Breaking: Leafs assign two to the Marlies

They’ll be back… you can count on that!

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The Toronto Maple Leafs announced this morning that rookie defenceman Travis Dermott and third-year pro Frederik Gauthier have been assigned to the team’s AHL affiliate the Toronto Marlies.

Dermott, a second round pick (34th overall) of the Leafs in 2015, impressed during his first two NHL games last week, earning an assist in his debut against the Vancouver Canucks.

"I thought he was confident, moved the puck, skated good. He looks like he's got good hockey sense," Leafs head coach Mike Babcock said on Saturday evening. "It looked like the situation didn't intimidate him at all."

But it wasn’t just the Leafs’ bench boss who was impressed with Dermott this past weekend, former OHL opponent Mitch Marner has been impressed with Dermott for years. “He is a very annoying person to play against,” Marner said yesterday as he recalled the battles the two had during their respective times in the OHL with the London Knights had with Dermott’s Erie Otters. Marner, a former captain with the Knights, faced off against Dermott and the Otter for three season in the OHL and has vivid memories of going up against his now teammate.

“He plays the game physically, he plays the game smart. He will make you take penalties.”

As for Gauthier, the giant 6’5”, 232 pound center has played just five games for the Leafs this season, but has managed 33 games with the Leafs over his three pro seasons. He has five goals and eight points with the Marlies so far this season.

The former 1st round pick (21st overall) of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft certainly has the size and skill set to be a valuable 4th line center on the Leafs, but inconsistency has plagued his game in recent seasons. He’s just 22-years-old though and seems to have found a fan in Babcock, so it’s possible that he’s returned to the Leafs following their week long break.

Report: JVR seeking a HUGE new deal with the Leafs!

In other Leafs news, TSN’s Darren Dreger broke a HUGE story last week regarding the team and its contract negotiations with upcoming UFA James van Riemsdyk

The 28-year-old van Riemsdyk is in the final year of a deal that pays him $4.25 million annually and will be seeking a significant raise on that number based on his play and his statistical totals since arriving in Toronto from the Philadelphia Flyers in 2012. How high of a number? Certainly north of $5 million per season, but could he command as much as $6 million or even $7 million on the open market?

Van Riemsdyk is just one goal off of the Leafs lead with 18 goals in 43 games this season. He sits fourth in team scoring behind Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Mitch Marner and defenseman Morgan Rielly. It’s clear that he’s a valuable player in the Leafs organization, but don’t expect GM Lou Lamoriello to give into contract demands easily. He has a talented young team and will need every penny at his disposal to keep it all together.

Dreger joined TSN 1050 hosts Matt Cauz and Scott MacArthur to break down all the latest in the negotiations between JVR and the Leafs and the numbers may surprise some fans.

Bob McKenzie brought up JVR,” started Cauz, “and was throwing out five years, six-million dollar range is going to be the starting point for JVR. Does that seem right?”

“Well, I feel like they’re [the Leafs] going to be unwilling at this point,” replied Dreger. “But that speaks more to the work that they have to do around JVR. And, the money is right… I think that van Riemsdyk would take $6 million.”

The “work around JVR” Dreger alludes to almost certainly means extensions for young forwards Nylander, Matthews and Marner. That trio is going to cost the Leafs a pretty penny, so they can hardly afford to spend precious cap space on a player like JVR if he’s not in the team’s long-term plans. Even more importantly, with JVR sit to hit 30 years of age next season, do the Leafs want to commit so much term to an aging player? 

“In a perfect world, I think that JVR would like a 6x6 scenario to stay in Toronto,” said Dreger. “I think that his group would argue that that’s leaving some on the table. He wants to remain in Toronto.”

That’s all fine and well, but a 28-year-old JVR at $6 million per season may be VERY different from a 34-year-old JVR at $6 million per season. The term gap may be too great for the two sides to bridge. If so, where’s his replacement? The Leafs don’t currently posses ANYONE, short of Matthews, with JVR’s combination of size and skill. If he can’t come to terms with the Leafs, there will be no shortage of suitors willing to pay him 6x6 on July 1st.