Toronto Maple Leafs this Week: In Calle Järnkrok We Trust?

Toronto Maple Leafs this Week: In Calle Järnkrok We Trust?
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So how do you feel about Calle Järnkrok if you’re a Toronto Maple Leafs fan since we’re fast heading into a critical point of a must-win season for the organization? Or, as a Ontario sports betting player?

And, of course, we’re not talking about a Presidents’ Trophy or a regular season scoring title. We’re talking about winning a playoff series. Even one – just one – at this point. It’s been close to 20 years, in one of hockey’s so-called capitals. Fans are so starved that you’ll likely see an impromptu parade if the team can even pull that off.

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Window on Maple Leafs Core is Closing

We bring up Järnkrok because he scored again in Saturday night’s 3-2 loss to the lowly Montreal Canadiens, at the Bell Centre (the Leafs are 4-8 in overtime games this season). Järnkrok is playing left wing on the team’s second line with studs John Tavares and Mitch Marner. 

The trade deadline is approaching - March 3, at 3 p.m. ET. Your GM, Kyle Dubas, is on an expiring contract. You have several players in your team’s core – William Nylander, having a career year – who are barrelling toward free agency. 

Nylander’s contract at $6 million per year expires at the end of 2023-24, when he’s just 28. Auston Matthews’ contract, at $11.6 million per year, also expires at the end of 2023-24 - God forbid. Nylander is on a three-game assist and point streak. Matthews is on a four-game point streak. So is Marner.

The point is: The window on this current core is rapidly closing. And the pressure on this team going into the upcoming trade deadline, then the playoffs, will be like no other.

Is Järnkrok your answer, as a second-line winger? In my NHL pool, I have to admit, after looking to replace Max Pacioretty the other day, after his season came to an end with an Achilles injury, I took a hard look at Järnkrok as a replacement in a pool where there isn’t a lot of tasty replacement players available, especially to replace a player the level of a Pacioretty. 

I look at 10 goals and 22 points over 40 games, playing with Tavares and Marner. I also look at a 31-year-old guy who has played on four teams in eight years, getting to stand beside the net and tap in Marner passes. Järnkrok had 16 goals once – with Nashville, in 2017-18. Saturday night, he tapped in a nice cross-crease pass from defenceman Conor Timmins. In the end, I went with J.T. Compher of the Colorado Avalanche.

What to Think About Maple Leafs' Future?

But in a season this vital, what do you do as an organization? Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Timo Meier, Bo Horvat, Ryan O’Reilly – there’s going to be no shortage of playoff-grizzled vets available to slot into that second line if you have the stomach to give up the prospects and draft capital. If you are the Leafs, do you even entertain giving up Matthew Knies? Because you can bet prices will be expensive, especially with a slew of playoff-worthy teams in the Western Conference looking to improve their rosters as well.

For now, we watch the season play out. The Leafs have home games tonight against the New York Islanders and Wednesday against the New York Rangers, before finishing the week Friday at home against the Ottawa Senators.

The Leafs sit fourth in the Eastern Conference, tied with New Jersey, 14 points behind Boston, and two behind Carolina. Tampa Bay is on their heels – five points back. 

Where are the Rangers? They are sixth in the East, seven points back of the Leafs. The Islanders have been a disappointment this season – 10th in the east, skating around .500 at 23-20-5. The lowly Senators are down there with the Habs, 14th in the East, 20-23-3, out of the playoff run and thinking draft lottery at this point. 

The Leafs are beasts at home, at 17-3-4, so we like them in all three games. The Rangers are a strong road team, though – 14-5-3. Odds this morning on DraftKings for the Islanders game tonight have the spread at Leafs -1.5, Moneyline at Leafs 1.43. Over at Proline – Leafs -1.5 on the Spread, Moneyline at 1.44.