Sunday, May 24, 2015
Authors Posts by Alec Brownscombe

Alec Brownscombe

Alec Brownscombe is the founder of, 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]

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Brandon Pridham
Brandon Pridham

The Maple Leafs have rounded out their front office by hiring a second assistant GM — Brandon Pridham.

Pridham has been working in the NHL head offices for 15 years, leaving a position as Director of the Central Registry and Central Scouting. Pridham will be the team’s resident capologist and CBA expert as well as negotiate contracts with the team’s pending free agents — the role Claude Loiselle was fired from in late July.

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Steve Spott
Head coach Steve Spott speaks to reporters during a news conference naming the team at the National Juniors selection camp in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012. The Canadian junior men's hockey team had the best 19-year-old talent in the country available to it because of the NHL lockout, but a pair of 17-year-old forwards were named to the squad Thursday.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

MLHS’ Alec Brownscombe chatted with newly-appointed Maple Leafs assistant coach Steve Spott this afternoon. There was lots to cover ahead of the new season.

Jake Gardiner
Photo: NHLI via Getty Images

With James Reimer’s negotiations settling on Friday, only Jake Gardiner remains of the Leafs’ outstanding contract situations, and this contract quietly might be most interesting among all of the Leafs’ RFAs this off-season. Do the Maple Leafs bridge him with a 2 year deal or buy some UFA years on a long term contract, pay a little more than they would have in the next few seasons, and hope it pays off down the road?

The comparative thinking here being that $4.25 million for James van Riemsdyk until 2018 is ridiculously good value. We could also point out that the Buffalo Sabres probably wish they bridged Tyler Myers instead of going long term after his ELC expired. It’s harder to project with young defencemen, too, given ability to play bigger minutes against tough competition becomes the judgment call as opposed to projecting based mostly on point production.

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The Maple Leafs and James Reimer have followed the league-wide theme of arbitration avoidance by arriving at a 2-year contract agreement worth $2.3 million per season.

It’s difficult to know how much praise is deserved for signing good-value RFA deals because the leverage is so tilted in favour of the club, but this is another cap-friendly deal for the Leafs and it seems to comes in for less than Reimer would’ve been awarded in arbitration.

Reimer and Bernier will be earning a combined $5.2 million last season and that’s excellent value for a tandem that stands among the best in the League. Bernier will be an RFA at the end of the 2014-15 season, Reimer a UFA at the end of the 2015-16 season.

GoalieTotal GPRecordGAASV%
James Reimer14065-48-152.850.914
Jonathan Bernier11755-39-132.510.918

“It gives James a little bit of security + shows we still believe he is a goaltender that can continue to improve. He never said: ‘Get me out of here,’ said Nonis. What he did ask was for us to explore opportunities …. We did. I went back to him+said: ‘I don’t have something that I would feel comfortable doing+we prefer to sign you.We both felt (Reimer) coming back was good for us+for him. He wouldn’t have signed…if he didn’t feel comfortable.

Kevin McGran in speaking with Nonis on the phone this afternoon

We’re not sure if Reimer actually formally submitted a trade request, but it’s pretty clear there is no situation in the League where the Leafs can move Reimer to and have him guaranteed more opportunity than he will receive in Toronto. For now, he’ll need to show up to the camp ready to battle Jonathan Bernier for starts. If he remains second fiddle, injuries or underperformance will probably create an opening somewhere at some point throughout the season. This is a very trade-friendly contract if Reimer performs when he gets his opportunities this year, especially with the extra year of term tagged on at a good price.

Even better, it’d be great if Reimer and Bernier fought tooth and nail for starts in Toronto and gave them the type of goaltending the Leafs were getting in the earlier parts of the 2013-14 season.

As Anthony Petrielli explored earlier in the off-season in an article entitled “Trading James Reimer – Not So Fast,” this is probably the best thing for the organization for the time being in terms of hedging their bets and ensuring good goaltending again next season. His first season was nothing short of superlative, but Jonathan Bernier has some work left to do to prove he’s a year-in, year-out heavy lifter in net.

Jonathan Bernier’s past workload
SeasonGP% of Season

Reimer has had two 30+ game seasons where he’s posted a save percentage of .920 or above, with two seasons (2011-12 – .900; 2013-14 – .911) mixed in where his play has fallen off; in both cases there were head injuries precipitating the drop off.

Reim time isn’t over yet in Toronto yet, from the looks of things. Give ‘em hell, Optimus.

Photo via Facebook Page

The online hockey world reacted to news of the hiring of an assistant GM  like it was its own version of the LeBron sweepstakes when the Leafs brought aboard young hockey executive Kyle Dubas yesterday. That’s of little shock given the Maple Leafs had become such a flashpoint in the debate on the role and place of advanced stats/analytics in hockey-ops decisions in the past year and a half — achieving modest success for 110 games despite ghastly underlying possession numbers and then having the floor fall out from under them when their overworked number one goalie got hurt late in the season.

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TORONTO, CANADA - FEBRUARY 6: of the Toronto Maple Leafs of the Edmonton Oilers during NHL game action February 6, 2012 at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

Cody Franson and the Toronto Maple Leafs avoided salary arbitration yesterday by agreeing to a final-hour, one-year, $3.3 million pact. The question now is whether Franson will be a Leaf or donning another team’s sweater on opening night of the 2014-15 season.

Here’s both sides of the argument, as best I see it:


– The most convincing argument for moving Franson: His value, as a UFA to be on July 1, 2015, is likely to to decline by the game unless he has a really big season or something unforeseen. If the Leafs don’t think they can get a deal done with him based on their dealings with him in the past, it’s as good of a time as any to move him.

– The Leafs have brought a couple of right-handers into the organization in Robidas and Polak, and rightie Petter Granberg appears to be ready to make the jump.

– They have three good powerplay point options outside of Franson in Phaneuf, Rielly and Gardiner, and we all know Kessel runs that first PP unit beyond any shadow of a doubt. Franson’s uncanny ability to put through point shots is a nice asset, but the Leafs’ powerplay probably survives and still succeeds without it. It’s worth mentioning that, during the season-crippling slump, the powerplay also dipped, and the Franson-Phaneuf pairing gave up a couple of shorthanded goals and way too many shorthanded scoring chances against, although the clear solution there was to split them up and pair them off each with a mobile puck mover, of which the Leafs had two young talented specimens.

– Franson struggled to stay above water in his 5v5 second-pair duties, and even his even-strength point production was far from overwhelming. Whether or not Franson has the foot speed to shut down second-line forwards across the League is a big question mark.

– The Leafs have watched some pretty good assets walk out of this organization for nothing in recent summers, and cashing in on Franson while he still has a full season under contract at a pretty good cap figure would make sense and might be a little bit refreshing as far as the club’s asset management goes (note: it’s not good asset management, however, if they trade a decent defenceman for a poor return).


– While Franson’s thoughts on the contract announcement — suggesting he was happy to have struck a deal avoiding arbitration — were to be expected, he certainly didn’t have to volunteer that he “wants to be in Toronto for a long time.” The contract disputes of years past has led to the natural inference that there isn’t a great relationship between the club and the player — and by extension the thinking that he would definitely walk next summer — but that might not be the case, at least to the extent some of us have imagined. It is a distinct possibility that Franson took a little less money to avoid the ugly arbitration process, which as an action speaks just as loudly as those aforementioned words.

– The old Brian Burke adage about needing 10 NHL-ready defencemen seems rather idealistic, but it speaks to a self-evident truth about the need for depth on the blueline. If we assume Granberg is going to get an opportunity, having Franson gives the Leafs a solid group of 7 plus a few “could bes” off the Marlies like Percy and MacWilliam. That’s decent depth. Remember, for all their misfortune in terms of injuries at center, the Leafs got really fortunate when it came to the health of their regular blueliners last season.

– We could get into a discussion here about Dion Phaneuf playing on his left versus his right, a change which Franson’s presence come the Fall might necessitate, but the main point about depth is to have options throughout a long 82-game grind. Don’t just jettison a quality asset because the logistics of lefties vs. righties might not make sense on paper in July.

– Robidas and Polak are regarded as strong own-zone guys and are right handed; quite simply, the Leafs made a bet last season that Franson would be able to step seamlessly into a second pair role/top 4 minutes, but it didn’t just happen without some pretty big bumps in the road. No one really knows for sure how the pairings will shake down, but there should be less pressure to deploy Franson as a top 4 guy on the right side now that the team has more options there. If Franson and Gardiner find the top form they’ve shown in spurts together, great; there’s the second pair. If not, Franson does not have to be relied upon so much at 5v5 if he doesn’t earn the trust.

Conclusion: I’ve said all of this to essentially arrive at the diplomatic, classically Dave Nonis answer of “deal this asset if the price makes sense, but don’t deal him just because.” You’re welcome.

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Mike Santorelli
Mike Santorelli (Photo: NHLI.com_)

The Maple Leafs have signed centerman Mike Santorelli to a 1-year, $1.5 million contract.

It looks like the Maple Leafs have settled for two cheaper options than David Legwand to round out their bottom six centers, adding Mike Santorelli as well as KHL import Petri Kontiola today. One is likely to play wing (Kontiola or Santorelli could play RW) while the other rounds out the group of centers alongside Tyler Bozak, Nazem Kadri and Peter Holland.  Those are questions for training camp. For now, all of Petri Kontiola, Peter Holland and Mike Santorelli give the Leafs bottom six C options and the Leafs are paying all three quite a bit less collectively than they would have Dave Bolland.

“I like him as a player. He can really shoot the puck.”
-Jim Benning

Avoiding burdensome contracts on mediocre talent in favour of good-value piecemeal options, lower-commitment and lower-risk options with the potential to provide the same impact or better, appears to be the approach for Leafs management this off season. Good on them. Maybe they net out ahead from a number of cheaper, incremental improvements; at a minimum, some cap flexibility remains in tact and David Clarkson remains the lone egregious contract on the roster.

This is good value for a former 40-point scorer in Santorelli (put up a 20-21-40 season with the Panthers in 2010-11). He had a down year in 2011-12 before shoulder surgery all but wiped his 2012-13 season, but he bounced back with a good season of 28 points in 49 games last season in Vancouver (suffered another shoulder injury that wiped a chunk of the season). Vancouver Canucks fans were mostly upset to see him go.

Santorelli, 6’0, 190-pounds, has skill, can cycle and will bring some sorely needed secondary offense in the bottom six. He doesn’t offer the same frame as Nik Kulemin, but he works tirelessly and he should replace his production at a much cheaper price. He adds versatility and depth to the bottom 6 options.

Santorelli won 51.3% of his draws last season. He played 18:33 a game, including 1:43 on the penalty kill and 1:23 on the powerplay. None of his 28 points in 49 games came on the powerplay, which means he posted just six less points at even strength than Mason Raymond in 33 fewer games and eight more than Nik Kulemin in 21 fewer games. He posted a +0.9% corsi rel score.

“Forget about the goals; there are a lot of other little things he does in the game. I’m looking up and down the bench in all situations for him. So it’s a really good story.”
-John Tortorella

The Maple Leafs have an interesting bottom six forming consisting of hungry players in Komarov, his fellow new Finnish addition Kontiola, and Santorelli on a one-year deal. There might be more room to improve the team through the bottom six alone than we think, provided Randy Carlyle changes his approach and uses a fourth line, because last season it was positively terrible.

Mike Santorelli Scouting Report

“Skilled oppurtunistic playmaker with quick, nifty hands and good vision… skating is fairly quick and fluid but not dynamic… generates bursts of momentum by an alternating series of crossovers… needs to keep adding power and quickness to his stride, especially in startup… comfortable in possession… sneaky and elusive in tight quarters – makes sharp pivots and reversals with the puck… know how to open lanes coming off the halfwall and packs a quick, accurate wrist shot which he can unload without breaking stride… supports the puckcarrier well in each zone, hustling to get around the puck and provide an outlet… continues to develop a more consistent compete level as he’s most effective when tenancious in puck pursuit… misses some size and physical intensity – and has to maximize his strenght and conditioning… industrious player.”
-McKeen’s Hockey

Mike Santorelli Video

Mike Santorelli Statistics

Position: C
Shoots: Right
Height: 6-0
Weight: 189 lbs.
Birth Date: December 14, 1985 (28 years old)
Place of Birth: Vancouver, B.C.
Shoots: R
Drafted:Drafted by Nashville in 2004 (6/178)
3 yrsFLA166312455-34403319.414:19
2 yrsNSH32213-1310474.311:14
1 yrVAN49101828969111.018:33
1 yrWPG10011-50140.013:43

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BOSTON, MA - MAY 10 - Toronto Maple Leafs Leo Komarov celebrates after Tyler Bozak scores a shorthanded goal as the Toronto Maple Leafs play the Boston Bruins in game 5 of their first round NHL Stanley Cup playoffs series at TD Garden in Boston, May 10, 2013.

All in all, there weren’t any miracles performed that we can be over the moon about yesterday, but the hope is that there was some incremental improvements made and — perhaps more importantly — some major mistakes avoided with the type of money that was doled out to the likes of Brooks Orpik and Dave Bolland.

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Dave Nonis is set to address the media at 4:30 p.m (live stream above).

The moves and news today:

Dallas Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas (3) skates against the San Jose Sharks during the game at the American Airlines Center. The Stars defeated the Sharks 4-3 in the overtime shootout. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Maple Leafs have dipped into the free agent pool to sign defenceman Stephane Robidas to a three-year, $9 million contract.

Dave Nonis has added a right-handed top-4 option here in the tough-as-nails veteran. Certainly he brings the element of leadership and tough-to-play-against qualities, but he also has a long track record of capably handling tough minutes, averaging 22:14 in the lockout-shortened season and just under 20 minutes in his curtailed 2013-14 season. He seems like a great fit on Jake Gardiner or Morgan Rielly’s right.

The obvious risk comes in the form of signing a 37-year-old defenceman who broke his right leg twice in the past few years to a 3-year contract. That said, he’s already skating in early July.

You simply don’t get free agent deals done, if the player has any level of interest, without giving out at least a year more than what’s ideal, and considering the overpayments in money and term today (lol Orpik), this is palatable.

The other element of risk to this deal is that it is a multi-year over-35 contract, meaning the Leafs cannot bury a portion of it if Robidas doesn’t return to form.

Players who sign multi-year contracts when they are age 35 or older (calculated on June 30 of the season the contract begins) count toward the cap under all circumstances, regardless of where (or if) the player is playing. The only cap relief is $100,000 from the player’s cap hit if he is assigned to the minors after the first year of the contract or in the event of a buyout.

Stephane Robidas Scouting Report

heads up puck mover possessing excellent skating ability… escapes danger utilizing his quick first step and acceleration… not a natural puck handler, yet makes a decent first pass… aggressive and courageous despite a smallish frame – battles ferociously away from the puck… sustains tight gaps and plays mostly error-free defence… tought to beat 1-on-1 due to his exceptional agility and steely determination… mental mistakes do creep into the game from time to time however, particularly when the workload intensifies… and ideal complementary partner

Scouting Report Courtesy of McKeen’s Hockey

Stephane Robidas Statistics

11 yrsDAL704461652112461010284.520:35
3 yrsMTL12271623-25281454.819:53
1 yrCHI4521012633553.620:55
1 yrANA1414538214.820:37
Stephane Robidas Statistics

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Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis leaves the rink after a practice session at their NHL training camp in Toronto on Thursday September 12, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Fasten your seat belts. There’s always been something highly appropriate about Canada Day coinciding with the entire country ravenously following hockey transactions by the second.

The Maple Leafs have drafted centerman Dakota Joshua of Sioux Falls (USHL) with their 128th overall selection.  A second consecutive American college kid selected after picking John Piccinich 103rd overall.

Joshua stands 6’2, 185-pounds and could play for Ohio State next season but may opt to stay another year in the USHL to further develop his offensive game before moving onto college hockey.

Big centers with skill are always intriguing and this sounds like an interesting project to keep an eye on.

Dave Morrison on Dakota Joshua

“He’s another swing at the fence for us. A real potential guy. He’s very raw in a lot of different ways. He’s tall, he’s a very athletic kid, and we saw some flashes of some real good skill toward the end of the year with that team. His coaches couldn’t say enough good things about him. He’s very diligent in his two-way game and he appears to have some offensive potential, so we’re really excited. He could’ve gone into Ohio State next year but he wants to stay and play another year in the USHL to give himself more time to develop his offensive game. We’re kind of excited about him, too, just by the mere fact that he’s still growing and he showed those things you like in a player. At this point I would call him a ‘top 9′ potential player.”

Dakota Joshua Scouting Report

Joshua was a bit buried on Sioux Falls roster this year behind some very good veteran players, but still put up a very respectable 38 points in 51 games in his first USHL season. Joshua has always been a player with a big frame and high potential. While he’s not all the way to reaching his full potential, he showed enough signs of positive growth over the course of the year to suggest he’s on his way to doing so.
- Land Grant Holy Land

Joshua has a big frame and is magnificent at using his size and long reach to protect the puck from attacking players. He’s still relatively skinny for his size, but once he fills out, he has the potential to be a true power forward that handles the puck well enough to be a consistent scoring threat.
SB Nation College Hockey

Dakota Joshua Stats

SeasonTeamLgeGPGAPtsPIMplus minus
2012-13U.S. National Development TeamUSHL62022-6
2012-13Sioux Falls StampedeUSHL101102
2013-14Sioux Falls StampedeUSHL55172138586