Now what?

Now what?

The John Michael Liles buyout watch is officially over, for this year, anyway.

Nazem Kadri and Cody Franson are still RFAs, and the Leafs currently have just 4.9M in cap space to retain them both. While many have pointed out that Korbinian Holzer and Trevor Smith are accounted for on the Leafs capgeek roster even though neither figures to make the team, it also has to be said that the Leafs aren’t going to play with a roster holding the bare minimum of 12 forwards and six defensemen all year. Something has to give.

There are a few different ways things can turn out now.

The attention will still probably be on Liles because he sticks out as the bad contract on the team plus he’s not exactly a great fit anymore due to his contract and the surplus of defensemen in the Leafs organization. While the ideal situation would be trading him away for a draft pick and being rid of his contract to create 3.8M in cap space, that seems pretty unlikely right now.

However, the Leafs might be able to flip Liles to another team in exchange for another bad contract that isn’t as burdensome as Liles’ deal is. Teams that have the cap space and need help on defense include the Islanders, Panthers, Avalanche, Coyotes and the Capitals. Each team has a player or two that is sort of on the outs, or doesn’t have a great contract either that you can envision the Leafs swapping Liles for (Carkner, Bergenheim, Hunwick, Klesla, Chimera, for instance). Now, Liles had a really rough year being healthy scratched for 12 straight games, and scoring at a 28 point pace; if that’s not enough, he’s turning 33 this year, has three years left on his deal, and has a modified no trade clause. Moving him won’t be easy.

Failing trading Liles, the Leafs might be forced into a more unattractive alternative like trading Nikolai Kulemin or the unsigned Franson.

Frankly, trading Kulemin doesn’t make much sense because his trade value most likely doesn’t correlate strongly with his on-ice value. Most people see his 30-goal season and the fact that he hasn’t come anywhere close to that since (plus, he’s extremely important defensively for the shutdown line). That said, when you look at the rest of the forwards on the Leafs with high salaries, he’s the only guy that it would make sense for them to move based on the projected top six and Bolland being brought in this summer.

Of course, as mentioned, the Leafs could also decide to trade Franson. This season Gardiner will be up with the team full-time, they just signed Ranger, they seem to really like Fraser, and they might hope for a Liles bounce-back should they not be able to fit Franson in/trade Liles.

Franson had a huge season, finishing in the top 10 for scoring by a defenseman, but he didn’t even average 20 minutes a night so his value might be a little inflated right now. Defensemen who are worse than Franson currently such as Jordan Leopold, Douglas Murray, and Robyn Regehr each netted their teams multiple picks but their GMs moved them at the trade deadline. The August and September trade market isn’t exactly the same desperate beast it is in February. Logically, it’s easy to assume that if the Leafs were going to trade Franson because of his salary demands, they would have done it at the draft.

So, perhaps the Leafs believe they can fit Franson and Kadri under the cap. On the surface that might seem tough, but despite Franson’s season maybe the Leafs are looking at PK Subban’s two year bridge deal worth 2.8M per season. There isn’t much of a precedent with Franson because he only played a 48 game season, and although he’s always been touted as a talented defenseman his TOI and point totals have never been great. He’s only really starting to put it together now. In the last few seasons, Ryan Suter, Dennis Wideman and James Wisniewski each finished in the top ten in scoring (technically Suter and Wideman were tied for 10th together in league scoring) before cashing in huge as UFAs, but all of them had a past track-record of success and were UFAs as opposed to RFAs.

Obviously Franson’s in line for a raise, but never having this level of success over a full 82 game season nor averaging at least 20 minutes a night really should bring his cap number down to something lower than what many are expecting.

Then there’s Nazem Kadri, who had a monster 44 point season this year. As good as he was, his total body of work in the NHL reads to be 63 points in 99 games, which is a .64 points per game average. In the last few years there have been other bridge contracts around Kadri’s scoring range; for example, Matt Duchene had 150 points in 219 games (.68ppg) before signing a two year deal worth 3.5M/season, and Tyler Ennis had 92 points in 140 games (.66ppg) before signing a two year deal worth 2.8M/season. Considering Kadri doesn’t have a high TOI or large sample size to draw from, he could be getting something around the Ennis range as opposed to the Duchene range.

Failing a trade or signing Kadri and Franson to low deals, the Leafs could also work the minors and count their pennies. For instance, having TJ Brennan (600K) on the team instead of Korbinian Holzer (787K) saves them a few bucks, as would Troy Bodie(600K) beating out either Frazer McLaren (700K) or Colton Orr (925K). Although unlikely, the Leafs could also waive Liles which would save them nearly a million. If he is claimed that would really help the Leafs; the downfall is that, if he isn’t, that would probably kill any trade value he has whatsoever.

The bottom line really is that, while Kadri and Franson were huge pieces for the Leafs last season and hopefully in the future, they aren’t in positions to command huge money yet. That 4.9M seems a little small to fit both in, but it might be closer than many people are giving it credit for.

Tuesday morning links…

30 Teams in 30 Days
OHL prospect wiz Brock Otten broke down the Leafs OHL prospects, of which there are nine. I really liked what he had to say about Percy and Broll in particular.

Bulking up for any available position
Kyle catches up with Joe Colborne who has interestingly gained nearly 10 pounds this summer, a summer after growing another inch. With a healthy hand again and a filled in body, I’m expecting a good year from big Joe.

Bernier saviours opportunity to battle Reimer for no. 1 job
Bernier predictably talks about how he’s excited to battle it out for the number one gig and, you know, actually having a chance at it. Now, I did think it was interesting that he said he tries to stay on his feet as long as possible because that’s a big difference from what we’ve seen in net these past few years.

Who is Dave Nonis?
Steve Simmons had a nice piece on the man that is Dave Nonis. There’s nothing here in regards to team building or his philosophy, but it’s interesting to read his journey.

Curious case of Jim Ralph
I’m a fan of Jim Ralph and it’s great if he is indeed going to return next year, but geeze what a weird situation.

Farewell column: This is the business for me
Dave Perkins’ final column was on Friday, but I still felt it was worth posting. Happy retirement, Dave.

340 comments
Savo43
Savo43

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHnaUoYapFs

If we can sign our RFAs (trading them would be a mistake), relieve ourselves from Liles somehow, and maintain the team we have...We are going to do some damage. This is a damn good team IMO. Especially with another year under our youths belt (a PLAYOFF year). 

Xxxxxnew
Xxxxxnew

From SI:

Dustin Penner is the only player since 1997 (Chris Gratton) to change teams via an offer sheet).[6] The risk invested in real and cap dollars along with the negative reaction to an offer sheet has led to the act of signing an offer sheet becoming rare under the current CBA.[7]

thelongroad
thelongroad

Third line checking winger should not be hard to replace, and it is always good to have room for a youngster.

thelongroad
thelongroad

Traded Kulimen and liels to free up 11.675 miil in cap space for Kadri, Franson and Cowan. Got a 2nd rd pick for them.

thelongroad
thelongroad

Offer sheet ( cost us a 2nd rd pick ) Carter ashton.

.JVR.
.JVR.

Just a quick heads-up to anybody in the MLHS Keeper League on ESPN.

The league has been activated for the 2013/14 season, so feel free to join.

thelongroad
thelongroad

Dion-Gunnerson

Franson-Gardiner

Cowan-Ranger

Fraser-Grandberg

thelongroad
thelongroad

So if we can trade kulimen and liels for a 2nd rd pick we could offer sheet jared cowan for about 3 mill,we would have 11 .575 mill to sign

franson kadri and cowan.

thelongroad
thelongroad

If you make an offer sheet on a player who signs for 3mill or less you owe a 2nd rd pick is this correct.

Mattmark
Mattmark

"That 4.9M seems a little small to fit both in, but it might be closer than many people are giving it credit for."

Yeah, but it's close in the way that having your nostrils just under the surface of the water is close.  Just under or just over makes all the difference!  We've been able to see for some time that things are going to be close, but even the most optimistic forecasts (both agents being super-reasonable) appear to leave us short by five or ten percent.  That means something has to happen elsewhere, outside the two contracts.

Ensign
Ensign

Evening folks. Anyone around?

theacs1966
theacs1966

There needs to be a summer league, like winter ball, in baseball.  I can't take it, still another month before we start seeing some action of any kind.

Savo43
Savo43

@Xxxxxnew Both of those players are very similar in what they bring to the table. Weird. Gratton was definitely more defensive, but the size..the offensive failure after a decent start to their careers...yeah...very similar Loll! 

.JVR.
.JVR.

@thelongroad 

Say what you want, but Kulemin is one of the best third line checkers in the league.

Not that easily replaced!

Mattmark
Mattmark

@thelongroad Granberg.  At one point Tom Nilsson was ahead of him on the prospects chart.  Anyone heard much about him lately?

Xxxxxnew
Xxxxxnew

How many players have moved to another team on an offer sheet in the last 17 years? Answer: 1.

mcloki
mcloki

HeyEnsign always nice to hear from you. Hope you're well.

theacs1966
theacs1966

I need a fix.  I walked by the stadium in Oshawa, checked out both rinks, only one had ice and no one was on it.

mcloki
mcloki

3x3 league would be great.

theacs1966
theacs1966

@Pent_House Believe it or not it was state of the art back then, and there was much talk about a team in Hamilton.  It's why it was built, to lure a team or new franchise.  The Canada Cup was great advertising for it.  Didn't work, but it was a good try.  Also it was built just before Field of Dreams came out.  So no one knew, "if you build it, they will come"  They did, the fans, the players, even teams along the way just no NHL.

djamon
djamon

@Xxxxxnew That's very true. But I bet if you asked some of the matching teams if they would match again they would say no. Col with OReily? Buff with Vanek? I bet even Nash would change their minds.

Ensign
Ensign

@mcloki Im peachy. Wifes not all the pleased.. just starting the third trimester.. she's had a tough pregnancy.

Ensign
Ensign

@Alec Brownscombe @Ensign It goes. new job so im not around much and its not easy to post here with an iphone as my only access... although its better than disqus. I'll make a point of being around more once stuff starts happening..

theacs1966
theacs1966

@mcloki I hate that idea.  I'm a purist, for the most part.  I want to see hockey, skating, hitting scoring all that good stuff, 3.x3 is a skating exercise, too much space.  I will contradict myself (ouch), I do want to see no touch icing, not just for safety but to move the game along.  Don't need to watch a gassed Dman glide back just to touch the puck.

.JVR.
.JVR.

@thelongroad

I really don't think we need to add to the defence right now and why exactly wouldn't Ottawa match?

Do you really think they're gonna give up a former 1st round pick (9th overall, I believe) for a 2nd round pick?


Simply trade Liles and retain a million if that's what it takes:

Gunnarsson   -   Phaneuf

Gardiner   -   Franson

Ranger/Fraser   -   Granberg/Blacker/Holzer

Mattmark
Mattmark

@thelongroad @Mattmark @DJGLENN22 No notion about Ranger... I've only seen him (briefly) at the AHL level.  You have to wonder about the commitment of a guy who's already quit once in mid-career, though.  Maybe he'll tire of the grind again.

You can't rely on one or two skill guys... you need competence at every position.  That's why Hawks won the Cup, and also why they said that the Bruins were the most challenging opponent they faced all year. 

mcloki
mcloki

I just remember they used to have a 3 on 3 tournament during intermission a long time ago. It was pretty good.

theacs1966
theacs1966

@whalz Good point.  Was he dead by 91?  I saw, at the gardens, a Canada Cup game against Sweden when Lindros broke Ulf's collar bone, he was only 18 at the time.

theacs1966
theacs1966

@Pent_House @theacs1966 @mcloki You want to see a shit hole, check out anywhere in the Yukon except Dawson City which is only livable for about 3 months of the year.  I did 8 long very cold, very isolated years there, drove out, never looked back, never going back, 25 years so far.  Someone would have to offer me a mind blowing amount of money to move back there, min 500k.

whalz
whalz

wellland, fort erie, to name 2.......lol..........Buffalo NY? awful.......

must have had something to do with Maple Leaf gardens? maybe Ballard wanted too much cash to host such an event?

theacs1966
theacs1966

@Pent_House @mcloki I think they had the Commonwealth Games there too.  I lived in BC so everywhere is a shit hole compared, but there are worse place to be then Hamilton, like Whitehorse,mmmm, maybe Gitmo.

mcloki
mcloki

You just called their town a shit hole. Lol