Welcome back to the well-oiled machine that is the NHL Rumours series here at Last Word on Hockey. Even after the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline has come and gone, there are still rumblings that surface surrounding teams’ plans for the future. Our articles will still come to you daily breaking down these rumours. Today, it’s the Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes on tap.
Toronto Maple Leafs – Part 1
Rumour: Per Elliotte Friedman’s dependable 31 Thoughts, San Jose Sharks legend Joe Thornton may look at signing with the Leafs this offseason after not being traded to a contender at this year’s deadline.
31 Thoughts: Enjoy the post-deadline edition https://t.co/QEzWVZJBly
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) February 26, 2020
Analysis: After the centre’s obvious displeasure with his team’s performance this season, and as his Stanley Cup window draws to a close, Thornton’s desire to leave San Jose is well-supported. And, with only four goals on the season, it’s becoming more apparent that his offensive touch is dwindling.
However, a team like Toronto seems like an oddly good fit when you look at it. With a team that has so many natural goal-scorers, it almost seems like there’s too much of a good thing at times. Thornton doesn’t put the puck in the net, but he’s great at creating plays that end up in goals. His elite passing ability would help spark the bottom-six or even top-six (in a limited fashion) and truly make them the most dynamic offensive group in the league.
Given the ups and downs of this campaign, Toronto will be an extremely motivated team next season. Thornton would be wise to join a youthful team heading on the right track.
Toronto Maple Leafs – Part 2
Rumour: Sport-Express’ Igor Eronko reports via Twitter that the Leafs are interested in Russian youngster Yegor Chinakhov, who’s drawing interest from around the league as well.
— Igor Eronko (@IgorEronko) February 26, 2020
Analysis: Toronto loves their undrafted Europeans. Their history has garnered mixed results – for every Nikita Zaitsev, there’s been an Ilya Mikheyev. The 2001-born forward has absolutely lit it up with Omskie Yastreby of the MHL this year. In just 53 games, he has 63 points. He brings an element of speed and skill that could only add to Toronto’s wing depth, and maybe replace a hole that may be created by a Kasperi Kapanen trade.
However, Chinakhov comes with a bit of an asterisk. Toronto, unlike what they did with the aforementioned Zaitsev and Mikheyev, can’t just sign him. Considering his age and other restrictions, Chinakhov still has to go through the draft system in order for his rights to be acquired by a team. This means that any team can take a waiver on the 19-year-old Russian forward this June.
So, Toronto will have to give up assets to acquire Chinakhov’s rights if they’re truly interested in him. That’s if another team is able to snap him up in the draft before general manager Kyle Dubas and the Leafs can.
Rumour: Also mentioned in Friedman’s 31 Thoughts, the Hurricanes may intend to acquire a goaltender, even after Monday’s trade deadline passed.
If you watched Tuesday’s game against the Dallas Stars, you’d know Nedeljkovic struggled mightily.
So while Carolina wasn’t able to acquire a goaltender as anticipated in NHL Rumours, their time isn’t necessarily up. How is this possible?
The trade deadline has massive implications for playoff eligibility. It doesn’t deal with the remainder of a regular season for teams. So, theoretically, a team could still make a trade after the deadline. However, the players involved would not be eligible for participation in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That’s Carolina’s plan here. They get a goalie to make sure they secure a playoff berth. Then, hand the reigns back over to Reimer and Mrazek who should be healthy by the arrival of the playoffs. Again, whichever goaltender they acquire would not be eligible under any circumstance to play for them in the playoffs, even if they make it. It’s an unusual move, but a smart one for Carolina if they go with it.