The team appears to be trying to build some depth back up while bringing in some veterans to help develop and mentor their young kids. As has been noted here before, this team had the worst bottom six in the League last season and they have taken some steps already to try and improve it, so that in and of itself could stand to notably improve the team. But there is still a lot of work to be done.
Here are some notes and thoughts on the weekend that was:
It has been a beautifully busy day in the hockey world and the draft has not even started yet.
Here is a quick recap of the moves made:
Nikolai Kulemin is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and agent Gary Greenstin tells Sportsnet that he plans to make full use of the interview window, which opens Wednesday, to start looking for a new home for his client. Discussions with the Leafs on a new contract have been limited, according to Greenstin, who noted that there is still some time for talks to pick up with Toronto.
Another player that could be on his way out of Toronto in the coming week is centre David Bolland, who still wishes to remain with his hometown team but doesn’t want to do so at a hometown discount. “At this time it’s just not coming together,” said Thun. “We can’t force the Leafs to accept our terms.”
Nothing appears close with Toronto’s other pending UFA’s — Mason Raymond, Jay McClement and Paul Ranger — although Raymond’s agent, J.P. Barry, plans to sit down with Dave Nonis later this week in Philadelphia.
One thing that is known is that talks are underway between the Leafs and restricted free-agent defenceman Jake Gardiner, according to sources. It is believed that the sides are discussing a two-year bridge deal that will likely end up falling somewhere between $2.25-million and $3-million per season.
@APetrielli Nothing new, no. My sense is that neither side will bend enough to get him back to Toronto. Will dig around more in days ahead.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) June 24, 2014
A few other notes that could interest Leafs fans:
#FlaPanthers Tallon on potentially trading pick: I don't want to go past eight — 10 would be the maximum distance I would go back.
— George Richards (@GeorgeRichards) June 23, 2014
Ron Hextall indicates that the Flyers will try to move up in Friday's draft, according to report http://t.co/6l4cpyOtnb
— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) June 24, 2014
Don't be surprised if you start hearing NYI's #5 pick being shopped.There's pressure to get a player that can play right now in the lineup.
— John Shannon (@JSportsnet) June 24, 2014
Pens willing to trade first-round pick; Time for Niskanen, Jokinen to "get their big contracts." Read more: http://t.co/BRTft58yej
— Josh Yohe (@JoshYohe_Trib) June 23, 2014
Saku Koivu, Jonas Hiller and Dan Winnik won't be offered new contracts by the Anaheim Ducks, GM Bob Murray says.
— Greg Beacham (@gregbeacham) June 19, 2014
— El Cafetero (@mlse) June 24, 2014
Congratulations to the L.A. Kings on winning the Stanley Cup. What a great season 2013-2014 was, one of the best playoffs I’ve ever seen, and all that other fun stuff people say at this time of year. Wayne Gretzky high-sticked Dougie and if it was properly called the Toronto Maple Leafs would have won that series.
While Toronto didn’t make the playoffs this season, it doesn’t mean there aren’t any lessons they can glean from watching the games. Here are 10 things that were rolling through my mind while watching the “second season:”
A few weeks ago, I discussed the possibility of the Leafs moving up in the 2014 NHL draft and why it might make sense to do so. Trading for the top pick is extremely rare; although the first overall selection appears to be more in play than usual this June, it can’t be taken for granted what the magnitude of that move would be and the cost of pulling it off.
All things considered, how logical is it really?
Former Bruins GM Harry Sinden had a great quote on being a GM in the book Behind the Moves:
In 2012, Dave Poulin gave an under the radar interview on Marlies TV wherein he talked about top centers and how they are acquired.
For those too lazy to watch the whole thing, Poulin discusses an analysis of the top 24 centers in the league and how each of them wound up with their current teams. With that in mind, I took a moment to look at the top center of every team in the league this past season and marked down how they were acquired:
What do the lines look like for the Maple Leafs next season? View the latest Maple Leafs and NHL news at Sportbet.com
|Anaheim Ducks||Ryan Getzlaf||Draft|
|Boston Bruins||Patrice Begeron||Draft|
|Buffalo Sabres||Cody Hodgson||Trade|
|Calgary Flames||Mikael Backlund||Draft|
|Carolina Hurricanes||Eric Staal||Draft|
|Chicago Blackhawks||Jonathan Toews||Draft|
|Colorado Avalanche||Matt Duchene||Draft|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||Ryan Johansen||Draft|
|Dallas Stars||Tyler Seguin||Trade|
|Detroit Red Wings||Pavel Datsyuk||Draft|
|Edmonton Oilers||Ryan Nugent-Hopkins||Draft|
|Florida Panthers||Alex Barkov||Draft|
|Los Angeles Kings||Anze Kopitar||Draft|
|Minnesota Wild||Mikko Koivu||Draft|
|Montreal Canadiens||Thomas Plekanec||Draft|
|Nashville Predators||Mike Fisher||Trade|
|New Jersey Devils||Travis Zajac||Draft|
|New York Islanders||John Tavares||Draft|
|New York Rangers||Brad Richards||UFA|
|Ottawa Senators||Jason Spezza||Draft|
|Philadelphia Flyers||Claude Giroux||Draft|
|Phoenix Coyotes||Antonie Vermette||Trade|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||Sidney Crosby||Draft|
|St. Louis Blues||David Backes||Draft|
|San Jose Sharks||Joe Pavelski||Draft|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||Steven Stamkos||Draft|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||Tyler Bozak||Undrafted UFA|
|Vancouver Canucks||Henrik Sedin||Draft|
|Washington Capitals||Nik Backstrom||Draft|
|Winnipeg Jets||Bryan Little||Draft|
I bring this up due to the fact that the Florida Panthers are shopping their first overall pick this year . When asked about shopping the pick, Panthers GM Dale Tallon responded:
Well, why not? I’m looking at everything. I’m open for business. You have three options: You either take it, move back, or trade it. So that’s what we’re looking at. What’s the best deal for our future, that’s the key.
In conjunction with that quote are two particular things Tallon noted at his end-of-season press conference for the Panthers:
We’ve had a lot of close games. We need a scorer to play with Barkov, a scorer to play with Bjugstad, Shore.
We have to go in the free agent market and either make a trade at the draft to get probably two defensemen, experienced, good NHL defensemen.
It isn’t lost on me that the first overall pick appears to be “up for grabs” every June only for the team with the top pick to keep it every single time, but Florida is in a unique situation.
They just made a huge move for Luongo, they are set down the middle with great prospects (Barkov-Bjugstad-Trochek-Shore-Pirri), Campbell is a top-notch defenseman not getting any younger, and they want to make a move to try and get into the playoffs now. We’re not looking at a MacKinnon or Crosby type at the top end of the 2014 entry draft, but there are (or at least appears to be) cornerstone players at the top of the rankings.
Florida is looking for scoring wingers to flank their young centers as well as experienced defensemen; couple that with the Leafs owning the #8 overall pick and it puts them in a prime spot to be a player in any sort of first-overall-pick sweepstakes. That is a reality. Just like when there was the small Jonathan Bernier sale last summer, the Leafs are once again positioned to be ideal buyers based on their own assets and needs.
Seemingly every year the Leafs have been linked to these top centers switching teams only for it never to happen. Be it Brad Richards, Henrik Sedin, or the upcoming Steven Stamkos dream, it has become a tradition here in Toronto.
That’s what makes this opening so golden for the Leafs. There is an opportunity to move up here and finally draft a stud with a top pick before looking elsewhere for the other missing pieces. Central Scouting has listed Kingston’s Sam Bennett, a center, as their top-rated player in this draft. Making this kind of move puts the Leafs in the right direction going forward next year no matter what happens in the standings for 2014-2015.
A top young center would be in place along with a top young defenseman (Morgan Rielly) and what appears to be a very good young goalie (Jonathan Bernier). That’s how franchises are built properly, with a good young center, defenseman and a goalie as the three pillars of stability. And, to top it all off, the Leafs would be able to make this move, one would think, while keeping most of their other good players (Kadri, Kessel, Holland, hopefully JVR; as I’ve said before, there are quite a few good players here).
This is easier said than done and the possibility of this is completely up in the air, but if the Leafs are going to talk about change this is the kind that will set them up for success for years to come. Over the next few weeks, I’m sure we’ll hear fans and media link centers such as Mike Richards, Joe Thornton and Paul Stastny to the Leafs, but there is a much greater opportunity at hand here to bring in a top-flight 18-year-old center who can set this franchise in the right direction for the next decade. That’s far more important than any quick fix.
Forget a culture change. This would be a franchise-altering move, and it’s right there for the taking.
If Tallon is serious about making the playoffs next season & dangling his #1 overall, Nonis should offer Franson/Leafs 1st ++ to start talks
— Gus Katsaros (@KatsHockey) May 14, 2014
Maple Leafs fans were promised a culture change, however you may define it, when Brendan Shanahan was hired last month. A few weeks later, GM Dave Nonis remains and, with Thursday’s announcement, so does his head coach. It has been clear for weeks that Nonis wanted Carlyle to stay and he was selling Shanahan on it. I’m now left to wonder:
When a team bottoms out the way the Maple Leafs did, naturally there is going to be a lot of anger directed towards the team and its players. Next, factor in the manner in which the team failed to make the playoffs — giving up the most shots ever over an 82-game season and plummeting during to an eight-game losing streak in March, prior to which they were ninth place in the entire league. Then, have it all take place in the tempestuous Toronto hockey market. It goes without saying there is going to be a lot of noise and irrational things said.
When Brendan Shanahan came aboard, I made a quick passing comment about understanding selling low and selling high with the Toronto Maple Leafs players and cashing in on inflated value when the opportunity presents itself. The Leafs have made a habit of overpaying their own players after career years—for big money—then trading them for absolutely nothing once their play comes back down. That is a trend that obviously needs to stop. So, in saying that, who are the Leafs “sell low” and “sell high” candidates, and what should they be planning to do with these players heading into what should be an extremely busy summer?
He’s the Leafs best player and a consistently elite scorer. Kessel’s turning 27 this year so he has a lot of great hockey ahead of him still even if he does slow down a little bit. Ironically, his off-putting personality seems to make him a great fit for this crazy market because he truly seems to not care at all about the mainstream media nor does he let it get to him; kudos to him though because he took responsibility in front of the microphones the last two years after collapses even though neither collapse was truly his fault. If the organization could ever bring in a player that makes Kessel the second best player on the team, the Leafs would vault up a huge notch in the standings.
Selling low or high?
Selling low. Kessel just hit a career high in goals and had another excellent season, he’s not old and he’s locked into a reasonable long-term deal, so why would it be selling low? Because if the Leafs trade Kessel they aren’t going to get an equally elite center or defenseman in return. There isn’t a Kopitar coming back, or a Weber, or whoever else. They would probably get a package of (young) players in return and take a big step back in the immediate future as a franchise, and the young guys they would be getting back we could only hope would be as good as Kessel three-five years down the road. Trading him for a different winger would make pretty well no sense whatsoever. So, really, the market dictates here that it’s a sell-low because it wouldn’t be worth it to trade Kessel.
Kessel is going into his sixth year with the Leafs and we’re still sitting around asking ourselves the same thing; are they going to get this guy a true top center? It doesn’t even need to be a horse that gets 70+ points per season. It does, however, need to be a guy that can go up against the Bergeron’s, Giroux’s and Crosby’s of the East and come out ahead. The top line is spinning its wheels every year giving up nearly as many goals as they score. They won’t win consistently with that being the case.
He had a breakout season this year hitting 30 goals for the first time but you still feel like he has another level to go. All signs indicate that he was playing through a hand injury after the Olympics so that probably hurt his numbers down the stretch too. His biggest problem is puck battles and getting it out of his zone from his side of the ice, but otherwise, he’s everything you want in a winger- big, fast, good shot, goes to the net hard, plays PK, and will finish checks and get dirty. I would be curious to see him without Phil out of curiosity more than anything.
Selling low or high?
Selling high. JVR just hit the 30 goal mark for the first time in his career, is on a great deal, has size, plays on both sides of the puck, and arguably has not even reached his pinnacle. Some are already saying this guy could be the next captain down the road (whenever that will be). They wouldn’t be selling him at his absolute pinnacle (that could be next year), but this would be a pretty high sell this summer.
JVR is a very good player, but when you tack on how great his contract his long-term contract is that makes him nearly untouchable in this cap world. That said, if the Leafs could exchange him for a top flight center, they probably should.
He plays in every situation for the Leafs and gets a ton of ice time. It would be nice to see him without Kessel for an extended period of time to see what he looks like without an elite player on his line to really get a gauge on his abilities. The biggest thing for me is that Bozak does not compare to the elite centers pretty well every top team in the East has, nor is he good enough defensively to compensate. He’s the easiest guy to target for criticism because he plays with two all-stars (and those two do make mistakes, too), but he’s not a driving force on that line, he is a complement to it.
Selling low or high?
Bozak just had a career high in goals (19), assists (30), points (49), shooting percentage (21%) and points per game (.84). Not much more I need to add to that to figure out whether this is a sell high or low scenario, is there?
Bozak turned 28 this year so maybe he has another year or two of high end production before falling off and his deal isn’t terrible at $4.2M/season for another four years. That said, the Leafs have to explore if they can cash in on a career year, bring in a defenseman, and then replace him at center (somehow). This summer might be—probably will be—the climax of Bozak’s value as some other teams are bound to see a 1C playing over 20 minutes a night, getting PP and PK time, and scoring at a nice clip. If this team wants to break the trend and make a big shake up of their core this kind of series of moves is, in theory, the easiest, fastest, way to do so.
He played as a right winger for an extended period of time this year even though he prefers the left, and it showed. Lupul is a gifted goal scorer who has the ability to protect the puck down low and generate cycles plus offense out of very little, although last year he did start to get into this nasty habit of toe-dragging guys at the top of the circle instead of driving the net. For as good as he is offensively, he’s pretty well just as bad defensively. The best that line looked was when Lupul-Kadri-Kulemin were a unit because there was nice balance there; otherwise, Lupul has to be sheltered. He clearly couldn’t play with Clarkson last season, either.
Selling low or high?
After putting up 103 points in his first 110 games as a Leaf (regular season), Lupul had a down year putting up 44 points –22 of which were goals—in 69 games. He’s turning 31 this year, has an injury history, and is making $5.25M for the next four seasons. On one hand, getting an older guy with an injury history and long term deal off the books would be nice. On the other hand, they would be selling this guy on the low because, while he didn’t have a bad season, he definitely did not have a good one.
If a bad year for Lupul is 22 goals in 69 games (26 goal pace over 82), I’d be willing to take the chance he can rebound and produce better under different circumstances. Of course, there’s every possibility he just gets hurt again, misses a large chunk of the season, and then is completely immovable, but I’d roll the dice he can bounce back and then sell high if anything. I don’t think they could trade him for much right now and, unless they are tanking, they shouldn’t trade him for the sake of trading him.
If you didn’t expect Kadri to come anywhere near 70 points after a great season last year, he had a decent first full NHL regular season. 20 goals is a nice achievement and 50 points is a nice milestone, too. Any time he played with Clarkson it was ugly and Mason Raymond isn’t exactly a world beater, either. Kulemin wouldn’t help his offensive numbers much but he did assume defensive responsibilities for Kadri and was a help there. It’s underrated how great he is at drawing penalties and he’s a fun player to watch, but the physicality in his game last year went south which was a disappointment. The audition alongside Kessel was not bad in retrospect, although I’m not sure the ultimate long-term plan should be he and Kessel on the top line together anyway. It would be nice for them to be on the power play together, though.
Selling low or high?
After putting up 44 points in 48 games, Kadri regressed to many this year when he followed it up 20 goals and 30 assists for 50 points in 78 games. He’s turning 24 this year and is still signed for another season at $2.9M after which he becomes an RFA again. Kadri’s point totals will continue to go up in time, so they aren’t even close to selling high here. By no means would they be selling low, and Kadri should have value around the league, but if they move him it would be a shock to cash in now on the homegrown center who is coming along reasonably. Right now, they’d be trading a 50 point guy with upside; a year or two from now, he could be a 70 point guy. Unless they are getting that type of value, it’s a sell low.
You need to give to get, but thus far when you look around the market (teams we think are open for business include Carolina and Vancouver) there isn’t much out there that would justify moving Kadri. Maybe that changes in the summer when some playoff team that exited early panics, but I said all year I didn’t think the right type of deal would come along and it didn’t. I still think that heading into the summer. That can obviously change very quickly, but for now they should be planning on keeping him.
Could not have had a worse opening season with the Leafs. He got suspended for 10 games to start the year, didn’t appear to see eye-to-eye with the coaching staff, is rumoured to be counting his dollars instead of focusing on hockey, and did not produce a lick. Was supposed to be a physical presence but that was only shown in random fights instead of actual hard-nosed play; when he went into the corners he was easily pushed off the puck and he wasn’t able to add any real forechecking to the team. He was decent at getting the puck out of the zone along the wall, if you’re looking for a positive.
Selling low or high?
60 games, 5 goals, 11 points, not much to say here. We all know the answer.
If there is some team out there that really believes in Clarkson and is willing to take him on, then sure, move him and be done with this whole thing. But that’s probably not reality. They have to ride it out and hope he rebounds (and really, can he possibly be that bad again).
Looked really good in the first half of the season where he was playing solid, reliable, hockey and was very comfortable in that role. Was miscast as the PPQB on the left side of the power play when really he’s a one-timer triggerman from the right side, and his point totals suffered because of that (his 11 PP points were a career low). By the end of the season he seemed to be very slow and almost immobile at times getting beat wide, losing races, and struggling to move around out there in general; it’s unclear at this point if he was playing hurt.
Selling low or high?
At 29, Phaneuf had one of the lowest point totals in his career this year for the Leafs totalling 31 in 80 games. The only time he’s produced worse in a normal season was his first full year in Toronto when he had 30 in 66. We all know he plays against the other team’s best players religiously and he’s had one true top pairing partner since he’s been here (Francois Beauchemin, which was short lived). He also doesn’t get much help from the forwards who don’t back-check nearly as hard as good teams forwards do, plus his partner is nothing to write home about, either. If the Leafs moved him, they’d do so to turn over a new page and clear him out, and it’d be a definite sell low.
Phaneuf is sort of in the same boat as Lupul – he isn’t a bad player and unless they are tanking, it only makes to keep him, see if he can rebound, and then move him when his value is high. It doesn’t make sense to trade him just for the sake of doing so. If anything, it would be nice to get a true top pairing partner and then assess from there. Perhaps Gardiner takes another step next season and that will be his partner all year. They also need to lessen his workload, which is painfully obvious.
How bad is this guy’s hip injury and is it ever going to get well enough for him to get back to his old self? Gunnarsson is a solid defenseman and a reasonable top 4, but his lateral movements look painful and he really struggles at taking a D-to-D pass, turning up ice, and moving the puck up. That would seem, from the outside looking in, to stem from his hip issues. He’s still solid positionally and has a nice reach due to his lanky 6’2 frame. He rarely gets beat one-on-one and isn’t flashy, but he also doesn’t impose his play on the game. He’s a steady, solid, everyday defenseman at the end of the day.
Selling low or high?
Don’t think his value will ever increase much more, nor will it decrease much in the next little while. Maybe the Leafs can sell him as a guy that’s playing on the top pairing, signed to a reasonable deal, is in his prime and plays tough minutes and get some nice value back, but they can’t just move him for no reason. It would probably only make sense to move Gunnarsson if they were packaging him in a deal to upgrade on D (and he has the kind of contract/pedigree to do that).
If they could package him for an upgrade on defense that would be nice, but if they could bring in another top four D somehow without doing that it would push Gunnarsson down to the second pairing, where he’d be much more effective. In Gunnarsson’s first three years on the team he had 45 SOG in 43 games followed by 69 in 68 and 89 in 76. In the lockout shortened season he had 28 in 37 games, and this year he shot 48 times in 80. That just can’t happen. Yeah, he gets buried with tough zone starts and match-ups, but he’s playing over 19 minutes a night with good Leafs players. It would be nice to keep Gunnarsson for, if anything, insurance in case Morgan Rielly takes a step back, but if the value is there for Gunnarsson the Leafs should explore it.
He endeared himself early on to the Leafs faithful by sacrificing his body and blocking a lot of shots, but as his time in Toronto progressed, the holes in his game became apparent. Everyone knew offense was never part of his game, but he was missing assignments defensively, making head-scratching neutral zone step ups, and his outlet reads left something to be desired (although, in his defense, the Leafs forwards often bailed the zone and left him out to dry).
Selling low or high?
They’d probably be selling low, but with two years left on his deal making $4M per, this is the kind of guy you move just for the sake of moving and getting rid of the bad contract. Can’t make it any simpler than that.
It would be a shock if someone was interested in Gleason, but obviously if anyone is then move him right away. The likely thing is they either consider a buyout, which wouldn’t be that bad, or keep him and ride it out, hoping to trade him next year when he only has a year left. The caveat here is that they have to be willing to sit him so the kids can play if/when they are ready. They went with 7 D a lot down the stretch when he was clearly the worst of the group, while kids like D’Amigo sat and watched the gassed forwards from the press box.
Really impressive rookie season getting into 73 games and throwing up 27 points in a little over 17 minutes a night. He’s obviously fast and very skilled, but what’s underrated is that he’s a little fire hydrant out there and doesn’t get beat by bigger guys in the corners. He is one strong kid. A full season getting second power play unit time throughout should result in a very nice boost to his point totals. For some reason, him and Franson were always terrible when together for 5v5 hockey. The fact that he can play LD or RD, though, is a really nice thing to have when building the defense as it makes the management’s life a little easier.
Selling low or high?
Top 5 pick that’s only 20 and already has a full year under his belt in which he played well? Yeah, they could get a lot for this kid.
He’s not going anywhere.
Had a very nice debut season with the Leafs posting a .923sv% 2.68GAA in 55 games, winning 26 of them. Have always said I’m not a goalie guy, but I will admit that he’s very fun to watch in the net as he plays with the puck, gets physical sometimes, is calm and collected, and was often able to stop a classic Leafs-getting-dominated-for-a-full-minute shift by covering the puck.
Selling low or high?
Well, he’s 25, just had a good debut season and won the starters gig, and is signed for another season making $2.9M before becoming an RFA again. So, they’d be selling him pretty high right now.
They aren’t trading Bernier, either.
Next, we’ll look at RFAs and UFAs.