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The Making Of a Miracle: Summer of 2019

2020-05-10

                            The Making of a Miracle: Summer of 2019

It was the offseason after another disappointing playoff exit. The Leafs finished the season with 107 points in a seemingly decent fashion. The result was a 3rd place finish in the Atlantic, with a date set to visit the Buffalo Sabres in the playoffs (more on that in a future article, a more triumphant one.). With a roster that featured the likes of Alex Ovechkin(46G,42A), Sidney Crosby(32G,54A), Anthony Mantha (24G,39A) , Matt Duchene(21G,40A) Carey Price( 29W,18L, 2.51GAA) expectations were high. The end result, a disappointing first round exit against division rival Buffalo Sabres.

Something had to be done. GM Gaudreault’s job wasn’t on the line, no one was calling for his head, yet. Though the fact remained, the squad as it was, couldn’t compete with the best of them, despite a star studded roster. The window of opportunity was closing, with the next shot at a playoff spot distant in the future.

June 24th will always be the day the first domino fell. The fallout from the early exit was seen early in the summer. In a move that rocked leaf nation, and left pundits scratching their heads, GM Gaudreault sent Anthony Mantha and Matt Duchene to the Colorado Avalanche in a deal that saw 9 pieces coming back. Notable returns included Colin Miller, Johnny Boychuk, Darcy Keumper, Ryan Hartman, NHL Dallas prospect Jason Robertson, NYR 1st some pocket change (8mil to be exact ) and the rights to a couple free agents (Kyle Turris and Tyler Bozak ) which nothing came from. The deal had win now written all over it, with GM Gaudreault sent a clear message to fans and investors alike, “We are taking advantage of this window, regardless of cost”. Risky move with the future of the team on the line. But that problem can be addressed then, in the future. There are many ways to build a successful team. With this deal, we see the acquisition of a starting goalie(for the time being, 2 defencemen( 1 offensive and 1 defensive), some depth for the bottom 6 , a mid 1st pick and the edge on a couple UFA contracts.

But that was just the beginning. Merely 4 days later the press had more to discuss in Tdot. Remember the pick acquired just days ago? Well fans never had a chance to dream of the talent that pick would become Arthur Kaliyev. Remember the Starting goaltender Keumper? Well he didn’t get to see the starting title for very long. GM Gaudreault sent the NYR 1st pick and defense sensation Dmitri Orlov to the San Jose Sharks, for a SJS 2020 3rd rounder, and Tuukka Rask, the new #1 goalie. The message here was pretty clear, “We weren’t happy with orlov’s play, and goaltending wins us matches. “ Boy did it ever.

And still this wasn’t the last deal made of the summer. A blockbuster involving STL and their 2019 5th round pick and 2mil from Toronto was the next tiny ripple in the evolution of the roster we saw hit the ice for pre season 2019.

The roster aw a little more movement, with the rights of Carey Price, and defense prospect Jared Mcisaac sent to the Winnipeg Jets for Jordan Eberle, a 3rd round and a 4th round pick.

We were only at July 4th and already we saw 4 deals, with 3 more left to come in the summer. The next move involved yet another newly acquired piece that Toronto fans were really excited about when the team had first acquired him in June. That piece was Jason Robertson. With the departure of Anthony Mantha and Matt Duchene there seemed to be a void left in the scoring department. Enter Alex Radulov. On July 13th the deal was official, Alex Radulov was a leaf, along with highly regarded Russian prospect Kiril Marchneko in return for Jason Robertson.

The benefits from this move were once again pretty obvious, better the team now with a piece for the future, and also receive a piece for the future, There is a lot of uncertainty when it comes to players making the move over from Russia, and with the relationship between the KHL and NHL becoming rockier, the risk seems higher than ever. With the kind of talent exhibited by Marchenko, Gaudreault thought the risk was worth it. “If we can get this guy over here, and develop him with Abramov we could have a heck of a 1-2 Russian Punch”. Funny, because Radulov and Ovie currently deliver that element following this move.

Moving closer to cap related restrictions, and an obvious glaring hole in defense, a move needed to be made to clear cap space and acquire a top 4 d-man who can help this team surpass previous results. The team had 2 top tier goaltenders and 1 decent backup in jake Allen. This pretty much indicated allen had played his last game in the Blue and White. On July 22 the leafs sent Jake Allen to the Arizona Coyotes for Arizona’s 2020 2nd round pick and Arizona prospect Tyler Steenbergen. GM Gaudreault had his sights set on Steenburgen since the draft, but unfortunately Tyler was drafted before they had the chance to snag him.

This left one move for the summer, and this move occurred merely 5 days after the cap space was made. On July 27th the Leafs made the final move to address the glaring roster needs. Prospects Martin Pospisal and Matthew Strome along with $3mil in DCHL cash were sent to the New York Rangers for Alex Edler. This move made sense in a multitude of ways. GM Gaudreault’s apparent love for ALEX’s ( Ovechkin, Radulov, Edler) and the teams need for a true top pairing guy. Edler addressed both those needs and we now have a clear picture of the team for the upcoming year.

 

The rest of the team remained intact, along with the coach at the time Travis Green.

Stay tuned for the continuation of this limited series, with the next part : Making a Miracle: The defining Moments.

 

This has been Steve B Real for Toronto2HYPE with a pretty sad attempt at a riveting in depth look at the team that is very much, GM Gaudreault’s Toronto Maple Leafs.