Nothing like getting up on a Monday morning, ready to take on the world, right?

My internal dialogue says that if I open this article with a line like that, you might all ignore the fact that this post was blatantly scheduled and that I’m probably sleeping in as you read this. Anyway, let’s tackle the week that was on this site, and some of the things on your minds!

New This Week

Here’s what I’ve been up to for the past week. To read these articles, you’ll need a site subscription which you can sign up for on a monthly or annual basis here.

The Mailbag

That depends a lot on who steps up in the months ahead. Gardiner is a substantial part of Toronto’s blue line, and if you were to cut ties with him today, he would leave a substantial hole in that depth chart. With Van Riemsdyk it was a bit different: You knew he was a very good player, but he was still at best your fifth-most important forward, and you had forward prospects breathing down his back looking to get a head start on their graduation.

If competition begins to form and it feels like the difference between Gardiner and your #7 isn’t the make or break difference for a cup run, and you don’t think you’re bringing him back, you definitely look at it. But otherwise, it likely will make more sense to keep him.

Presumably still good. The Marlies haven’t had a 4-in-6-or-less loss streak since late February, are still waiting for their first line (Johnsson-Aaltonen-Grundstrom) to have a statement game, and had a game closer to what they’d want on Saturday. They’re facing a team that’s got 5 regulation wins in 17 playoff games, and none by more than two goals, so you can’t think that they’re Moutn Everest because they eked out a blow to a double-digit win streak.

The USNTDP is a broader scale project run by USA Hockey, in an effort to centralize the best American prospects to build their difficulty curve by training against each other, while also building their chemistry to play in international tournaments. The USHL is a major junior league akin to the CHL in Canada. The USNTDP does have a USHL team that includes the players they devleop, which is where the confusion lies.

I hope not, and I mean that as the biggest compliment to Rich, rather than an insult. Clune’s story is an inspirational one and he’s an incredibly gifted, hard working guy with a lot of passions outside the game; I’d love to see him channel some of them and find ways to help others through his creative lens.

With that said, if he wants to stay involved in hockey, the Marlies will give him contracts as long as he wants, and I’m sure there will always be roles for him in the organization, be it in player development, strength and conditioning, ro something more specific to his interests if not those.

I still think he stays in Long Island. That has nothing to do with Lamoriello’s hire, and more to do with having a comfort zone in the city and in the market, particularly with arena stability likely on the horizon.

Besides that, it’s pretty open season if he does decide to test the market. San Jose always big game hunting. Vegas has a ton of cap space and just went on a hell of a run. Tampa Bay might be too up to the cap long-term to give the link-up with Steven Stamkos that some have hyped up, but I wonder if the Panthers give him a similar lifestyle option, should they decide to go back towards spending ceiling money.

I still don’t think the Leafs are landing him, but I will say that I went from “zero percent, no freaking way” to “starting to seem possible, but I doubt it” a few weeks back. A combination of little things seem to make him more attainable than I once felt, but still not at alarm bell status yet.

I think it’s a combination of the conditioned belief in commitment, the amount of flak that Marian Hossa got for his year in Detroit, and the large risk that it entails. Players who hit the unrestricted market aren’t likely to improve at their age, and the next injury could always be around the corner, so there’s a big risk in maximum return that is taken by accepting a short term deal if you’re a top-end player.

The Leafs should 100% steal the Vancouver Canucks’ Draft Lottery idea and have Carlton “announce” the pick. Even if announcing means flipping over a sign with the players’ name.

That, or have Kyle Dubas go full Tim Murray. Steal Buffalo’s moment a little bit by lifting from their own former playbook. It’d be great.

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