Revisiting the Nonis blueprint

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Dave Nonis
Chris Young/Canadian Press

I took a look at Dave Nonis’ GM’ing history before the off season started. Since the summer has come to a crawl I thought it would be a good time to look back on it.

The first thing that leaps out at me — and I’ve been thinking about this for awhile — is that Nonis was handcuffed due to limited cap space for most of his time in Vancouver. And yet this time around he was gifted cap space, he gave it away, and still has two key cogs to resign. I’m just shocked he’s put himself in that same position again. I guess Nonis is comfortable working right up against the cap.

Another thing I noted was Jovanovski being allowed to leave as a UFA at 30, with the obvious parallel of Phaneuf potentially becoming a UFA at 29. It really didn’t surprise me to hear Phaneuf’s name thrown around in the trade market. I don’t know what kind of return he was looking for, but if getting a good player or two under 25 years old was possible as opposed to paying Phaneuf handsomely in his early-to-mid 30s, it’s likely Nonis would at least consider it.

It was also noteworthy that Vancouver wasn’t big on enforcers during Nonis’ time there, so that makes it pretty clear that Carlyle has a significant say on final roster decisions in Toronto.

While with the Canucks, Nonis identified the core of Kesler, Burrows, the Sedins, Bieska, etc. and stuck with them. While the Leafs have gotten rid of a few good players, Kessel, JVR, Lupul, Gardiner and Kadri (I’m not worried about him being re-signed at all) are all still apart of the team.

Furthermore, Nonis also threw a good chunk of coin at Willie Mitchell to join their core in Vancouver. Although I didn’t feel confident enough to say it in the blog because I didn’t want to rumour monger at the time, I always sort of thought Nonis would view Clarkson similar to the way he viewed Mitchell, as a hometown boy (Mitchell is a BC native) who plays a rugged style of hockey and bangs bodies. It’s obviously not a perfect parallel, but I see the similarities.

I also noted he’d look for a shutdown center, and obviously he did get one by bringing in Dave Bolland. It’s really too bad Komarov bolted for Russia, though.

A few other things that struck me were Burrows starting his career on the fourth line and working his way up, because it sounds like Colborne will have to follow the same path should he reach his potential. While the jury is still out on whether the Bernier trade was worth it, Nonis experienced having bad goaltending in Vancouver and quickly acted to bring in Luongo to end that (not to mention all the horrendous goaltending he’s had to endure while with the Leafs). While the Leafs actually got great goaltending last year statistically, I still maintain that Reimer is a serious injury risk. With Bernier in the fold, even just as insurance, I expect the Leafs receive at least top 15 goaltending this season.

Moreover, the very first thing I noted was that Nonis has probably changed since his time in Vancouver, and boy has he ever. Known for being too patient as a Canuck, Nonis struck fast with the Leafs and the team will look noticeably different next season. They have a new goalie, two new forwards, Colborne should be with the Leafs full-time unless he’s dreadful in camp, Ranger has been added to the defense, and Gardiner should play the full season this year, too. It’s a pretty different group which is mildly surprising considering they had some success last season.

In Vancouver, Nonis was questioned for his decisions on Kesler, the Sedins, the Mitchell contract, letting Jovanovski go, letting Carter go and so on, and he ended up looking good often than not. Hopefully that will prove to be the case with his asset management in Toronto.

Wednesday Morning Links…

Jake Gardiner breakout season around the corner?
Gardiner stepping up and pushing Gunnarsson off of the top pairing would be massive for the Leafs.

Maple Leafs & Nazem Kadri in holding pattern over new contract
Expect media outlets to make a big deal about Kadri not being signed until he’s signed. I for one am not worried about him. It’s the Franson situation that concerns me.

Ontario boys are back on the Leaf roster after period of absence
If you care about the Leafs having Ontario born players, they do now.

Kessel’s brother joins in Leafs skate
I really hope there aren’t Leafs fans who actually still question/dislike Kessel.

Kadri doing extra work on skating
Some stuff here on Kadri and Brennan, but the sad part was the blurb on Kulemin being all alone. One of my favourite Leafs without question.

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Anthony Petrielli has been at MLHS since 2011. He is known for his weekly "Leafs Notebook" feature, and also writes specific analysis pieces. You can contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @APetrielli.
  • darthNihilus

    Good assessment Tony, I see things kind of the same. I hope Nonis is one to learn from past mistakes and we wont be letting Dion walk for nothing-I hope he re-signs. I am cautiously optimistic and excited for training camp.

  • darthNihilus

    In the star story Kadri says he’s aware of the team’s cap issues. This makes me believe a bridge contract is something that he would accept if it made sense and I believe Ffranson would be smart to go down that route as well.

  • Dink

    I dunno, I am boosting my dishwashing

  • Dink

    I did a rough look at cap money and found that there is about 300 unsigned UFA’s and RFA’s. Some will never be resigned (maybe as many as half) but for argument they are out there.
    Of the 30 teams, there is a total of 124 Million available (even counting the deficit teams of Phil, etc.)
    That’s about 4 million a player available. 
    What’s it all mean?
    To me it means, a lot of teams will be adding payroll soon (by any means possible) and you will see a lot of cap freeing up on a lot of teams, not just Toronto.
    I did this mainly to see if teams could even operate with the present cap and it most definitely can.

  • mcloki

    The more important question is how many roster spots are available? Not too many I believe. Leafs just have 2.

  • leafscapguru

    -Keon- completely agree with you, I’ve also been tired of the leafs lack of UFA’s moves in previous season’s so i was have to see that we were able to land Clarkson, hopefully this starts a trend of players wanting to play here.

  • Jmessih

    Very true the Leafs still needed to sign, Bozak, Clarkson, Fraser, Gunner, Ranger and still Kadri and Franson. That takes up cap space and fills roster spots, where as the Islander have a lot of cap space and not too many roster spots to fill.

  • leafscapguru

    @Dink I think that Nonis will be able to trade a player before the season starts to lower the cap we might not be running a 23 man roster but what player wants to play that healthy scratch role.

  • TMLfan_15

    How long has Nonis had on the Job?  The only cumbersome contract that this team has that Nonis is responsible for is Clarkson’s.  If the Cap goes up as expected then that becomes less so.  Part of managing a cap is drafting and developing young and cheap players to plug into the line-up.  That is perhaps the most important element of “cap management”.  On that front the Leafs are in the best shape they have been in since i can remember.   The “mismanagement” of the cap that is referred too is highly exaggerated.  If anything, not having a boatload of money forces our two RFA’s to temper their demands.

  • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

    -Keon- Totally agree Keon, Nonis had to take out the trash before he got to work and retained some salary in order to get Bernier and in some ways that has pinched his cap space a bit. I also believe there are players on the team he’d like to move in favour of younger/cheaper. If he can move Liles he is looking just fine and I actually think he can get Kadri and Franson done with Liles still on the roster.

  • leafscapguru

    i did this as a joke but what if we put JML as a 4th line wing??? i know he play’s defense but till we do a trade it gives us solid player in a 4th line role, while giving us another defenseman in the lineup that could be moved around????? the 4th line guys get only 4 mins a game anyway… lol dying to see the comments

    Joffrey Lupul ($5.250m) / Tyler Bozak ($4.200m) / Phil Kessel ($5.400m) 
    James Van Riemsdyk ($4.250m) / Nazem Kadri ($2.851m) / David Clarkson ($5.250m) 
    Jay McClement ($1.500m) / Dave Bolland ($3.375m) / Nikolai Kulemin ($2.800m) 
    John-Michael Liles ($3.875m) / Joe Colborne ($0.600m) / Colton Orr ($0.925m) 
    Frazer McLaren ($0.700m) / 
    DEFENSEMEN
    Dion Phaneuf ($6.500m) / Carl Gunnarsson ($3.150m) 
    Jake Gardiner ($1.117m) / Cody Franson ($3.200m) 
    Mark Fraser ($1.275m) / Paul Ranger ($1.000m) 
    GOALTENDERS
    Jonathan Bernier ($2.900m) 
    James Reimer ($1.800m) 
    OTHER
    Buyout: Darcy Tucker ($1.000m) 
    Buyout: Colby Armstrong ($1.000m) 
    RETAINED SALARY TRANSACTIONS (0.778% of upper limit)
    Matt Frattin ($0.437m—0.5%) Ben Scrivens ($0.062m—0.1%) 
    ——
    CAPGEEK.COM TOTALS (follow @capgeek on Twitter)
    (these totals are compiled with the bonus cushion)
    SALARY CAP: $64,300,000; CAP PAYROLL: $64,417,167; BONUSES: $300,000
    CAP SPACE (21-man roster): $182,833

    lol ok kill me guys i just want hockey talk!!!!

  • B_Leaf

    My mind (how ever small it may be) cannot comprehend how Nonis used a very valuable compliance buy out on Komisarek when he had just one year left. We could have either kept him on the farm or exercised a traditional buyout. Liles contract seems far more damaging.
    Another head scratcher for me is the Bernier deal. If Bernier ends up being a top ten GK then only maybe does it make sense. But just wishing Bernier to be a top ten GK doesn’t make it happen. He basically has one really good AHL season and one decent NHL season where he played only a hand full of games. Other than that his numbers are average or even slightly below. It could be said he is trending upwards though. Bernier does handle the puck well, which really helps…but his rebound control is not good. People think his rebound control is good because LA management say so…lol…they knew they were trading him. Watch him and then tell me.
    The Bernier deal and the Liles matter has created a bad cap situation and it is likely to cost us an asset this year or next. Because if we have to give a bridge contract to Kadri it will cost us more later. 
    When Nonis was in Vancouver I was under the impression that he made more problems in his first year at the top than he solved. Correct me if I am wrong but I thought he took a playoff team and turned them into a non-playoff team.
    I think the Leafs will do well because of Carlyle, internal improvement, and a couple of the moves made, but do I think they could have done better…yes!

  • Leafs rule

    leafscapguruol ok kill me guys i just want hockey talk!!!! ha ha we are outa bullets ,you can just suffer along with us lol

  • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

    B_Leaf Komi had a NMC though, he did the team a favour by agreeing to go down last season but I doubt he would do it again. My guess is there was a loose agreement in place that if he agreed to go to the Marlies they could would buy him out in the summer. Nonis actually saved cap money in the short term by using the compliance buyout on Komi instead of Liles.

  • B_Leaf

    ingy56 B_Leaf 
    Then do the traditional buyout…easy button

  • Dink

    leafscapguru love the 2.851M contract for Kadri..thinking outside the box, lol.

  • TMLfan_15

    B_Leaf Liles is an asset, Komiserek wasn’t.  Liles can still help this team on the ice, or has value on the trade market down the road.  Look at the bloated contacts some defensemen have received.  When the inevitable injury bug hits teams, I believe Liles will have value.  Keeping Komisarek around another year sitting in the Press Box would have done a ton of damage to the organizations reputation amongst players in the league.  Saying Bernier’s contract will cost them an asset is simplistic.

  • leafscapguru

    @Dink leafscapguru not sure about you but 100k buys me a sick car! lol It might help!

  • B_Leaf

    I was thinking of the Kadri situation and had always thought the Subban bridge deal was a good comparison…however there is an added wrinkle to that deal that changes the dynamics. Subbans deal was massively loaded in the second year meaning that last year with the prorated schedule and him sitting out games he lost less. Most of the contract money is paid in full this year, so in essence he was paid more than 2.85M. Hence for Kadri to get a comparable deal it would be north of $3M.
    Subban 2012-13 salary $2M pro-rated to 52 games minus 10 G he sat out, basically half so about 1M.
    Subban 2013-14 salary $3.75M full payment

  • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

    B_Leaf ingy56 On Komi you mean? I think if they did that, the cap was in the neighbourhood of $2.5 million for two seasons. I do wonder why they didn’t use the traditional buyout on Liles when they had the chance after Fraser’s arbitration but I can only hope it’s because Nonis thinks he can move him through the trade market. His buyout numbers aren’t nice.

  • Dink

    leafscapguru :)

  • B_Leaf

    TMLfan_15 B_Leaf 
    I think you are being a little on the optimistic side. Liles is not an asset when he is not even playing. And he is not playing because he is not an asset when he does. He is not terrible…thats not my point, but he isn’t much if any above replacement player value. If the Leafs are able to trade him it will not only be a surprise to me.
    Well Bernier is essentially costing them 3.4 this year when you include retained salary. That is way more than Scrivens who was $600,000 I think. It also cost them a valuable and affordable top nine forward trending up in Frattin. I guess we will see but at some point this will impact the roster, whether its depth of an asset.

  • amarshall

    I understand that people aren’t sold on Bernier yet, and really there is no way to be as he hasn’t suited up for a game yet. I think the added security of having Bernier will benefits us down the road, as it could result in having two #1 goalies on the team. The past few years our goal-tending tandems have always been at the bottom of the league (with exception to this past year), and is a crucial part in winning hockey games as goalies can steal games alone.
    What happens if Bernier fails? Well then we still have Riemer and we hope he continues to grow and stays in the lineup. However if bernier and reimer both play well, we all know that nonis will eventually be forced to move one of them which at that time would give us a great return on our investment.
    I am just hoping for one of these two goalies to have a great year (top 10 in the league). We have seen that Reimer is capable of doing this, and Bernier has lots of potential and therefor this shouldn;t be hard to achieve. If they both end up splitting games and playing well, then lets see what happens is february as their will always be teams willing to give up a tun of assets for cheap and proven #1 goalie.

  • Greg Fenton

    B_Leaf With the new CBA, wouldn’t Komisarek’s salary count against the cap this year anyway?
    As I said yesterday, you have to assume that Nonis and/or Carlyle had some issues or concern with Reimer as their starting goalie and they felt like they needed to bring in someone who could be “the guy”.

  • B_Leaf

    ingy56 B_Leaf 
    The buyout would be 2/3 of his remaining over two years. The math worked out to (going from memory) 2.4 one year and 900K the other. Something like that. This along with Liles would have given them the flexibility needed.

  • Dink

    Greg Fenton B_Leaf  Reimer would probably be the definite #1 if not for those rebounds…

  • Greg Fenton

    leafscapguru -Keon- Players may be more willing to come to Toronto then they were in the past, but as things stand now, will they really have the ability to bring UFA’s into the fold next year?

  • B_Leaf

    Kadri would have to get $3.12M to be a comparable…just sayin

  • Greg Fenton

    darthNihilus Thats what I said a couple weeks ago – a 1 year deal would be best for all involved.

  • Greg Fenton

    @Dink Greg Fenton B_Leaf Or health issues. He was injuried for 31 of the last 130 games he has been on the roster for.

  • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

    B_Leaf ingy56 Yeah, that sounds about right. Like I said, Nonis saved in the short term by using the compliance on Komi. If he didn’t have that NMC it would be no problem to send him to the Marlies and use the compliance on Liles instead. It would have only cost them cash.

  • B_Leaf

    Subban also had two decent seasons before his deal whereas Kadri only had one, although Kadri’s one season was probably better than either of Subbans IMO.
    Feels like I’m talking to myself

  • TMLfan_15

    B_Leaf TMLfan_15 you cant compare Bernier to Scrivens.  there wasn’t 15 teams interested in Scrivens services with 3 or 4 teams making a serious pitch.  Nonis did great in that trade.  If you want to be a play-off team you better have more than one goalie.

  • B_Leaf

    ingy56 B_Leaf 
    But if he uses the compliance on Liles and the tradional on Komi he saves enough space to take care of business this year and no long term damage. No brainer isn’t it. I mean if I asked you what to do before Nonis did something…what would you do?

  • Greg Fenton

    B_Leaf But thats the thing with players contracts, you can make a well reasoned, logical argument as to why they should get X, but if they really feel they should get Y…..

  • B_Leaf

    TMLfan_15 B_Leaf 
    Well again LA says 15 teams…its probably more like 29 team…it just depends on the cost. We know that nobody was willing to pay what the Leafs paid. 
    And I like Scrivens, but if we wanted another option we could have looked at UFA. Reimer will be in our net next spring.

  • B_Leaf

    Greg Fenton B_Leaf 
    pardon?

  • B_Leaf

    Greg Fenton B_Leaf 
    no

  • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

    B_Leaf ingy56 Yep, I was of the same mind. I’m just trying to guess what Nonis was thinking. There’s always a variable that we don’t see. I tend to think that Kulemin could end up being moved instead. More value, expiring contract and a Marlie could do the job for less, albeit not as well as Kulemin can. Whatever happens, I can guarantee there will be a large portion of the fanbase that won’t like it.

  • B_Leaf

    ingy56 B_Leaf 
    I guess that is exactly my point…if this causes us to lose Kulemin I will just spit.

  • wendelsway1

    Morning Folks and thanks for the mash up, Anthony……a good read as always.  Am very interested in how our D will shake out at camp.  Like the first article, I do believe we will be singing the praises of the Gardiner Express this season.  :)

  • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

    B_Leaf ingy56 I hear you….

  • Greg Fenton

    B_Leaf Greg Fenton Your argument that Kadri has had 1 good season (hell, 1 full season) compared to Subban’s 2 before he signed his bridge deal is a completely, valid, logical, well thought out argument. 
    The problem is when working out a contrat that kind of argument doesn’t always mean….anything. Nonis could lay out a an air-tight, logical argument as to way Kadri should get 2 million for 1 year. But if thats not what Kadri wants……

  • Dink

    I really can’t find  fault with Nonis so far.. alot of cut and dry decisions that I see.
    You want Bernier, Clarkson and Bolland … this is what it takes to get them..
    He signed Ranger and I think that’s a huge signing..
    Picked up Smith and Brennan.
    He has re-signed Bozak, Fraser, Colborne, McLaren and Orr …all important
    Got rid of cap ….had to…
    Remember all his decisions are not final until the brass agree…

  • B_Leaf

    Greg Fenton B_Leaf 
    Well does $2M for one year sound reasonable? Maybe $3M.

  • Greg Fenton

    B_Leaf Greg Fenton Absolutely. But its not about coming up with whats reasonable, its about coming to terms with another person. And if he really believes he should get 3.5 million for 5 years…….
    If it was as easy as coming up with something Nonis or the fans find reasonable, he’d be signed already.

  • B_Leaf

    Greg Fenton B_Leaf 
    We shall see…I expect a one year deal at $3M give or take a very small amount.
    That leaves Franson last guy to dinner.

  • B_Leaf

    wendelsway1 
    Yeah I think Gards has a big impact. Could be cool to see him and Karlson go head to head in the battle of Ontario.

  • wendelsway1

    Greg Fenton B_Leaf At the end of the day Kadri is an RFA and if he wants to be in Toronto, he will sign a bridge contract and continue to prove his worth.  If not he can sit out a few games just like Subban did, as far as I’m concerned.  Really don’t think it will come to this as I do expect both Kadri and Franson to be on board before training camp

  • Greg Fenton

    B_Leaf Greg Fenton And unless something changes, only 1.8 million to sign him with.