Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Authors Posts by Alex Tran

Alex Tran

Alex has been a part of the original MLHS team since way back in 2008. He has contributed to the 2009-12 Maple Leafs Annuals with a special interest in junior hockey and player development.

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A pair of MLHS readers have kindly submitted FanPosts for your reading enjoyment. Logan Macneil makes the case for converting Tomas Kaberle into a top six forward while Steve Hitchins previews some of the highly anticipated fisticuffs match-ups for the upcoming season. A big pat on the back for both these gentlemen for taking the time.

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– Among the youngsters impressing at the Leafs’ prospect camp is 2006 NCAA draftee Tyler Ruegsegger. Tyler is a smart, skilled winger whose size and skating concerns may limit hit ability to become an impact player in the NHL. He was not offered an entry-level contract by the Maple Leafs after a 4 year stint with the University of Denver, but did finish this past season at a point-a-game rate. However, the club is strongly considering offering Tyler Bozak’s former teammate an AHL contract to play for the Toronto Marlies, though that would leave the door open for another team to swoop in and steal Ruegsegger away with an ELC.

– Recent Maple Leafs’ free agent signee Brett Lebda is hopeful of taking on a bigger role this coming season. Coming over as a depth defenseman on a very strong Red Wings’ blueline, Lebda hopes to become more of a 4/5 type defenseman with the Leafs. Burke commented on Lebda’s great skating and puck moving ability, though stressed that the signing is not tied to an imminent Kaberle trade.

– Is there a particular subject you feel strongly about? Feel free to submit a FanPost to MLHS to be displayed on the front page.

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– The Toronto Star has a nice piece up about Kadri’s offseason workouts and training regimen. The youngster has bulked up to an impressive 185 lbs, up from 170 lbs at this time last season and credits his success to being able to train regularly with Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel. The Maple Leafs player development staff are quite pleased with Nazem’s progress, as he continues to vie for a role in the team’s top six forward group.

– Not to give away too many details, but I conducted my interview with Leafs’ Director of Amateur Scouting Dave Morrison yesterday for the 2010 Maple Leafs Annual and he confirmed that if Kadri does not make the team out of camp, the organization will send him to the Marlies rather than back to the Knights.

– The Montreal Gazette provides some insight into how prospect Brayden Irwin, a late season NCAA free agent signee, is preparing for upcoming year.

– CapGeek notes that the Maple Leafs have re-signed forward Tim Brent to a 1 year, two-way contract worth $575,000. Brent will likely provide some scoring depth for the Marlies, having scored 28 points in 33 games last season.

– Yahoo’s Greg Wyshynski confirms that the lack of movement on the free agent front is due to fact that several teams are facing financial restrictions. Free agents were aware that several teams were trying to offload cumbersome contracts, but were surprised at the lack of success in doing so. The teams trying to climb to the cap floor are preferring to do so by bidding on second or third tier players, which in turn is inflating the market for these secondary contributors. Several teams are in the “wait-and-see” mode with an eye on scooping up bargains around July 10th.

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Even with news breaking this afternoon of Ilya Kovalchuk’s new $60 million contract extension (potentially) with the New Jersey Devils, this 2010 free agency period has been one of the most uneventful and slow-developing offseasons in recent memory. The reason being? Despite a mediocre at best free agent group, there simply isn’t enough money to pay these guys what they’re probably worth. As one unnamed NHL General Manager put it last week: “The teams with cap don’t have cash and the teams with cash don’t have cap”. The Maple Leafs however, are fortunate enough to have both, and have the opportunity to exploit the market to their advantage.

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Bad news. According to the fine folks over at CapGeek, the Chicago Blackhawks aren’t the only team facing cap penalties next season. Here are the basics: a team is allowed to surpass the official salary cap by a “bonus cushion” maxmium of 7.5% for performance bonuses, such as those written into virtually every rookie contract. However, this number is then deducted from your maximum salary cap allowance for the following season.

For example, since winning the Cup, the Blackhawks received plenty of media attention when it was pointed out that Toews’ bonus for the Conn Smythe, among others, would push them well over the cap limit. As a result, the Blackhawks will face a $4.157 million penalty for this upcoming season. The Maple Leafs meanwhile will also have $1.4 million deducted from their limit this coming season, thus setting an internal budget at $58 million rather than the league wide $59.4 million.

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Flyers officially kick off July 1st festivities by acquiring Andrej Mezaros from the Lightning in exchange for a 2nd round pick. Rumors of Boston centre Marc Savard potentially heading out west to Calgary as well.

As for the Maple Leafs, they will have $10.5 million in cap space to play with today, though that figure does not include the possible removal of Kaberle’s $4.25 million via trade or Finger’s $3.5 million as a potential waiver candidate.

The Leafs have been linked to defenseman Dan Hamhuis, forwards Raffi Torres and Colby Armstrong, and will also kick the tires on sniper Ilya Kovalchuk. Darren Dreger believes the club will look at adding a 3rd line forward along with a defenseman to “stockpile for later deals”. Stay tuned to this blog for updates on signings throughout the day.

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On the eve of unrestricted free agency, the Maple Leafs made a big first move to upgrade their forward group. According to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, the club has swung a deal to acquire Blackhawks winger Kris Versteeg and prospect Billy Sweatt in exchange for winger Viktor Stalberg, along with forward prospects Chris Didomenico and Philipe Paradis.

Versteeg, still just 24 years of age, will instantly become a big component of the Maple Leafs’ core moving forward. He has two seasons of 20+ goals under his belt already, and is under contract for two more years at $3.08 million per season.

Meanwhile, Sweatt, the Blackhawks’ 2007 2nd round pick, was ranked as the 7th best prospect in the Chicago farm system by Hockey’s Future. He is described as a talented two-way player with top end speed and finishing ability on the rush. By all accounts, Sweatt is also an excellent defensive player and effective penalty killer, which should ease the pain of losing Paradis.

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Monday afternoon’s 5pm qualifying offer deadline has come and gone. A QO is simply a mandatory minimum contract, valued at either the player’s previous year’s salary or slightly above, which prevents said player from becoming an unrestricted free agent on July 1st.

The Maple Leafs extended qualifying offers to forwards Nikolai Kulemin and Christian Hanson, while letting go of forward John Mitchell and defensemen Matt Jones and Phil Oreskovic. Collegiate free agent signee Kyle Rogers was also among the Marlies’ restricted free agents, but there is no word yet on whether he was qualified. If Rogers becomes a free agent, the Leafs will have trimmed down their contract obligations down to 43.

Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos also adds that the club will look to bring Mitchell back for a lesser salary, and continue to discuss a long-term contract with Kulemin, though the latter is believed to be seeking north of $3 million per season. Around the league, some may be surprised to hear that the Islanders will not be bringing back 26 year old forward Sean Bergenheim, an industrious checker who has averaged 12 goals/year over the past 3 seasons.

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It was a quiet Day One at the 2010 NHL Draft for the Maple Leafs, but the team stepped up its game in a big way on Saturday afternoon. The club wheeled and dealed its way into the 2nd round of the draft and through some crafty maneuvering in the later rounds, managed to add seven new players into the organization.

The Leafs were able to significantly upgrade their depth up front, by grabbing six forwards to go with one defenseman. Surprisingly, Leafs’ Swedish scout Thommie Bergman had a big day, selecting three players from the Swedish leagues.

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For those of you who missed it, the Leafs were very active on Day 2 of the draft, swung a couple trades, and ended up with the following players:

2nd round – 43rd overall – LW Brad Ross (Portland)

3rd round – 62nd overall – C Gregg McKegg (Erie)

3rd round – 79th overall – RW Sondre Olden (Modo Jr.)

4th round – 116th overall – D Petter Granberg (Skelleftea)

5th round – 144th overall – RW Sam Carrick (Brampton)

5th round – 146th overall – LW Daniel Brodin (Djugarden)

7th round – 182nd overall – C Josh Nicholls (Saskatoon)

*The Leafs traded forward prospect Jimmy Hayes to land the 43rd overall pick and traded a 2012 3rd round pick to land the 79th overall pick.

**The Leafs also acquired grinder Mike Brown from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for a 2010 5th round pick, as well as Edmonton’s 5th round pick in 2011 in exchange for a 2010 7th round pick

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Rough Friday night for Leaf fans, but that’s in the past now. Rounds 2-7 of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft kicks off today at 1pm ET on NHL Network. The Maple Leafs are slated pick once in the 3rd round (62nd), once in the 4th round (112th), twice in the 5th round (122nd and 144th) and twice in the 7th round (182nd and 202nd).

Rumors are circulating that the Leafs will attempt to trade into the 2nd round if the price is reasonable.

This live blog will be updated with thoughts and pick analysis throughout the afternoon.

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Less than 36 hours to go until start of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, so here are some links to start your day:

– The Toronto Sun explains that Burke is very tempted to trade his way into Friday’s first round party if the price is right. He’s already turned down an offer of a late first round pick for a roster player (Kulemin?) and another team has also brought up Schenn’s name in trade talks but was quickly rebuffed. The Leafs were also kicking the tires on Horton and Byfuglien before they were dealt over the last couple days. Burke did stress that his trade options are not limited to simply draft weekend, unless it involves draft picks, so it’s quite possible that nothing major goes down in Los Angeles.

– The Toronto Star provides a quick update on the Kaberle trade talks, citing that the Leafs have received four “concrete” offers for the blueliner thus far with eight other teams expressing interest. Burke again reiterated that he could quite confidently get a first round pick back for Kaberle, but that he’s looking for different kind of assets in return because he wants to get better now.

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According to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, the Chicago Blackhawks have traded forwards Dustin Byfgulien and Ben Eager along with defenseman Brent Sopel and prospect Akim Aliu to the Atlanta Thrashers in exchange for New Jersey’s 1st and 2nd round picks, top prospect Jeremy Morin, and forward Marty Reasoner.

Holy Blockbuster! Chicago has been demanding sky high prices all offseason and it looks like someone finally bit… Morin scored 47 goals in 58 OHL games for the Kitchener Rangers this past season. A steep, steep price. With this move, the Hawks have cleared $4.33 million in cap space (not including Eager who is an RFA).

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As we head into the draft weekend, Burke’s shown the fans and media that a) he’s not afraid to swing a huge deal and b) no one’s going to see it coming. You can bet he’s going to be be mulling over and considering all sorts of huge blockbuster type scenarios over the next few days, and there could be the teeniest, tiniest, slightest, smaller than Wallin’s point totals chance that he’ll have an interesting decision to make: whether to trade Schenn or Kadri. Yes, I know the popular opinion is to never trade either of them and I’m fully on board with that, but this is purely hypothetical. Imagine Sidney Crosby or whatever player of your choice is coming back the other way.

Now… the other team has given you the choice of giving up either defenseman Luke Schenn, the former 5th overall pick and future defensive anchor on the blueline, or Nazem Kadri, the former 7th overall pick and talented potential 1st line center. Which one would you be more inclined to trade away, and which one would you be more inclined to keep?

No copping out!

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Brian Burke is a pretty smart guy. Months ago, he explained to the fans and media that while the current free agent market is weak, it could get stronger as cap strapped teams are unable to submit qualifying offers to some prominent restricted free agents. One such player could be Andrew Ladd, and there could be several other names in play as well. Follow me as a I crunch some numbers to figure out why.

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The draft is now just 6 days away, and here’s some more draft news to whet your appetite. According to our sources, the Toronto Maple Leafs have expressed significant interest in 2010 draft prospect Brock Nelson out of Warroad High School in Minnesota.

The 6’3 power forward has an impressive on-ice skillset, is very coachable, possesses hockey bloodlines and could very well be the Leafs’ target if they manage to trade into the 1st round. This is a project pick that may take a couple years to pay off, but the potential here is sky high.

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According to the Toronto Star‘s Damien Cox, the Maple Leafs have targeted three potential players to bolster their lineup heading into next season.

For starters, the club is poised to make a run at impending unrestricted free agent defenseman Dan Hamhuis. Hamhuis is a good all-around defenseman who plays 21-22 minutes a night, makes a decent first pass, and can contribute a little bit in the offensive zone. His calling card is predominantly solid, if unspectacular even strength play, while eating up a ton of ice-time against the opposing team’s top lines. Still just 27 years of age, Hamhuis ranked 6th among NHL defenseman in takeaways last season. The potential link to Toronto is interesting because you’d think they’d already have enough money tied up on the blueline when Hamhuis could potentially be looking at upwards of $3 million on a long-term deal.

The team is also said to be kicking the tires on wingers Nathan Horton and Patrick Sharp, none of whom are strangers to the trade rumor mill. As mentioned previously, Horton has a no-trade clause that goes into effect on July 1st, which may motivate Panthers’ GM Dale Tallon to move the underachieving youngster at the draft. Meanwhile, Sharp is garnering plenty of interest around the league after an impressive point-a-game Stanley Cup run, but it’s likely that Chicago will exhaust all other possible trade alternatives before deciding to trade their valuable two-way forward.

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So let’s get this straight: Burke wants a top six winger with some size who can score. Ideally, that player is young enough to fit into the team’s long-term core and plays with the kind of aggressive, up-tempo forechecking style the Leafs hope to one day employ. What if he were an Ontario kid, a former 3rd overall pick, and figures to be on the trading block? Bonus!

According to the Sun Sentinel, Horton’s agent would “not be surprised” if Nathan were dealt between now and the draft, as his no-trade clause kicks on July 1st. He had spoken with new Panthers’ GM Dale Tallon and has confirmed that while the team does like Nathan as a player, nobody is untouchable. Horton’s contract currently has 3 years left at a very affordable $4 million cap hit, but he has struggled to stay healthy over the past two seasons. He had a forgettable ’08-’09 campaign with just 45 points in 67 games played, but bounced back to score 57 points in 65 games played last season. Still just 25 years of age, Horton still carries that potential to be a 30-40 goal scorer in the right situation and a change of scenery should do him well.

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According to Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com, the Toronto Maple Leafs will not be pursuing soon-to-be unrestricted free agent sniper Iyla Kovalchuk. LeBrun cites a quote from Leaf GM Brian Burke stating that the club would not “be involved in that race”. Although this could theoretically be a ploy to avoid tampering charges, Burke has always been very up front about his intentions and could’ve easily either skipped the question or answered with a generic “we will explore every possibility to improve our club.” Thus, I would be willing to bet my bottom dollar that Kovalchuk does not end up in a Maple Leaf uniform next season.

In the same article, LeBrun provides a brief update on the Kaberle trade talks, explaining that the number of inquiring teams has reached the double digits, though no serious offer has been made of yet. The only other high end puckmoving defenseman available is unrestricted free agent Sergei Gonchar, though rumors of his demand for a 3 year contract at age 36 could scare off potential suitors.

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According to the Daily Herald, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets are believed to have expressed serious interest in Chicago winger Patrick Sharp. The author explains that Sharp would likely bring the highest return of any of the Hawks’ players rumored to be on the trading block, in the form of a high draft pick of top prospect. One rival executive deemed Sharp to be “one of those players every team loves to have” and who has “no flaws in his game”.

The Toronto-Sharp connection has been red hot for over a year now, as the Daily Herald reported last summer that the Hawks and Leafs had already been discussing a potential swap. At the time, ESPN had speculated a return of an affordable defenseman along with a high end prospect. The 28 year old Sharp scored 25 goals and 66 points during the regular season, and stepped it up to the tune of 11 goals and 22 points during the Hawk’s Stanley Cup run.

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