Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Paliafito, Hart, Sandin, Liljegren & Hyman

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll report that Jim Paliafito is no longer with the organization. He’s been an incredibly important figure in player development for the team and was important in setting up the Maple Leafs’ Russian connection. 

Sign up for our regular 'Maple Leafs Newsletter' for all the latest.

Second, I’ll talk a bit more about the team’s two young Swedish defensemen Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren and explore what might happen with them this coming season. Third, I want to throw out a goalie possibility the Maple Leafs might consider if they can’t re-sign Jack Campbell. That’s Carter Hart. 

Jack Campbell Toronto Maple Leafs
Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Finally, because I follow ex-Maple Leafs’ players during the postseason and know other fans do as well, I’ll share news about how Zach Hyman’s doing with the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers are surprisingly up on the favored Calgary Flames three games to one in their second-round series.

Item One: Jim Paliafito Is No Longer with the Team

The Maple Leafs have made some front office changes. Yesterday, David Alter of The Leafs Nation reported that both senior director of player evaluation Jim Paliafito and hockey research and development analyst Cam Charron were no longer employed by the organization.

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

Paliafito’s exit is big news, and so far I haven’t read if Paliafito is taking a job with another team or if the Maple Leafs are simply moving on. Either way, it seems like a big (and interesting) move to be made at this time.

In his work with the organization, Paliafito has been given credit for finding and building relationships with either late-round or undrafted European players (especially from Russia) over the years. Paliafito’s been one of the key reasons the Maple Leafs have been able to compete financially in this era of constrained salary-cap limits.

If I hear more about his situation, I’ll share it later.

Item Two: The Best-Case Scenario for Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren

The best situation for the Maple Leafs, if there’s not some intervention by another club with an aggressive offer sheet, would be to sign both Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren to offseason bridge deals. However, will that be possible? 

Assuming it can be, next season would be a logical part of both players’ continuing development. One day, I believe, the Maple Leafs have these two youngsters charted into one of their top-pairing defensive units. They might even play together. When they’ve been on the same pairing this season, to my eye they’ve been solid. 

Rasmus Sandin Toronto Maple Leafs
Rasmus Sandin, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Both players’ advanced statistics are good. In fact, a case can be made that Liljegren’s underlying numbers make him one of the team’s best defensemen. Certainly, the team’s played well when he was on the ice – especially when he’s been paired with newly-signed Mark Giordano. Yet, Liljegren was healthy-scratched for (I believe) five playoff games. 

Here’s hoping that both Sandin and Liljegren can be re-signed. Their progression toward one of the top-pairing units for the team would be fun to watch. 

Item Three: Considering Carter Hart if Jack Campbell Moves On

One of the young goalies I’ve been keeping an eye on over the seasons is Carter Hart. He’s from Sherwood Park, Alberta, where I lived for over 40 years when I was a professor at the University of Alberta. Hart’s been a pretty solid goalie for last season’s not-so-solid Philadelphia Flyers. He’s logged a few seasons, but he’s still only 23-years-old. Truth is, if the Maple Leafs can’t keep Jack Campbell, I’d love to see Hart in a Blue and White uniform.

Related: Flyers Should Worry About Carter Hart’s Struggles

Is there a chance he could be had in a trade? He’d fit the team’s needs and he’s signed to term. He has two more seasons at a salary-cap hit of $3.979 million (as opposed to Petr Mrazek’s $3.8 million). The Flyers had a horrible 2021-22 season and Flyers’ general manager Chuck Fletcher might see Hart as one of the problems. If so, he might be willing to move him. 

Carter Hart Philadelphia Flyers
Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Hart has talent and a history of success. The question is whether he might turn out to be Matt Murray, who struggled when he was signed by the Ottawa Senators, or if he might turn out to be a keeper (no pun intended). He has a ton of potential, even if he’s struggled. 

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

Like me, I have to believe the Maple Leafs are watching and rooting for former friends and teammates. Last night, Zach Hyman scored a power-play goal and was his usual puck-digging, hard-working self as the Edmonton Oilers took a three games to one series lead against the Calgary Flames. He didn’t get an assist on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ game-winner, but he did the heavy lifting against the boards to control the puck and get it back to Tyson Barrie (also an ex-Maple Leafs’ player).

Related: Maple Leafs’ Kampf Can Replace Some of Hyman’s Intangibles

Hyman’s now scored five goals in four games during the second-round Battle of Alberta. During the 11 postseason games he’s played, the 29-year-old Hyman has scored seven goals and added two assists (for nine points). His 200-foot game is a joy to watch.

I had sort of forgotten Hyman during the regular season, when the Maple Leafs were still involved in the hunt. However, now that they’ve been eliminated from the playoffs, I’ve been enjoying the playoff series in Alberta especially.