Seravalli: The Leafs nearly traded for Mikael Granlund last year

The rumour mill season is always the best time of the year for being a hockey fan. Whether it’s in the lead-up to the trade deadline, on draft day, or amid free agent frenzy, there are fewer aspects of hockey more exciting than conjecturing on which player a team may be making their way to a different team.
Sometimes it results in actual transactions, other times it fizzles out into nothing while the general populous moves on to the next hot-button topic. One such case that resulted in the latter was the rumours of the Leafs going after Mikael Granlund.
The team’s interest in Granlund dates back to the 2020 offseason when he hit the open market after informing the Predators he did not wish to stay. Toronto ultimately did not have enough cap space to sign him and he thus begrudgingly went back to Nashville on a one-year deal. As the 2021 trade deadline approached a few months later, Frank Seravalli reported that Granlund was among the Leafs’ top trade targets in an attempt to upgrade their forward core. A move never materialized when Nashville got back in the playoff picture and he would end up signing a four-year extension that offseason. He would stay on for a season and a half before getting traded to the Penguins at this past deadline in exchange for a 2023 second-round pick.
That last part almost did not happen because as Seravalli mentioned in his latest Trade Targets list, Granlund was nearly traded to Toronto last year.
As we now know, the Leafs would end up acquiring Mark Giordano, Ilya Lyubushkin, and Colin Blackwell at the 2022 trade deadline. Giordano was the only one of the three players listed that had to have his salary retained because he had a …

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Author: Michael Mazzei / The Leafs Nation

Whit Merrifield hit his first home run of spring training, Bowden Francis pitched well, and more as the Blue Jays beat the Yankees 5-2

It’s always a good day when the Blue Jays beat the Yankees.

On Saturday afternoon, the Jays beat the Yankees in impressive fashion. Let’s look at the standouts, as well as some other things worth mentioning.
Blue Jays Nation’s player of the game: Whit Merrifield
Merrifield had a productive game on Saturday afternoon, hitting his first spring training home run and driving another insurance run in his next at bat.
The battle for second base continues to brew, with Merrifield’s slash line sitting at .360/.393/.640. This is better than Santiago Espinal’s slash line (.324/378/.500) and Cavan Biggio’s slash line (.270/.341/.351).
I have no idea who will be the starting second baseman, but this battle is fun.

Raking WHIT the bat 💪@WhitMerrifield is hitting .333 this spring!
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) March 18, 2023

Things worth mentioning:
Bowden Francis looks damn good, doesn’t he? On Saturday afternoon, he pitched three innings, gave up three hits, two runs, and walked a batter. However, he also struck out a game-high five, generating a game-high nine whiffs. His role is yet to be determined, but I think there’s a good chance he will start the season as a starter with Buffalo.

Here’s Bowden Francis (@Bowdenpoint0)’s strikeout and whiff edit.
Very good fastball today, as it had a 43 whiff percentage (9 whiffs on 21 swings).
Could be a starter to look out for this season.#BlueJays
— Brennan Delaney (@Brennan_L_D) March 18, 2023

Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s knee is doing better. He hit his third home run of the spring in only 21 plate appearances. That home run tied him with George Springer for the most, but the latter has 36 …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

The Julian Merryweather era has come to an end

We’ll always have those two saves in April of 2021.

The Toronto Blue Jays designated Julian Merryweather for assignment last week in order to make room on the 40-man roster for the newly-signed Brandon Belt. On Tuesday, the team announced that Merryweather had been claimed by the Chicago Cubs…

🔹 RHP Julian Merryweather has been claimed off waivers by the Cubs
🔹 RHP Junior Fernández has been assigned outright to Triple-A
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) January 17, 2023

Merryweather was acquired back in October of 2018 as the Player To Be Named Later from when Josh Donaldson has been traded to Cleveland a couple of months earlier. At that time, Merryweather was a bit of a mystery as he hadn’t pitched since the 2018 season.
After missing virtually all of the 2019 season, Merryweather finally appeared in 2020. He made eight appearances for the Blue Jays in the pandemic season, posting a 4.15 ERA over 13 innings while racking up 15 strikeouts.
By the time 2021 rolled around, the narrative around Merryweather had shifted from ‘Is he even a real guy?’ to ‘This guy is the closer of the future.’ 
On Opening Day, Merryweather came in for the 10th inning to protect the Blue Jays’ 3-2 lead over the New York Yankees and he struck out the side. A couple of days later, he was brought in for the ninth inning with the Blue Jays up by a score of 3-1, and he struck out two Yankees en route to another save.

Unfortunately, things peaked there for Merryweather. He made two more appearances in April and went on the Injured List with an oblique strain. He didn’t ret …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Trading up for Thompson twins in 2023 draft may fix Raptors offensive woes

Trading up for Thompson twins in 2023 draft may fix Raptors offensive woes

The Toronto Raptors are always thinking about the NBA Draft, but fans need to prepare for the possibility of this team getting dispatched in the play-in tournament and ending up with a lottery pick. While this would be immeasurably disappointing, Toronto needs to recognize how much a young scoring talent is needed. The NBA has […]
Trading up for Thompson twins in 2023 draft may fix Raptors offensive woes – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

Maple Leafs dominate Penguins on Hockey Night: Leafs Rundown

Maple Leafs dominate Penguins on Hockey Night: Leafs Rundown

It feels like games against the Penguins are always slightly cursed, but this one worked out pretty well. The Leafs kept the pressure on the Penguins, earning a 4-1 win.
From that first early goal on, the Leafs were healthily in charge of this game. Here are some thoughts on the game.
Behind The Net
No, not the ancient, now defunct stats website. This is to do with the success Toronto had tonight forcing the Penguins defenders to face the wrong way. Twice they capitalized with a pass behind them that scored on Casey DeSmith. First on goal #2 by Pontus Holmberg, and again on goal #3 by William Nylander:

— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) November 27, 2022

IT’S 3-0!
— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) November 27, 2022

Källgren performance
The Swedish 3rd string goalie has been filling in with the Leafs a lot this season, with injuries to both Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov. It’s not often that the 3rd stringer has the most starts, 2 months into the season, but with his 9th start for the Maple Leafs tonight, Källgren has that strange honour.
The netminder has only had 2 “quality starts”, plus a third excellent performance in relief against Boston; the remainder have been well below average. This 1-goal-against performance Pittsburgh is definitely a boon to his season stats. He did only face [SHOTS HOW MANY???] in this one, but this is an undeniable success.
No defenders, no problem
With 3 of the Leafs’ apparent top 4 defenders out on injured reserve at the moment, it would be expected that the team would struggle defensively. And certainly, the team’s shooting stats have taken a hit in that regard. In the last 2 games, the Leafs allowed a lot more even strength shot attempts against than normal, ~63 per 60 minutes, versus ~53 per 60 minutes for the previous 20 games. That’s a small sample to be sure …

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Author: Ryan Hobart / The Leafs Nation

Leafs left with the easy task of naming Keith Petruzzelli the starter for Saturday night

Leafs left with the easy task of naming Keith Petruzzelli the starter for Saturday night

It seemed like it always should have been Petruzzelli’s game and one that was confidently announced a week ago so his family had time to shuttle to Toronto for his NHL debut, but if there was any doubt about who should be getting the start, it should be cleared up by this recent insight from Sheldon Keefe:

Keefe says Matt Murray will not play tomorrow. They will make that decision of who starts tomorrow. @BodogCA @RinkWideTOR
— David Alter (@dalter) November 12, 2022

While the Leafs have historically shied away from the idea of having their goaltenders make NHL debuts on Saturday night nationally broadcast home games, this one hits a little different than the standard fare. For one, there really doesn’t seem to be much of a choice, but we’ll get into that later. There’s also the fact that this is a game against the Vancouver Canucks. The 4-7-3 Vancouver Canucks that seem to be hanging on by a thread. It’s not a bad opponent to line an inexperienced goaltender up against, and in that sense it couldn’t have worked out any better.
It also seems that no one is delusional enough to believe that Petruzzelli will be making his case for a Leafs job tonight either. This is about as one and done as it gets. Good or bad, by Tuesday Keith will be riding a bus with the Marlies, and the Leafs will at least feel comfortable enough with Matt Murray wearing a ball cap f …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation