In these posts where I research and compile news and rumors from different places to try to keep Toronto Maple Leafs fans apprised of what’s going on within the organization, I usually put the news first and the rumors second. In today’s post, I’ve only decided to focus on the rumors because they seem a bit more entreating.
The Maple Leafs face some big decisions soon. Some of these decisions arise because the team feels it lacks a player it needs. And, some decisions are forced upon the team because the Maple Leafs forward unit especially has a treasure of talent and general manager Kyle Dubas and coach Sheldon Keefe (and their teams of advisors) want to make the most sagacious decisions they can.
Second, Trevor Moore is returning from an injury and the team needs to make space for his “kind of play.” By that, I mean that Moore is a smallish player at 5-foot-10 and 182 pounds. However, he plays much bigger. What attracts fans and the coaching staff to him is that he plays as if every shift is his last one – he has what my father used to call “fire in his belly.” That’s something the Maple Leafs or any other team actually needs in spades.
What should the team do to address these needs? In this post, I will share three rumors that have popped up this week specifically about addressing these two team needs.
The Maple Leafs Have Decisions to Make
Decision #1: The Maple Leafs Backup Goaltending
The Maple Leafs are scouting around Russia and have found another young, undrafted Russian hockey player who seems to have designs of heading to the NHL. He’s a 24-year-old Russian goalie named Timur Bilyalov, who’ had a successful run for three KHL seasons and whose contract runs out with his current team on April 30th of 2020.
His stats lead the KHL, with a .957 save percentage, a 1.10 GAA, and six shutouts. His record is 10-1-2 record in 16 games and he set a KHL record in November by playing 316 minutes and nine seconds without surrendering a goal.
Bilyalov isn’t the prototype NHL goalie. Bilyalov is 5-foot-10 and 174 pounds. However, his size hasn’t limited his success in Russia. Last season, he had a .930 save percentage in 38 games for Riga Dynamo and a .928 save percentage in 2017-18.
Maple Leafs fans might want to keep this young goalie on their own radar. We’ll see probably by the end of March what Bilyalov decides.
Decision #2: What Will the Maple Leafs Do with the “Extra” Forwards?
The Maple Leafs have some decisions to make in the next couple of weeks. What are the team’s options? In a rumor recently, James Mirtle of The Athletic suggests that the Maple Leafs third line of Ilya Mikheyev, Alex Kerfoot, and Pierre Engvall has looked really strong. However, now that Trevor Moore is coming back from his injuries, what to do?
Moore is a small bulldog, who represents the old saying “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” He’s tough and won’t quit. He fights hard, sort of like a smaller version of Zach Hyman. And, the team is better off with him in the lineup than it is without him there.
But the Maple Leafs cannot afford to try to waive either Dymtro Timashov of Frederik Gauthier. Teams would snap them up. That requires considerations, and those considerations remain up in the air. (from Mirtle: Should the Maple Leafs trade from a strength — their forward depth — to help them on D and in goal? James Mirtle, The Athletic, 12/14/19)
Decision #3: Should the Team Trade William Nylander?
Although the Maple Leafs have started to win more games under the direction of new head coach Keefe, there are sources who believe the team is listening to other teams who have shown interest in William Nylander.
I can’t imagine that the team is trying to trade the young Swede; he’s too good and really – when the dust has settled – his contract (within the team structure) almost seems team-friendly. Still, a team has to listen – right?
There was news that the Maple Leafs asked the New Jersey Devils about P.K. Subban and that the Devils quickly responded: “give us Nylander.” As well, Nylander has been rumored to be in a considered deal to the St Louis Blues for one of that team’s right-handed defensemen.
However, rumors are only rumors until someone pulls the trigger. And, Nylander is having a good season (23 points in 33 games). That said, I think he could score even more. Is it his work ethic? Might he go? I’m thinking not because the word is that Keefe loves him as a player.
If anything did happen, it would have to be a huge trade – important players would move on both teams.
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