Dave Nonis on his new two-year contract extension with Toronto:
“I’m very lucky. I have more to say about our team than some GMs do,” said Nonis of his unique position as Brian Burke‘s right hand man. “It’s not a job that’s comparable with other positions around the league.”
“If you look at our roster now and compare it to 16 months ago, it’s not only different, it’s younger and better,” he said. “But we’ve still got lots of work to do. The job is not done by a longshot. There are more pieces to add.”
Cox reports that one of those pieces may be 25-year-old center Roman Cervenka of Czech club HC Slavia Praha, perhaps familiar to you from his international appearances alongside Jaromir Jagr on Czech Republic’s Olympic side in February.
Cervenka posted a 30-goal, 43-assist campaign in 50 games en route to a second-place finish with Slavia last season. He continued to lead his team in goals and points in the post-season with nine goals and fifteen assists in sixteen games. He was also a team-worst -5 throughout the playoffs despite his offense, however, hinting at one of the areas of Cervenka’s game in need of work.
The offensive numbers would be made all the more impressive if second assists weren’t recorded as is the case in many European leagues, but the Czech Extraliga started counting second helpers as of this season. Nonetheless, Cervenka, at 73 points, was the leading scorer across Europe and more than doubled the tally of Slavia’s next leading points-scorer (Michal Vondrka at 35 points).
Another issue pertains to Cervenka’s size at 5-foot-11, 187 pounds, which drew some concern from scouts as to his ability to translate his Euro success onto NHL ice according to The Hockey News.
Cervenka is currently centering the Czech Republic’s top line between Jagr and Tomas Rolinka at the World Championships in Germany. With many top Czech players opting out of the tournament, Cervenka is being looked upon as a key piece up front in the Czech Republic’s medal pursuit. According to Cox, the Leafs are closely monitoring his performance. Just how well he plays at the WC’s could be decisive as Cervenka was not exactly a stand out at the Olympics with just two points in the tournament. So far, Cervenka is pointless through two after the Czechs downed France 6-2 (Cervenka’s line was still responsible for three of six goals) and were upset by Norway 3-2 today in their first loss to the Norwegians since 1937. Interestingly, Mats Zuccarello-Aasen, another rumoured target for Leafs management who ultimately opted for the Rangers, scored in the win.
The Leafs’ situation at center going into next season is unclear but with plenty of potential options, with Tyler Bozak, Mikhail Grabovski, Nazem Kadri all lining up for roster spots. Cervenka would help to create the type of roster-spot competition that wasn’t overly present last season. Or as Alex Tran notes, he could potentially fit in on a wing position as well:
“Cervenka is an undersized playmaking forward, who at 5’11 187 lbs, would seem to be a better fit on the wing at the NHL level. He is your classic late bloomer, both in terms of skill and body type.”
Leafs management has a few options they will no doubt explore back home in the unrestricted free agent market whether or not it works out. At the very least, the Cervenka interest represents Burke and Nonis’ continued diligence in leaving no stone unturned.