The biggest roster move for the Toronto Maple Leafs will be when newly-acquired Nick Foligno suits up with the team. However, the Maple Leafs have made a number of roster changes – and even will see schedule changes – as the weekend approaches. Not the least of these is that the postponed games against the Vancouver Canucks will happen sooner than anticipated – in fact, it will be played on Sunday.
In this post, I’ll try to help Maple Leafs’ fans keep up with the changes that are happening with the team.
Following an example set by the Stanley Cup winning Tampa Bay Lightning last season, the Maple Leafs threw all their poker chips at the hand they’ve been dealt and brought in Nick Foligno to the roster from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Most Maple Leafs’ watchers – including myself – applauded the move.
Although Foligno is not the most-skilled NHL player, he’s a model hockey player and a great leader. He’s exceedingly team-oriented to the point of being selfless. He moves from the Blue Jackets, where he’d been the captain since the end of the 2014-15 NHL season. The previous captain had been Rick Nash, but he had moved to the New York Rangers in 2012.
With the Maple Leafs, he moves to a lineup where he’ll obviously assume the role of a leader but not formally. Instead, he’ll fill in as a role player – playing up and down the lineup as his new head coach Sheldon Keefe desires.
The Maple Leafs have as good a chance this season as they’ve had since 1967 to take a run at the Stanley Cup. They are going all in, and Foligno looks to become a big part of the team moving toward that goal. Furthermore, he chose to come – he noted that, in his heart, it felt right.
On Friday, the NHL announced a number of schedule changes to the 2020-21 season for teams in the North Division. Specifically, as it pertains to the Maple Leafs’ immediate future, the team will face the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday at 7:00 p.m Toronto time. That game was supposed to be played on Saturday. The Maple Leafs will play the Canucks again on Tuesday, April 20.
In good news for the team, William Nylander tested negative again and was removed from the NHL’s COVID protocol-related absence list on Friday. When he returns to the lineup is up to Nylander himself, and coach Keefe noted that it depends upon Nylander’s self-decided conditioning and fitness levels. Nylander hasn’t played in almost two weeks (since April 5).
Although Nylander never tested positive, he was added to the COVID protocol list as a precaution after he was exposed and had close contact to a possible positive case outside the team’s bubble. As noted earlier, the Maple Leafs play the Canucks on Sunday but it’s not clear if Nylander will be able to return.
William Nylander is officially out of COVID Protocol. He'll dictate his own return to the #leafs lineup based on fitness, according to Sheldon Keefe, and the team has just gained an extra practice day before playing Vancouver.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) April 16, 2021
Given the 24-year-old Nylander’s physical conditioning and noted work ethic, it shouldn’t take him too long to return to game shape after just more than a week. I can’t imagine he didn’t work out during the time he was away from his teammates. Nylander is having a solid season, scoring 30 points in 39 games.
It wasn’t as if Scott Sabourin didn’t (literally) fight hard for a more regular role on the Maple Leafs roster. He played in Tuesday’s game when Jason Spezza was given a game off, but when Spezza returned on Thursday Sabourin sat. The question is whether he’ll play again when the new Maple Leafs’ players hit the ice.
On Thursday, the Maple Leafs moved Rasmus Sandin to the team’s taxi squad. He didn’t play on Thursday, but there’s a chance he might play on Sunday. What the move does mean is that Sandin’s broken foot (suffered on Feb. 25) is probably healed. Watch for him to be activated on Sunday. If he is, there’s a chance he might play.
Because Auston Matthews couldn’t play on Thursday, Adam Brooks played in his place and skated in the team’s bottom six. We’re not yet sure what Matthews’ status is for this weekend, but initial word was that the injury he suffered in the Calgary Flames’ game on Tuesday won’t keep him out for long.
On Thursday, Rodion Amirov signed an entry-level contract with the Maple Leafs that starts in the 2021-22 season and calls for him to receive $925,000 per season at the NHL level and $80,000 if he plays at a lower level.
From what I’ve read, the Maple Leafs are expected to again loan the 19-year-old prospect to a KHL team for the 2021-22 season, but will give him a chance to make the team in 2022-23. Amirov was the Maple Leafs’ first-round (15th overall pick) in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.
On Thursday morning prior to the Maple Leafs’ morning skate, Frederik Andersen was seen on the ice working with goalie coach Steve Briere. Obviously, that means he’s healing, but there remains no update on when he might return to the active roster. Given the length of time the 31-year-old goalie’s been away from the ice, he’ll likely need more than a few practices before he returns to game action – if that’s even a plan within the Maple Leafs’ organization.
Earlier in the week, newly-acquired Antti Suomela was moved to the team’s AHL affiliate the Toronto Marlies. Suomela is required to quarantine for seven days when he arrives in Canada from the San Jose Sharks after the trade at the deadline. Moving him now to the minors saves space on the team’s taxi squad and active roster as he takes care of his quarantine requirement.