Draft Day Two Wrap Up: Gunnarsson for Polak, offensive focus to Leafs’ draftees

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Given the Maple Leafs didn’t draft anybody until the 68th overall selection today, let’s start with the biggest news of Draft Day Two, which was the trade for Roman Polak in exchange for Carl Gunnarsson and a 4th round draft pick.

Leafs management appear to be rejigging the structure of the defence a little bit with this move. It opens up the left side for developing youngsters Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner to step into top 4 spots if they’re up to it, although that leaves little in the way of insurance if Rielly experiences some sophomore bumps in the road or if Gardiner (who led the Leafs in ES ice time and appears to be in line to grab a top-pair spot from the get go) has another mixed season. Paul Ranger, if he’s brought back, and Tim Gleason, if he is as well, are options on the left side of the bottom pair.

On the right, as of today, it goes Dion Phaneuf, RFA Cody Franson, Roman Polak and Petter Granberg. Reading between the lines, it seems like the Leafs would like to add another right hander here who could play on the second pairing, which presumably would mean Franson is on the outs. It should be noted, though, that the latest word on Franson was that there is an interest in re-signing him, but one hopes management doesn’t think adding Polak, subtracting Gunnarsson and keeping the rest in tact is going to lead to any sort of meaningful improvement on the back end. It does seem like right-hander Dan Boyle may be a target here.

Claude Loiselle today mentioned the possibility of moving Phaneuf back to the left, in which case adding Dan Boyle might make that much more sense, and maybe the Leafs would to fill out their defence with something like Phaneuf – Boyle, Gardiner – Franson, Rielly – Polak. Getting their pairings lined up according to handedness appears to be a priority as the Leafs have identified it as one of the issues contributing to poor breakouts. Dion has always preferred the right, so how this would play out for him is a question mark.

While there is some logistical sense to the restructuring, the worrying part of the deal is that the Maple Leafs just aren’t a more skilled group on the back end with the subtraction of Gunnarsson and the addition of Polak, and it doesn’t seem to be a good value trade. Polak played soft competition, didn’t excel in terms of possession, and generally appears to be more of the bottom-pair, Tim Gleason vein than a meaningful solution to the Leafs’ defensive issues, although Polak is cheaper, tough, a decent skater and hopefully bears out as some form of a right-handed upgrade on Gleason.

While Gunnarsson and Phaneuf as a pairing were buried under the toughest defensive assignments in the league last season and didn’t perform particularly well with those minutes (because neither are Chris Pronger), Gunnarsson had previously held his own against tougher competition than Polak has played. He also contributes more in the offensive context (.28 career PPG vs. .18). Gunnarsson has always had a knack for controlling his gaps well and breaking up plays with a good stick, although – and perhaps the hip ailment had exacerbated these issues – he struggled at times to transition the puck up ice last season. The quiet, positionally sound reputation Gunnarsson carries was mostly warranted, but he certainly was over his head in the very daunting role he filled and struggled at times under forechecking pressure, not helped by a hip injury hurting the fluidity of his turns and pivots.

We’ll have to wait and see what the big picture is in terms of the backend before casting final judgment, but for now, when we add in that Nonis took a pick out of his scouts’ hands and retained a little salary to make this happen, the value just doesn’t jive for me. It wasn’t necessarily a bad idea to try to fix the “mix” on defence — which did need addressing — and move out Gunnarsson for assets in the process, but Nonis may have been better off trying to fetch a younger player with some upside than a 28-year-old 5-6 D while giving up a pick and retaining some salary to acquire him.

The X factor might be how Gunnarsson responds to his hip procedure, which he has put off having for a few seasons now. If it continues to affect him, this might make more sense than it seems by the Leafs. He could also rebound and leave the Leafs looking silly. As always, time will tell.

Draft Wrap Up

2 Swedes, 1 Russian and 3 Americans split into five forwards and one defenceman was the 2014 draft haul for the Maple Leafs. The draft team, identifying the need for it in the system, definitely went for their share of offensive upside in this draft.

Click the names below for a profile on each new Leafs prospect including quotes from Director of Amateur Scouting Dave Morrison. Morrison’s story on why their lone defenceman drafted, Russian Rinat Valiev, was passed over in 2013 is worth a read.

Maple Leafs 2014 Draft Selections

RndPickOverallTeamPlayerPosCountryHeightWeightAmateur LeagueAmateur Team
188TORWILLIAM NYLANDERC/WCAN5' 11"169SWEDENMODO
3868TORRINAT VALIEVDRUS6'1"190WHLKootenay
4494TORTRADED
413103TORJOHN PICCINICHRWUSA6'0"190USHL Youngstown
Committed to Boston College
58128TORDAKOTA JOSHUACUSA6'2"185USHLSioux Falls
68158TORNOLAN VESEYLWUSA6'1"198USPHLSouth Shore
Committed to Maine
78188TORPIERRE ENGVALLWSWE6'4"201SuperElitFrolunda J20


Dave Nonis After Day 2:

Brendan Shanahan After Day 2:

Dave Poulin After Day 2:

Steve Staios After Day 2:

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Alec Brownscombe is the founder of MapleLeafsHotStove.com, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He was also the editor of the 2009-12 Maple Leafs Annuals. You can contact him at [email protected]
  • silverleaf

    “We’ll have to wait and see what the big picture is in terms of the
    backend before casting final judgment, but for now, when we add in that
    Nonis took a pick out of his scouts’ hands and retained a little salary
    to make this happen, the value just doesn’t jive for me. It wasn’t
    necessarily a bad idea to try to fix the “mix” on defence — which did
    need addressing — and move out Gunnarsson for assets in the process, but
    Nonis may have been better off trying to fetch a younger player with
    some upside than a 28-year-old 5-6 D while giving up a pick and
    retaining some salary to acquire him.”
    In a nutshell. Thanks Alec.

  • Burtonboy

    Proof of the pudding is in the eating . Come on October . Lets see what we got

  • Anthony Petrielli

    CanuckUKinToronto What else is he going to say? “Nobody wanted him so we just swooped right in and paid 3 assets?”

  • Doorman

    It,s Going to be a LONG SEASON!!!  GO LEAFS GO!!!

  • Burtonboy

    The two things I hear repeated by management over and over the last couple of days . Compete and speed . I’m on board with that.

  • Xxxxxnew

    Here’s the 4th St. Louis got, Ville Husso:
    Despite being ranked fairly high amongst goaltending prospects in the 2013 NHL Draft, Husso passed through the draft without being selected due to concerns about his overall game. His play at the Liiga level this season has quieted some of those critics though he had some struggles at the WJC tournament while playing for Finland. Overshadowed by goalies like Saros and the up-and-coming Kaapo Kahkonen, there is still a lot to like about Husso’s game and he should draw some interest in the 2014 NHL Draft. How much of an upside there is to his game is still uncertain at this point.

  • Cloud09

    Is there any specific reason why Granberg is considered the next Marlie defender to be promoted to the Leafs?? Holzer to me seems more of a lock and ready to make the jump than Granberg. Just curious since his name comes up all the time now.

  • HHT

    I’m good with McDavid, Eichel or Hanifin.  Keep up the good work Nonis!

  • Xxxxxnew

    Some MLHS posters who go to Marlies games liked him.

  • wiski

    Cloud09 He certainly looked like the best leaf dman on the ice the one game he played, that might have something to do with it

  • Loric76

    Cloud09 we’ve seen Holzer and he sucked…mostly because they called him up and threw him on the top line.  Granberg is the shiney new toy

  • wiski

    Burtonboy if they have any chance they gotta skate and outwork teams, otherwise see doormans comment

  • wiski

    Loric76 Cloud09 they are all gonna get a look

  • Burtonboy

    wiski Burtonboy Hence my 1st comment about the pudding lol

  • HHT

    Did we throw in a pudding, too? Burtonboy wiski

  • Cloud09

    Loric76 Cloud09 So because he couldn’t handle top pair minutes in his rookie year it means you throw him away??

  • Loric76

    Cloud09 Loric76 I don’t.  They do.

  • Cloud09

    Loric76 Cloud09 Who’s they, the Leafs?

  • Loric76

    Cloud09 Loric76 lol the wolves around here :)

  • loomx

    If a Gunnarsson for Polak trade is the most important dead, then that’s a colossal failure team for a team that didn’t fire the coach and claimed major changes were coming.

  • theacs1966

    Loric76 Cloud09 Half the NHL games as the guy the traded Aulie for, has 2 goals.  Just 20 games.  He looked awful, but he  was on the top pairing.

    PS, I’m still pissed about the Aulie trade.

  • Cloud09

    Loric76 Cloud09 Ah I see.

  • 4evrblue

    HHT Burtonboy wiski  What flavour was it? If it was chocolate I’m putting a hit out on NoNos head!!!

  • Loric76

    loomx most important trade.  Not FA signing.  There’s still stuff to do.

    Think balancing out the D and adding help on the right side was his top priority.

  • Anthony Petrielli

    FrycersGhost I might take heat for this but didn’t mind Finger the player at all. Really bad contract though.

  • chandler

    loomx   they didn’t fire the coach to tank for mcdavid.

  • Anthony Petrielli

    Cloud09 The Leafs keep bringing his name up and implying he’s ready.

  • loomx

    Loric76 loomx Yeah, I can’t wait to see all the gems they sign this year.
    A lateral move was his top priority. great.

  • rustynail

    Fuck off Nonis

  • Loric76

    loomx Loric76 you’re so jaded lol

  • vinoa

    loomx Loric76 This isn’t even a lateral move. Polak saw the weakest competition on a good team while Gunnar saw the best competition on a weak team. I still don’t get why we had to give a 4th AND retain salary. Is Nonis really going to undo all of Burke’s work in 2 off seasons?

  • Cloud09

    Anthony Petrielli Cloud09 I guess so, just seems kinda strange that they give Holzer that 2 year deal and don’t give him another shot.

  • rustynail

    Burtonboy new GM and coach by CDN Thanksgiving please

  • rustynail

    vinoa loomx Loric76 wonderful

  • Cloud09

    rustynail Boo-hoo

  • Pazzuzzu

    hmm

  • Alec Brownscombe

    rustynail rusty is bringing out the knives

  • theacs1966

    vinoa loomx Loric76 Gunnar was a JFJ pick.

  • loomx

    vinoa loomx Loric76 I should say lateral move at best. Can’t say it sucks around these parts.

  • Anthony Petrielli

    Cloud09 Anthony Petrielli Yes it does. I’m not even going to attempt to try and rationalize that.

  • Murph2417

    One thing I’m glad about the gunnar trade is that Nonis says that he expects Gardiner and Rielly to step up and play a more significant role.

  • Leaf_Maniac

    Off topic I know, but anyone have any good movie recommendations? You guys have gave me good ones in the past….Thanks!

  • loomx

    Pretty alarming when our GM thinks acquiring a bottom pairing Dman addresses our problems on defense.

  • Cloud09

    Leaf_Maniac Just watched The Lego Movie. It kicked ass, and the boy loved it too.

  • dlb Mad

    loomx
    your convinced you’ve got this nailed, but you’re relying on stats to feel good about Gunnar and bad about Polak.  am i right?
    i’m happy to see the mediocre player go.  i hope to see a better player play.  you and i both need to see what the new guy can do, don’t we?
    no.  you’re sure.  so it doesn’t matter what Polak looks like as a Leaf.  it’s the end of your world.  again.

  • ShiftyD

    loomx Hey you say NOnis I say pot-ay-toe

  • Cloud09

    Murph2417 That’s the major positive I see coming out of this.

  • vinoa

    theacs1966 vinoa loomx Loric76 Yeah and Burke was the GM who Gunnar played under. Last year Burke left Nonis with all the capspace in the world and he went out and got a winger. This year he could have addressed that #2 dman/#1C issue, but instead he goes and gets a bottom pairing defender…as if this team didn’t already have a bunch of those.

  • Loric76

    Cloud09 Leaf_Maniac The Lego Movie is absolutely retarded.  ADHD sufferers dream.

  • Loric76

    Cloud09 Leaf_Maniac and ya me and the kids loved it