Latest on the Leafs and Jets – March 31, 2017
The latest on the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets in your NHL rumor mill.
SPORTSNET: During a recent interview with Detroit station 97.1 The Ticket, NHL Hall of Famer and former Detroit Red Wings defenseman Chris Chelios stated his belief that veteran free agents don’t want to play for Toronto Maple Leafs coach (and former Wings bench boss) Mike Babcock. Chelios played for Babcock from 2005 to 2009 and apparently holds a grudge against his old coach, but he insists that no veteran free agent wants to play for him.
“It’s nothing personal, but he’s a tough guy to play for if you’re a veteran. If you’re a young guy, I think it’s great because of the accountability. If you don’t play [properly], you’re not going to play,” Chelios said. It’s worth noting that several notable unrestricted free agents, including Stephen Weiss, Daniel Alfredsson, Marian Hossa and Brad Richards, joined the Wings during Babcock’s tenure.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Much was made of Valtteri Filppula’s refusal to accept a trade from Tampa Bay to the Leafs at the trade deadline, with some observers leaping to the conclusion that he didn’t want to play for his former coach again. Filppula denied this, claiming the Leafs were among several clubs on his “no-trade” list that he submitted last summer and he didn’t want to change it. However, that hasn’t stopped some folks from suggesting Babcock’s presence could make it difficult for the Leafs to acquire veteran free-agent talent.
Babcock may be a demanding coach, but he’s also well-respected and has a proven record as a winner. With the Leafs stocked with rising young stars and showing significant improvement, I doubt Babcock’s presence will hurt their efforts to add some veteran free agents.
WINNIPEG SUN: Paul Friesen believes Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff must add “a bona fide No. 1 goalie with NHL experience.” He feels they cannot start next season with the current tandem of Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson and points out promising Eric Comrie needs another year of seasoning with the Jets’ AHL farm club. He suggests Chicago Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling as a free-option option worth pursuing but notes the Jets would have competition for his services this summer.
The Jets could also try to re-sign defenseman Jacob Trouba, who has a year remaining on his contract and is a restricted free agent in 2018. However, Friesen expects Trouba will wait until the end of his current deal before deciding if he’ll re-sign to a long-term contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cheveldayoff stubbornly stuck with Ondrej Pavelec as his starter for years, so he could put his faith again in his current tandem of Hellebuyck and Hutchinson. However, I think he’ll acknowledge that his goaltending needs improvement and will shop around for a proven starter.
Darling would be a much more affordable option than someone like the LA Kings’ Ben Bishop. Cheveldayoff could also target the New York Rangers’ Antti Raanta or the Washington Capitals’ Philipp Grubauer via the trade market before the expansion draft in June.