An excerpt from the new book “A League of Our Own” by Damien Cox and Andrew Podnyx, the story of the pandemic-changed NHL season that included an All-Canadian North Division for the first time:
Jack Campbell – of course, known as “Soupy” to his Leaf teammates – set an NHL record with his 11th straight win since the start of the season against the Ottawa Senators on April 10, although during the streak. One of his scratch attempts.
The Senators scored five goals, but the mighty Leaf Offense scored six. Three of them came off the stick of Auston Matthews, giving him 31 goals for the season as he became the first Toronto player to win the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy as the NHL’s top goal scorer (and the first to lead). Went. league in goals since Gay Stewart in 1945–46).
With an eight-goal cushion on Edmonton’s Conor McDavid and Colorado’s Miko Rantenon, the hat-trick would have sealed the deal. The Leafs’ aggressive outburst moved them to third place among all NHL teams scored, giving GM Kyle Dabas more comfort as the trade deadline approached.
When the Leafs GM awoke the next morning, he learned of a few more moves that had already been made around the league, but none yet by their major competitors in the North Division. Cap-strapped Tampa had made a big move by striking a clever three-way deal with Columbus and Detroit to make defending defending champion David Savard a member of the defending Stanley Cup champions.
With the three teams involved, the Lightning only had 25 percent of Savard’s salary stuck, which they could afford.
“This three-way David Savard trade is another example of legal salary cap fraud. Don’t understand why the NHL insists on a pay cap, then lets teams pull this stuff. Ken Campbell of Hockey News offered, “There is more evidence that wage caps cause more problems.”
Considering that the earliest the Dubs could have to worry about Lightning was in the third round of the playoffs, this was hardly a move he had to match. It was the Oilers and the Winnipeg Jets that they really needed to keep an eye on. But he could have used the Savard machinations as a template for his efforts to add more talent than Toronto’s cap position.
After some brilliant math by capologist Brandon Pridham, Dabas had already lifted injured winger Riley Nash from Columbus for a conditional seventh-round pick. Nash was on long-term injured reserve (LTIR) and was out for three to five weeks. This was perfect for the Leafs, who used the LTIR to their advantage. Dabas also recalled Nash from last summer’s playoffs.
He said, ‘The most important thing for me is how he played against us. He had several innings against our best players where we thought maybe we were getting the upper hand, and it was not working out that way,” Dubas explained. Nash was Toronto’s third takeover of the season, following Alex Galchenyuk and goalkeeper Veni Wehvilinen. At around 5.30 pm on the evening of April 11, the news came that Dubas had done his fourth and biggest business. Like the Tampa-Columbus-Detroit transaction, it was a multi-team arrangement.
The Leafs acquired Columbus captain Nick Foligno, the biggest takeover of any Canadian team in the ’20–21 season, aside from the Winnipeg deal in January for Pierre-Luc Dubois. Toronto also acquired Sharks winger Stephen Nossen, which allowed the Leafs to take only 25 percent of Foligno’s $5.5 million cap hit. Dabas dropped two draft substitutes and a Shark for the Jackets, thereby acquiring a quality player from the current roster without losing a player.
Foligno happily waived its no-trade clause to allow the trade to take place. His father, Mike, played for the team, and the trade meant the Folignos would become the eighth father-son combination to play in Toronto.
“A tough day, obviously, for me with all the feelings attached to Columbus,” said Foligno, who played nine years in Ohio. “I really appreciate Jarmo (Kkellenen, Columbus GM) for giving me the opportunity to pursue my dream of winning a cup with a team that I think is a great opportunity to do so.” Well, Foligno announced that he would be wearing the number 71 with the leaf, in the same way as his father.
Dabas still wasn’t done, though. Later that evening, the Leafs sent a 2022 third-round pick to Calgary to bring in 28-year-old David Ritich, the same goalkeeper they had faced seven days earlier. Frederick Andersen, a Dane, indefinitely, with Campbell (American), Michael Hutchinson (Canadian), Retich (Czech) and Vahnvillen (Fin) making the leaf depth chart even more international. Lots of goals, just one crease. It was worth reminding undecided Leafs fans that when the team last won the Cup, Punch Imlach had scored five goals (Jonny Bower, Terry Sochuk, Bruce Gamble, Gary Smith and Al Smith), proving that That like pitching, you can never have enough depth. in target.
On the day of the trade deadline, when only 17 deals were made around the league, Dabas also brought on defenseman Ben Hutton from Anaheim for a fifth-round pick and forward Antti Suomela from San Jose for winger Alexander Barbanov. Over the course of three months, Dabas had acquired Galchenyuk, Wehvilinen, Nash, Foligno, Nossen, Hutton and Suomela. No stars, but a lot of depth. He did so without leaving a regular or top prospect, but raided the team’s draft choice wardrobe very well. The Leafs were left with only six picks in the 2021 and 2022 drafts, but they augmented what was already considered the most talented roster in the North Division. “The time has come,” said an excited defenseman Morgan Reilly.
The rest of the answer played it out in a more conservative way. Edmonton was so strict of the salary limit that GM Ken Holland had enough room to add depth defender Dmitry Kulikov. Winnipeg picks up defenseman Jordi Benn from the COVID-19-Stricken Canucks. Montreal GM Mark Bergevin added Detroit defenseman John Merrill for a fifth-round pick and a prospect, and traded in Philadelphia’s Eric Gustafson for more blue-line help. Montreal also placed Victor Mette on a discount, who had asked for a trade earlier in the season.
Mete was claimed by Ottawa, while the Sensors traded defenders Mike Reilly (for Boston), Breydon Coburn (Islanders) and Eric Gudbranson (Nashville) for a prospect and seventh-round pick. The Flames traded Retich to the Leafs and, as expected, officially left by trading former first-round draft pick Sam Bennett to Florida for Emil Heinemann and a 2022 second-round pick.
Vancouver also tackled under-achiever Adam Gaudet in Chicago to forward Matthew Highmore. Some linked the trade to Gaudet who was the first Canuck to test positive in the team’s COVID-19 outbreak. “It’s hard to believe that the departure of an already grieving player hasn’t accelerated in the past few weeks,” Sportsnet’s Elliot Friedman speculated.
GM Jim Benning also acquired defenseman Madison Bowe from the Hawks.
Across the league, other significant deals took place before the deadline. Boston received former Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall from Buffalo. Florida struck a deal with the Sabers for defenseman Brandon Montaur as an injury replacement for Aaron Eckblad. Lou Lamorillo added center Travis Zazak and winger Kyle Palmieri for his New York Islanders. But the Leafs did the most in the North Division. As they resumed competition against Montreal on the evening of the trade deadline, they were without William Nylander due to COVID-19 protocols, and it would be at least a week until Foligno was cleared to play. will be given.
Meanwhile, the Canucks were finally able to reopen their training facility by the deadline, with only 10 players back on the ice. Winger Tanner Pearson said, “I think people were too confident in themselves to get over it, but when it starts hitting wives and kids and pregnant wives, it really becomes more than hockey. ” “That’s when it scares you a little.”
Eight Vancouver Games were postponed, and another three were soon added to the list. The Canucks were scheduled to resume action against Edmonton five days after the deadline, and then play again against the Leafs the next night. Head coach Travis Greene was ill, and it was unclear when he would be ready. “He’s feeling better every day,” Benning said.
Their grueling schedule would require the Canucks to play 19 games in 32 days to finish the schedule, absurd for any NHL team to deal with, and even more so by a team that had suffered an outbreak of COVID-19. Didn’t play for more than three weeks. “I don’t feel ready, if I’m being honest,” said forward JT Miller. “It’s kind of crazy. I know everyone has a job to do, but hoping that our entire team will be ready to play after a practice and a pre-game skate is a little hard to figure out.” Is.
The league had planned to delay the start of the playoffs until May 16, so the Canucks could get all their games against Ottawa from April 22 to 28, games unlikely to affect the standings. Miller said he thought some of his teammates were so sick they couldn’t get back to play so soon. “What we’re being asked to do is not going to be very safe, if you’re asking me,” he said. “It’s not about making the playoffs for us.”
Miller’s words reverberated and found support in the hockey community. This was a direct challenge to Commissioner Gary Bateman and Miller’s own union, which agreed to the scheduling. The next day, the league listened and the Canucks were given two more days off before they were scheduled to play again on April 19.
Meanwhile, Ritich flew from Calgary to Toronto with his former teammates, chirping endlessly on the 3 1/2-hour flight. He took the field in Ontario as the Leafs were losing 4–2 in Montreal. As he stepped onto the ice the next morning wearing the Leaf practice uniform, Retich…