he provided to the club in just 37 games. His skating ability and zone entries and exits were also a plus. Dermott looks like he can take on decent minutes next year – on the bottom pairing, most likely. Who knows if Dermott takes another step and gets top-four minutes if more changes are made. I wouldn’t rule it out!
Fans got really excited when Holl came up and scored in back-to-back games with the Leafs last season. While we know he won’t be a goal-scoring machine, Justin Holl looks like a guy who can steal a spot with the big club next season. In 60 games with the Marlies last year, Holl had 28 points and was a plus-23. He was just signed to a two-year deal worth $675,000 per season. If anyone from the Marlies D-core has a chance to step up, it’s Holl. He is a solid option in his own zone and can put up points, even sometimes putting the puck in the back of the net himself. Justin has a great chance to make the team out of camp if he works on his game through the rest of the summer and steals a spot from a someone, maybe like Connor Carrick.
Grundstrom might not be on everyone’s radar but it’s time that people see his potential. The Leafs have some holes that we have gone through and they do have a couple options to fill them. Grundstrom could fill the role of Leo Komarov with more offensive production. Last season in the SHL he had 24 points in 35 games, and three points in two games with the Marlies. The playoffs were really where Grundstrom showed his value when he put up 14 points in 20 games. If the Leafs want a chippy player with some offensive skill to replace Komarov, then I fail to see how Grundstrom does not have a case this year to make the team.
This man may be the most interesting player that could make a move next season. Sparks put on a show with the Marlies last year in both the regular season and playoffs, making amazing saves and proving he can make that step up to the NHL as a very good backup goaltender. In 43 regular-season games played with the Marlies, Sparks had a 1.79 goals against average and a .935 save percentage, en route to being named the AHL’s most outstanding goalie.
With Frederik Andersen starting and Curtis McElhinney as a solid backup last season, a lot of people wonder if they really need to move McElhinney in favor of Sparks. The narrative in goal is they would like to see Andersen have more breaks this season and would prefer a solid backup to win some games. McElhinney gave them chances to win last year and has been great since joining the team, which means Sparks will really have to prove himself in camp to beat out McElhinney – and maybe even Marlies goalie partner Calvin Pickard.
Speaking of which, while it’s unlikely to happen, Pickard could be a backup goalie option for the Leafs next season. Pickard was signed to a one-year deal worth $800k with the Leafs, and would need waivers to be sent down to the Marlies. While he does have NHL experience and proved he can patrol the backup position, it seems that he will likely be moved before October or he will be starting with the Marlies next season if he clears waivers.
With those being the bigger names to be rumored, we can also talk about some other guys that may have a decent shot.
Andreas Borgman has spent time with the team before and wasn’t too bad. He looked like he belonged in his time with the Maple Leafs, but there were some flaws to his game. They were mostly defensively but it looks as of some of that was fixed as the year went on. He found his game again with the Marlies, and his skating ability could be a big reason he returns back to the Leafs.
Calle Rosen is another D-man who could come up. After having a shaky start to the season, he finished the playoffs with 11 points in 16 games. Rosen may have grown his stock substantially after his performance in the playoffs this past season, but it probably won’t be enough to make the squad.
Dmytro Timashov might be a guy that has an outside chance but the Leafs will probably be giving him another year with the Marlies to see if he can solidify himself at the next level. There are just a couple guys ahead of him that will more likely get more looks from the big club.
Pierre Engvall would give the Leafs another wing option, but he probably will be given more time with the Marlies before a decision is made on him. His stock has risen quite a bit as of late, but again, it’s the same thing with him as it was for Timashov – there are just bodies ahead of him in the depth chart.
Frederik Gauthier is still giving everything he has to possibly be the fourth line center for the Leafs next season. Although he is a slower guy, he is a big body that could make an impact on the fourth line. The Leafs look currently to have better options at this point unfortunately for him.
Timothy Liljegren is a guy I thought I had to include just because of how many people are excited for him to eventually be a Leaf. Most people believe it to be surprising when he fell to the Leafs at #17 in the 2017 NHL Draft, and they and are looking for him to come up ASAP. It is probably going to be another year or two before he makes it, but there are some people who believe that if he knocks it out of the park in camp this year, the Leafs may consider testing him out. Just don’t bank on it happening. He needs more time to develop and it’s not yet his time.