Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Friedman, Kypreos, Campbell & Kessel

In today’s edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at hockey insiders and wonder how frustrating it must be to speculate on insider information when you just are facing the “Cone of Silence” known as the Maple Leafs’ management. I’ll share thoughts specifically in regard to the number of wild speculations about Campbell’s relationship with the team’s management.

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Thornton, Matthews, Mikheyev & Nichushkin

Second, I’ll look at the career of former Maple Leafs’ player and current free agent Phil Kessel and wonder if there’s any chance he might return to the Blue and White. Let me admit right now that I have not the slightest insider knowledge about anything I’m talking about with Kessel. In truth, I’m just playing with possibilities – wild and crazy ones at best.

Item One: How Inside Are Insiders?

What does it take to be a hockey “insider?” I’ve always thought that the term insider was more than a bit goofy; but, at the same time, I like it that people like Elliotte Friedman have NHL management teams’ numbers on his speed dial, and I actually have come to trust that he asks questions and gathers information better than us mere mortals who rely on piecing together information from more “traditional” sources – like the Internet.

How good is the information being gathered about Jack Campbell and the Toronto Maple Leafs?
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

However, the Maple Leafs’ silence on almost everything sort of froths up a flurry of speculation among a rabid fan base that’s really interesting to observe. The Jack Campbell drama is unique in how its silence produces a large number of speculations. They might be right; they might be wrong. Who knows?

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One of the more recent speculations is that the Maple Leafs might not be interested in Campbell “at any price.” As Friedman and Nick Kypreos wondered aloud, why are there “no serious NHL contract talks between Jack Campbell and the Maple Leafs.” Then, the two jump to the question: “Are they even interested in re-signing Jack at any price?” 

Related: Rielly’s Deal Means Trouble for Maple Leafs and Jack Campbell

Kypreos had Friedman on his show to talk about the Campbell situation, and both “insiders” admitted they can’t wrap their heads around “where things went off the rails.” The interesting thing is that, because they haven’t heard anything, it must not be happening; and, the next obvious step is that things must have gone “off the rails.”

It might just as well be that things are settled, just not announced. I can’t imagine the entire Maple Leafs’ organization NOT thinking about this issue of settling on a goalie. Nor can I imagine that things are NOT already settled. We just haven’t heard yet. 

So when Friedman says, “It’s been really slow on the Jack Campbell front,” what he really means is that he’s not getting good information on the Campbell front. When he says that Filip Forsberg and the Nashville Predators are “grinding toward a result” or that Kris Letang and the Pittsburgh Penguins are working to get deals done, it simply means that his sources of information are filling him in. 

Kris Letang Pittsburgh Penguins
Obviously, Friedman is getting better insider information about Kris Letang and the Pittsburgh Penguins
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

So when Friedman notes that this “Campbell one hasn’t seemed like it’s moved very far;” or, when Kypreos reports that his sources say not even one offer has been made to the goaltender, how accurate is that? Obviously then, Kypreos jumps to the conclusion that the Maple Leafs have “soured on” Campbell and he believes that they will target someone else. 

He might be absolutely correct or absolutely wrong. Must be tough being an insider when you can’t get information.

Item Two: Phil Kessel: A Wild & Crazy Thought

Three things about Phil Kessel for me. First, he can score. Second, he’s a hard guy to figure out. Third, he’s a UFA. 

Just finishing an $8 million contract with the Arizona Coyotes, Kessel is a 34-year-old veteran who’s been around the league for 16 seasons and has played for the Boston Bruins, the Maple Leafs, the Pittsburgh Penguins, and most recently the Coyotes. 

Related: Kessel to Toronto Trade Revisited a Decade Later

His next goal will be the 400th of his NHL career and he’s within 44 points of 1000. Both could happen this season. He still has something left. Last season he iron-manned all 82 games for the last-place Coyotes and scored eight goals and 44 assists (for 52 points). 

He won’t earn anywhere close to $8 million again. But would he want to play in Toronto again? Is he motivated to want to go for a third Stanley Cup? (He won two with the Penguins.) I know, wild and crazy idea; but, are there any fans who’d like to see Kessel back in a Blue and White uniform?

Phil Kessel Arizona Coyotes
Phil Kessel, Arizona Coyotes (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

I have to admit that, as I searched around for low-cost additions to the team who could still contribute, Kessel wasn’t on my mind until I read Mike Jack’s article about former Maple Leafs who were free agents this offseason.

Related: Toronto Maple Leafs’ Jim Paliafito: A Valuable, Little Known Employee

Jack noted that, while he was in Pittsburgh, Kessel thrived out of the spotlight as a secondary scorer where he wasn’t the center of attention. He’d definitely be a come-along with this Maple Leafs’ team. 

He might fit well on the team’s second line with center John Tavares and William Nylander on the other wing. Even with the Coyotes, who (except for the lowly Montreal Canadiens) had the fewest points in the NHL last season, he put up a large number of assists. Imagine what he might do with a powerhouse offense.

John Tavares Toronto Maple Leafs Andrei Vasilevskiy Tampa Bay Lightning
Toronto Maple Leafs Center John Tavares screens Tampa Bay Lightning Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy
(Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

In his tenure with the Maple Leafs, Kessel was the best thing the team had in the midst of a constant rebuilding situation. The pressure of playing in Toronto can be difficult even in the best of times; however, I can’t fathom what it must have been like for Kessel in the six seasons he played here (from 2009-2016).

What I do like about Kessel is that he sticks up for his teammates. Last season, after Clayton Keller went down with an injury he was magnanimous in his support. He also brought the Stanley Cup to Toronto’s SickKids Hospital in 2016.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

Obviously, today’s News & Rumors post was more about me playing with ideas than reporting trustworthy news. The irony in all this is that the Maple Leafs have carried Kessel’s salary as part of their salary cap for seven years since they traded him to the Penguins in 2015 (where, as I noted, he won two Cups, by the way). 

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Sandin, Bozak, Galchenyuk & Maurice

What a story it might be if the team started to pay Kessel for real once again. And, moving toward legend status, what kind of a movie would it be if Kessel returned to help this team get over the hump. My guess is that he’d bring the Stanley Cup once again to Toronto’s SickKids Hospital.

I’d love it.

Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Friedman, Kypreos, Campbell & Kessel

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