Wednesday, May 6, 2015
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Maple Leafs Hot Stove

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Founded in 2008, Maple Leafs Hotstove (MLHS) has grown to be the most visited unofficial team-focused hockey website online (Quantcast). Independently owned and operated, MLHS provides thorough and wide ranging content, varying from news, opinion and analysis, to pre-game and long-form game reviews, a weekly feature piece, the "Leafs Notebook", along with a Web TV show the "Maple Leaf Hangout".

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TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 21: James van Riemsdyk #21 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates his overtime game winning goal with teammates during NHL game action against the Winnipeg Jets February 21, 2015 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Leafs have found a place to offload pending UFA Olli Jokinen, sending him to St. Louis for a conditional sixth round draft choice.

The pick they grab here essentially factors back into the original Mike Santorelli and Cody Franson deal, making the return Brendan Leipsic, a 1st round pick and a sixth round draft pick fetched in this trade. Any asset gained here at all is gravy.

Joakim Lindstrom is a 31-year-old depth center with 6 points in 34 games. He’s an expiring contract takeback to make the dollars line up.

So ends the storied Olli Jokinen era in Toronto.

Jokinen clearly didn’t want to be here, and he couldn’t even be bother to stay off the bench for warm up before a game between the Leafs and Habs in Montreal, so good riddance. He’ll make only his second playoff appearance in an 18-year career this Spring.

InOut
NSH 1st round pick (2015)Cody Franson
PITT 2nd round pick (2016)Mike Santorelli
PITT 4th round pick (2015)David Clarkson
ANA 5th round draft pick (2016)Daniel Winnik
STL cond. 6th round pick (2016)Spencer Abbott
Brendan LeipsicKorbinian Holzer
Nathan Horton
Zach Sill
TJ Brennan
Tim Erixon
Joakim Lindstrom
Eric Brewer

WINNIPEG, CANADA - DECEMBER 3: Head Coach Dallas Eakins of the Edmonton Oilers discusses strategy with players at the bench during a third period timeout against the Winnipeg Jets on December 3, 2014 at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The Jets defeated the Oilers 3-2 in overtime. (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

Former Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins joined Bob Mackowycz on TSN Radio, touching on the Leafs rebuild, the market’s treatment of Phaneuf, and the futures of Rielly, Gardiner and Kadri.

Have we lost sight of how good Phaneuf could be?
I think it happens. It’s an easy thing to happen. When you get into a negative environment and there’s lots of losses, it’s very easy to pile on individuals. I’ve really kept an eye on Toronto since I’ve been gone. It’s an organization close to my heart because I was here for so long. I think a lot of the criticism of Dion and some of the others is unwarranted. The guy came into a situation where there was no captain and very little leadership. He was thrust into a role. I think he’s done the absolute best he can do there.

Advice to Brendan Shanahan, Leafs management? The fans in terms of managing expectations?
I’m not going to give any advice to Brendan [Shanahan] or Dave Nonis. Dave Nonis has a tonne of experience in the league and he’s an excellent manager. They’re going to find their way through this the best way possible. I’d just say to the fans that it’s been a difficult bunch of years. The team is in a difficult spot. If it’s going to be a rebuild, then you have to get behind it. I’m not sure what your options are. I think it’s always important to understand where your team is today. I know it’s been a very long run without a Stanley Cup. It’s something that pains me as a long time Maple Leaf fan growing up in Peterborough, Ontario. You have to understand where your team is today, get over what’s happened in the past and start looking forward. I’m very hopeful for the Leafs that they can get a plan in place and get the team to where it needs to be.

Among the young players you’ve coached and watch grow up in the Leaf organization, who is the last guy the Leafs should part with?
It’s a tough one to answer. My answer would be viewed a number of different ways – if you picked one guy, why didn’t you pick the other? The one thing I have learned is that if you say something positive about one person it means you’re saying something negative about the other. I got to watch Morgan Rielly play a game, I was just in Toronto recently — he played just an excellent game and his game continues to evolve. I still think Naz and Jake are still growing as players. Both guys, they’re very different players; I know Naz is an extremely competitive guy, and a guy I really enjoyed coaching because he’s a gamer. He’s a gamer. He’s always in a verbal war with the other team. A guy who will go out of his way to take a shot at a guy if our team isn’t doing well. That’s what you want on your teams –highly competitive people who aren’t going to fold the tent up. With Jake, Toronto is a very tough place for a defenceman to get his feet underneath him. I think he came in with a lot of fan fare. What happens there – when fans are fed a lot of grandeur, you expect huge things. I think Jake came in there with a lot of grandeur., and he is just now settling in and figuring out what kind of defenceman he’ll be. [He’s] A guy who is competitive in a different way than Naz is, but a guy that has got a skillset and a mindset you can’t ignore. It takes time with these defenceman — it will take until 4 or 5 years sometimes to get a really good read on a defenceman. Unfortunately, there’s really no other way around that.

TORONTO, ON- OCTOBER 7 - Toronto Maple Leafs President Brendan Shanahan during a sit down interview in his office at the Mastercard Centre. (Photo: Tara Walton/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

The heat has been turned up on this deadline. The Rangers have thrown down the gauntlet in the East with a big add in Keith Yandle, while Tampa responded late last night with a blueline addition of their own in Braydon Coburn, both paying handsomely for their purchases. Trades in the last 24 hours:

  • Tampa Bay trades Radko Gudas, 1st and 3rd round picks to the Philadelphia Flyers for Braydon Coburn.
  • Boston acquires Brett Connolly for two 2nd round picks.
  • Dallas Stars trade Erik Cole and a 3rd round pick to the Detroit Red Wings for Mattias Backman, Mattas Janmark, and a 2nd round pick.
  • New York Rangers acquire James Sheppard from San Jose for a 4th round draft choice.
  • Rangers acquire Keith Yandle, Chris Summers and a 4th in exchange for Anthony Duclair, John Moore, 1st and 2nd round picks.
  • Washington Capitals acquire Curtis Glencross in exchange for 2nd and 3rd round draft choices.

Late 1sts and 2nd round picks are flying around the League right now. Buyers are letting loose with the picks and the Leafs have to get in on some of this before the day is through.

IIIIIIIIIIII

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Photo: BRUCE BENNETT/GETTY IMAGES

Pete Deboer on TSN Drive:

View on Clarkson and the trade:
Clarkson is a great kid. Actually, at the time, I really thought he as going to help the Leafs. It was case of Murphy’s Law; everything that could go wrong did go wrong… big contract, huge expectations, people throwing out Clarkson like Wendel Clark in that vein. He tried to do everything right; look at that 10-game suspension, that’s exactly what every coach wants his team to do, stick up for their best players, and he ends up with 10-game suspension to start the season. Trying to do the right thing, do what the coaches want him to do. Everything he tried to do went the wrong way on him. Unfortunately, Toronto is an unforgiving city, there’s nowhere to hide. It’s a shame because I think he is a real serviceable NHL player and I’m sure he’s going to help Columbus.

In New Jersey, was it the NJ system that was responsible for his success there or was it Clarkson?
I think Clarkson is responsible for Clarkson. During his time in New Jersey, he was coached by Brent Sutter, Jacques Lemaire, by John McLean, by Pete Deboer. He scored 30 goals for Pete Deboer, but he also had 20 goals and 100 PIMs for Brent Sutter. All four of those coaches ran different versions of systems. I don’t think it’s that simple. I think this is something where he got behind early in an unforgiving city and could not get on the right side of it even though he tried to do the right things. There are a lot of cities where, if you hop of the bench to defend your best player, you are anointed a hero. They called him an idiot. It didn’t make sense to me. Unfortunately, he couldn’t dig himself out of the holes he put himself in.

On the pressure and attention of playing in Toronto:
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming the media. I think what happens is the same that happens with coaches and the same that happens with fans. You love certain players at 2 million; at 5 million you hate them. I know for a fact there was more than one or two other teams willing to give him that money or more. You’re carrying that around with you. If you’re not putting up 30 immediately and you’re not doing what everyone expects you do at five million-plus, it goes the wrong way on you. Not his fault he got that money, there was multiple offers for that or more. It’s the burden that came with it that really hurt him there.

If the first year was a write off, how do you explain what happened in the second year?
That’s a fair point. I think he probably dragged the first year into the second year. I thought he was better this year, he had 10 goals this year I believe. When I think of David Clarkson I think of 20 goals and 100 penalty minutes. He was always a big game player, when I had him in junior; he would score OT goals, I had him in the Mem Cup final, had him in the playoffs, had him score some big goals for us in the Stanley Cup playoffs. He rises to the occasion if he can get into those situations. I don’t have an excuse this year for why he wasn’t as good as he should’ve been. I thought he would be better, but there’s no doubt he was dragging things that happened last year into this year.

On Clarkson as a cautionary tale about FA:
Sure. I think we all know the red flags of free agency. I think every organization, every GM, every coach, if they had their choice, wouldn’t jump both feet into the deep end knowing the stories out there. At the same time, you don’t have much choice, either. Unless you’re taking the kids in the top five in the draft, you’re waiting 2-3-4-5-6 years on the kids. It’s the only way to make yourself immediately better. I think it’s a cautionary tale, but maybe it’s a cautionary tale that Clarkson was only there 15 months. I think he would’ve been a better player… That’s really early in a seven-year deal to be moving on from a guy. But I also understand that sometimes you have to make those tough decisions.

 

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Bob McKenzie

Bob McKenzie on TSN Drive:

On trading Horton for Clarkson and not Semin or Richards:
I couldn’t honestly tell you that I know for a fact there was conversation between [those teams]. What I can suggest that is, of those three you mentioned – Clarkson, Semin, Richards – Semin wasn’t a fit in the eyes of Columbus. They were not looking for a high-end, underachieving goal-scoring winger. I don’t think they were eager to bring in another center in Richards. I think Clarkson fit the profile of what they were looking for: A guy to go up and down the wing and chip in some goals. Expectation is not to fulfill the $5.25 million so much. Columbus is a hard-working, physical, in-your-face hockey team. As they look at those other options, Clarkson fit the profile better than anything else. They weren’t going to try to swing for the fences on a 40-goal year from Semin. They didn’t want to try to reprise Richards‘ role… A guy like Clarkson will look at Columbus as his salvation, whether he’s playing on the first line or third line, and they’re talking about putting him in either one of those spots.

On no insurance on Horton:
I’m not sure how many [contracts in the League] are uninsured, but I do know that there are exclusions on players who have had multiple concussions. You can’t get insurance on a concussion for some players. If someone has had their knee blown out three or four times, there might be exclusion on insurance on a knee. As for the details on the Columbus not insuring the contract, Jarmo and John Davidson would have the ultimate answer and can correct me if I’m wrong; my understanding is that, when they made the decision to sign Horton to that contract, he was coming off shoulder surgery. Knowing he was only going to play half a season, whether the insurance was too expensive, whether they just decided not to insure it, I think their intention was that, at the end of that first year, they were going to get insurance at that point. When he developed the back injury they weren’t in a position to get him insurance. As a result, he became an uninsurable contact.

McKenzie on this deal as “legal” cap circumvention and the NHL’s view:
In this particular instance, obviously the League didn’t have a problem with it because they approved it. The League didn’t like backsliding contracts, which were technically legal in old CBA, and put in punitive measures that made them retroactively illegal. I don’t know that they view the Horton situation exactly the same. I don’t think Horton will play and most people don’t, but is it 100% clear cut he won’t play again? I don’t think you can necessarily say that. As long as there is a chance he could play, then certainly Columbus and Toronto are in their rights to do that. How did other NHL GMs respond? Most get it, but I know for a fact that some don’t like it, and some probably voiced displeasure to the League. That displeasure is not going to result in anything tangible in the short term.

Other interest in Clarkson:
The Ottawa Senators were amongst a number of teams that had talk to the Leafs about a Clarkson trade. Now, the type of deal that those teams were looking for was basically to put the Leafs over a barrel. You have no options, therefore we’re going to give you, for example, Colin Greening, who has a couple years left at a little above $2 million, and you’re going to give us Clarkson and eat 50% of his salary the rest of the way. The Leafs were in position where they had to consider that, but I guess they had the Columbus option, serendipitously, the uninsured Horton contract, and didn’t have to do [other option]. There were teams out there who to think Clarkson is a viable NHL player. “3 years, $2.5 million a year? Bring him in, we’ve got no problem with that.” It’s the $5.25 million and the fact that he went off the rails so bad that magnified the situation. David Clarkson is not a useless hockey player. He is a player who has gone down the wrong road in Toronto and has to rediscover his game. I’d think there’s a chance he does that in Columbus. I hope it does because he’s a hell of a good guy, and nobody deserves what he goes through. I’m not absolving him for not getting the job done; he didn’t play well enough, case closed. Some of that is on the Leafs, but most of that falls on Clarkson. He’s got to work hard to try to rehabilitate his game. He won’t have to live up to the contract to the same extent. It won’t be perceived the same way now that he’s crashed on the rocks. Anything that you get from him here on in is a bonus compared to the nothing they were getting from Horton.

Is there a chill on playing for the Leafs based on Clarkson?
I think it always takes a special player. I always say there are two types of players: Those who have the ability and wherewithal to play in a Canadian market, and those who don’t. I don’t know the Clarkson situation would scare them off as much of the fact that Leafs haven’t been a good team for a long time and may not be for a very long time. I’m not sure the Leafs right now even have to worry about free agency. If they’re going down this rebuilding route with drafts and prospects, they should just close up shop on that font; close up the wallets, sit on their hands, and take up the course of action they say they’re going to take.

Columbus Dispatch beat writer Aaron Portzline:

On the insurance situation:
There was a pre-existing condition with the shoulder and they knew it was profound enough to miss half the season. It was a bit of a gamble, but you could get away with not insuring him that season. The half season was already gone with the shoulder. The risk is, you have to get in before the next year and insure him. When they went in to insure him for the next year, his back had degenerated to the point where they were stuck and it was impossible to insure him. I’ve talked to other teams around the League who say there are teams who have taken the risk but that it’s inexcusable. It’s like buying a Ferrari and saying nothing is going to happen to it because I’m parking it in the garage.

On which side initiated the idea:
I think we can rule out mutual origination. From the Columbus side, they’re claiming it is theirs. The insurance mess up is a 17-and-a-half million-dollar hit. That’s huge for any team, especially for a small market team. The thinking was maybe you can turn that contract into cap room. Who desperately needs cap room and who is willing to do something crazy to get cap room?

Columbus has a hole in the right side of their lineup and [Clarkson] was on their list in 2013 and if they didn’t get Horton they would’ve barked up that tree. Once they gave it a whirl, it came together really quickly, more quickly than most people would think for a deal with this many layers and this much texture.

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David Clarkson
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 23: Benoit Pouliot #67 of the New York Rangers checks David Clarkson #71 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during the first period at Madison Square Garden on December 23, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Pat Morris joined Leafs Lunch to discuss his client David Clarkson’s trade to Columbus.

 His involvement in getting the deal done:
I actually spoke to Dave Nonis about another thought that we had on David, probably a week ago. I started with Nonis on that dialogue that had some legs, then [it] died. Then, Dave said, “I might be working on something else, would you have interest in listening to that?” I said, “sure, bring it to me when it gets serious.” It got serious the day before yesterday, we had some contact Wednesday, and then all day yesterday we worked through all the logistics that go into something like this.

On Clarkson wanting a change:
It’s been frustrating for him because he’s never reached his goals or expectations or [that of] others. You get to the point where you wonder if it’s going to work here. Really, during the All Star break, after that you start to think about if there is anywhere else that this could go towards another team; he said, ‘if you can move this along, help me out.’ You try, that’s my job. Credit Toronto for finding something and for Columbus solving a difficult issue they have with the injury. My understanding is they called Toronto at the start of the season on David and like some of the things he brings. It came to fruition about 5:30-6:00 yesterday

On Clarkson’s time in Toronto:
When you care, and you’re sensitive and you wear your heart on the sleeve, it’s not going to help you. Everywhere there’s talk of the Leafs and the underachievement and you’re part of it. You carry it home and it doesn’t make for a very good environment at home. Some people can leave their job at the rink; I think David tried to, but at same time I don’t think the Leafs were dependent on Clarkson. It’s a team effort, a group effort. It’s a tough place to play. It’s been 48 years since the Stanley Cup, and one playoff in 10 years. It’s frustrating. I grew up in Toronto and no one likes it, everyone wants it to be better.

The positives of Toronto and if he would recommend it to a client:
I think the organization, as with a handful of others in the NHL, they treat their players very well; with class, they treat them like gold, and offer all the elements that an athlete would enjoy. Away from the rink, the practice rink is a great facility, and they’ll do anything to make it easier on the athlete and his family. That’s a positive. It’s not going to scare me from recommending Toronto per se. A player will always make his own decision. I think, when I was negotiating for Tyler Bozak, one of the things that was easy to sell was opportunity. Tyler has had a good career and has been a good Maple Leaf because of that opportunity. That probably presents itself this summer going forward as they can offer opportunity while overhauling their lineup. There’s a new style of management with lots of different minds, and theories and analytics, and that sometimes can be too cumbersome; that can be too cumbersome but also cutting edge, that you look upon as a positive as well. They will spend money to get to a winner. They’ll have the ability to do something with the coaching staff as they decide to realign that. They’ll spend money, which sometimes can be a positive as well.

Sep 16, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward David Clarkson (71) carries the puck in the shoot out against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Air Canada Centre. Philadelphia defeated Toronto 3-2 in an overtime shoot out. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve pinched ourselves and waited ’till morning. David Clarkson is still a Columbus Blue Jacket.

Strapped with way too many long term deals for a bottom five hockey club, the Leafs needed to open up cap flexibility. Nobody expected they would be able to offload the League’s biggest boat anchor. Not in a million years, not without giving up assets and retaining salary.

Thankfully Columbus came knocking, in a terrible spot with Nathan Horton’s large and uninsured contract.

Nonis kept a straight face, pulled the trigger, and the Leafs are in a much, much better position today than they were yesterday.

Long Term Injured Reserve contracts count during the offseason, but teams can exceed the upper limit by up to 10% during the summer. By opening day teams must become cap compliant, at which point the LTIR card can be played in a couple of different ways. More on that in the links below.

MLHS yesterday:

More Clarkson Coverage

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This is an amazing save by the Leafs and MLSE, flexing their financial muscle to expunge the worst contract mistake in team history.

On Long Term Injured Reserve and effectively off the cap* (note: there are some ramifications on the cap for LTIR), Nathan Horton’s career looks to be over due to horrible back injuries. From a piece by Greg Wyshynski:

“I can’t stand up like a normal person; I can’t bend over. I can’t run. I can’t play with my kids. To get in and out of the car, I’m like a 75-year-old man … so slow and stiff. I can’t sleep at night. I try to lay down and my back seizes up and I can’t move, so sleeping is out. I’m like a zombie in the daytime.”

The two players signed near-identical contracts on July 5, 2013. After the injury, without insurance on the contract, the Blue Jackets were paying Horton a salary comparable to Clarkson’s for him not to play for them until 2020. This gives the Blue Jackets a player who can contribute (technically speaking) for the money, and turns Clarkson’s cap hit into a bad memory instead of a living reality for the Leafs.

Pure brilliance.

*Technically, in cases of LTIR, the cap hit is on the cap but the team is granted an exemption that allows them to exceed the cap by up to the amount of the injured player’s cap hit. This isn’t the same as simply removing the cap hit, which we’ll explore later.

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TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 14: Daniel Winnik #26 and Mike Santorelli #25 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrate a first period goal during NHL game action againstr the Los Angeles Kings December 14, 2014 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Leafs receive Zach Sill, a 2nd round pick in 2016 and a 4th round pick in 2015.

This is a handsome return for a depth forward and a late summer pickup out of the bargain bin. The second round pick is in 2016, meaning the Leafs are still without one in 2015, but now have two in 2016.

The Leafs also retained half of Winnik’s $1.3 million salary for the remainder of the season, which helped grease the wheels on the trade for Pittsburgh’s cap but is next to meaningless as far as Leafs are concerned given it’s a one-year contract.

The one thing worth noting about retaining salary, as we approach the deadline, is that the Leafs have now retained on the contracts of Carl Gunnarsson and Daniel Winnik this season, meaning they can only retain salary on one other contract.

Zach Sill is just a depth forward whose contract expires at year’s end, as the the Penguins wanted to offload a contract in the deal, but for those curious:

Zach Sill Scouting Report
Assets: Excels at banging bodies, agitating the opposition and in defensive situations. His lower-body strength is a plus in the corners of the ice. Can play either center or wing.
Flaws: Doesn’t have much offensive ability and isn’t much of a scorer. Must always try to play on the edge (and not over it) in order to be very useful at the highest level.
Career Potential: Agitating, aggressive, versatile forward.



While a consistent performer and a really likeable role player in his time here (and a nice playoff add for the Penguins), it’s hard to complain about netting a 2nd and a 4th for a depth forward like Winnik. Consider the returns on Tlusty and Bergenheim; while higher cap hits in both cases, they were expiring deals like Winnik and both have better track records offensively.  Carolina fetched a 3rd and a 6th for Tlusty, Florida a 3rd for Bergeinheim plus a 7th.

Taking on Sill’s contract for the remainder of the season and the retained salary are just smart little business manoeuvres the Leafs can easily afford. They’ve added a few mid-level picks into the cupboards and get worse in the short term in the process, so mission accomplished here.

 


Daniel Winnik talks about the trade on the Bryan Hayes Show:

Pittsburgh Penguins' Zach Sill, left, fights with Toronto Maple Leafs' Troy Bodie (40) in the second period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Monday, Dec. 16, 2013. The Penguins won 3-1. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Watch as new Leaf Zach Sill relentlessly chirps Dion Phaneuf and stirs the waters against his now-teammates while mic’d up during a meeting with the Leafs in December of 2013.

Bob McKenzie on TSN Drive:

Winnik trade:
[Zach] Sill is obviously a component where the contact had to come back the other way. The Penguins not only needed the Leafs to eat half of Winnik’s salary for remainder of the deal — it’s only rest of this season — but they also needed them to take Sill, that’s how tight things are vis-a-vis the salary cap. Whether they want Sill or whether he was just an economic consideration remains to be seen; [it’s] probably an economic consideration. Hey, two draft picks for a guy you signed in the summer for a shade over a million is like buying draft picks. If you told teams, “give a million bucks and you get to use the player for 5-6 months, and get you get a 2nd and 4th,” they would say, “works for me.” That’s what it boils down to: asset management, parlaying a productive FA signing from last summer into tangible assets for the future.

If they’re going to be active now, guys we talked about forever – Franson, Santorelli, Winnik – are gone, the rental market is gone. If they’re going to make a move now, they’re trading term and dollars. Do they get offers that get them to the ballpark of contemplating moving Lupul, Bozak, Phaneuf? At this point we just have to wait and see like everybody else. I imagine the best offers won’t come filtering in until Sunday or Monday.

James Mirtle on TSN Drive:

Winnik trade:
I think they did okay. I mean, we are are looking at a guy who is a third liner, maybe a second liner, and he’s a rental player obviously. Teams are trying to hold onto picks more than they have in the past because they realize the value in the draft. They were trying to get a 2nd or a 3rd round pick and they got a 2nd and a 4th, so they almost got what they wanted. I don’t think we can be too critical about what happened here.

Other moves before the deadline:
They’re going to try, but I’m pretty sceptical they can pull anything off. It’s pretty telling in this deal even that the Leafs had to retain half of Dan Winnik’s salary, which wasn’t a lot of money. The fact is, other players the Leafs are trying to move have much bigger salaries than Dan Winnik. The teams that are going to want some of the other guys available just do not have the cap room. If the Leafs want to move a Joffrey Lupul or a Tyler Bozak, or the bigger names in Kessel and Phaneuf, it’s going to be very difficult to pull that off. Dave Nonis even alluded to that, he said that it’s much tougher to make those type of trades in season. They’re going to try, but I won’t be surprised if they don’t do a whole lot more than this.

Bigger moves in the offseason:
It’s going to be difficult. It sounds like they’re going to pull this apart. I’d be shocked if at least one of Kessel or Phaneuf isn’t gone. I’d be very surprised if Tyler Bozak is back. They’re going to try and move Joffrey Lupul. This team is going to be very active, it just might not be in the next week. It might come in the summer. These are going to be tough deals to pull off no matter what, especially with all the talk about how salary cap might not even go up at all. They’re going to have to get creative with that. Maybe you look around the league and you look at a player — I know Montreal is talking about moving out Lars Eller, there’s a guy who doesn’t have that many years left on his contract, a $3.5 million deal. Maybe you take back a contract a team like Montreal is trying to move. You don’t necessarily want him to be a part of the solution, but it might facilitate you moving out a contract with more term and more dollars on it.

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Daniel Winnik spoke to Bryan Hayes about his time in Toronto and what he’s looking forward to in Pittsburgh:

First thing that comes to mind about the Pittsburgh Penguins:
Chance to win the Stanley Cup. With Crosby and Malkin I think you’ve got a chance every single year. I’m looking forward to helping that cause.

It used to be my job to try to shut them down. I don’t think I’ve done too good a job of it the past few years. It will be nice to help them score instead of trying to keep them off the scoresheet.

Handling the rumours of the past few months:
It hasn’t been that bad. I think I’ve handled the rumours and stuff really well having been through it before. I said earlier or last week in an interview that I was approaching every game like it was my last for the Leafs. I think that helped me manage with all the rumours, just expecting it to come every day. Sometimes the stress levels got high, but that’s just the nature of this game.

Experience as a Toronto Maple Leaf:
It’s tough in a sense. I’ve had some personal success, but ultimately you want team success and we just didn’t get the job done this year for whatever reason. To be on the wrong side of some records for the Leafs is a little disappointing. I mean, I enjoyed it for sure and will never forget the experience. Extremely happy to have played for my hometown Toronto Maple Leafs, even to have worn an A, I know it was just the just one game in Carolina, but that’s a big part of my career because I haven’t worn a letter before. A lot of good memories leaving this place.

The collapse:
I don’t think there was one point where I thought it would get to the point where we’re at. I don’t think we played terrible hockey after Randy was gone, we just couldn’t score. The point where I thought we couldn’t get it back was when it hit about seven games in the slide, then we knew it was trouble.

TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 2: Joffrey Lupul #19 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates the puck around Jordie Benn #24 of the Dallas Stars during NHL game action December 2, 2014 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

Lots stirring on the Joffrey Lupul front the past few days. The roundup:

Elliotte Friedman yesterday on Sportsnet 960:
“Thing about Lupul is he is injury prone, but he is two or three years removed where he was among the top 10 players in scoring at the time he got injured at the end of the year. I heard last year that Montreal has asked about him and Toronto may deal him. When I met with Dave Nonis in the summer, I asked him about that. He said there has been interest, but he made a really good point to me. He said, if you look at his contract — which is not ridiculous– if we trade that guy, it’s going to cost us that much at least to replace him. So, why not see if we can keep him here and keep him healthy?

Now, this year obviously another injury. I think the Leafs are in a position where they are trying to collect picks and assets as much as much as they possibly can. Lupul is going to be in that conversation. I believe that Pittsburgh is in on this. It’s not easy for the Penguins, they are right at the cap, but they have some young pieces that would definitely interest Toronto, particularly on defense.

Montreal, I wonder if they are back into it. They are still looking for some size and some wingers.

One of the teams I wonder, kind of in a stealth way, if they are involved in this, because they would be a team that would also need to clear some cap room to get it done, is Boston. I’m sure there are some teams out West too, but those are three of the ones that might have a hand in on this.

It would not surprise me if Pittsburgh was a team that was making a real push. He fits what they need, which is a winger who can play on one of their top two lines.”

Pierre Lebrun, on Leafs Lunch, on the Habs’ reported interest:
“The Habs have looked at him, as have other teams. Probably what would scare Bergevin is he is so meticulous about his cap and payroll. Even today’s move he marginally brought his cap number down [Sekac for Smith-Pelley]. You look at Lupul’s deal and especially because of the injuries; it’s a big number for a guy who is not always in your lineup. 5.25 million cap hit, three more years, I’m not convinced it makes that much sense for Montreal. Certainly what he would bring is a little more offense. They continue to struggle to score, they’ve won so many one-goal games and low scoring games because they have the best goalie in the game and they lead the league in goals against. They’re not naturally gifted offensively right now.”

Nick Kypreos on Hockey Central at Noon:
“My first question is if he can’t stay healthy during a regular season, how is he going to get through four rounds? Are you not trading for that type of contract saying [going deep] is what you’re striving for? Can he even last three rounds? Even if you’re Calgary or Winnipeg, why wouldn’t you think, with some luck or health on you side, you couldn’t get to a Conference Final? Teams start thinking that way.

We know Montreal has been following the Leafs around. I’m also hearing that they’ve been watching Daniel Winnik very closely. Maybe that’s the depth guy that can give Montreal a little bit of size as well.”

TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 7: Interm Head Coach Peter Horachek of the Toronto Maple Leafs stands on the bench during action against the Washington Capitals during game action on January 7, 2015 at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

Steve Spott hopped on Leafs Lunch yesterday to discuss coaching amid the Leafs’ death spiral.

Spott mentioned there’s been  added emphasis on the amount of time spent on individual development with some of the younger assets on the team, mentioning Holland, Panik and Kadri.

On coaching objectives in a lost cause:
What we’re trying to do here, we’ve talked about it at length, is lots of individual stuff. This morning I did a session with Peter Holland, Chris Dennis is meeting with Richard Panik. You have your team message, then you have a lot of individual stuff. It’s hard when you have 22 guys in the same room trying to pound home the positive messages. A lot of what we’re doing right now is individual stuff with video.

On tuning out the white noise of the media and fan base:
I remember when I was going through the interview process for this job, where I sat down with Randy Carlyle in Philadelphia at the draft; we were talking candidly with each other about that. He had talked a lot about the highs being very, very high, and when there’s lows they are very, very low. There’s never a level of ‘just ok.’ [It’s never a case of] You lose a game, that’s fine, you get on the horse and you get onto the next game. Or you win one, it’s fine, you prepare for the next game. It’s very, very high or very, very low. It’s really rung true for me this year. When we were on that the win streak we could buy a coffee anywhere in the city, now we’re in situation where we can’t even go to the mall. It’s an amazing thing to live through it. Our job as coaches is try to block out as much white noise as we can keep out of the locker room. We’re doing that right now, trying work with these players individually, we’re doing that as much as possible.

Tuesday Links:

  • Anthony Petrielli: Leafs Notebook – February 23 (MLHS)
    There is a lot of talk around Toronto about trading Kessel and then in separate breaths, hoping to get Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel in the draft. There’s very little talk about what happens after you hypothetically draft one of those two.  It would be nice to have an elite scoring winger to play with one of those two players, perhaps someone like Phil Kessel.
  • Jonas Siegel: Leafs burned by two-month scoring crater (TSN.ca)
    “There’s slumps, but not for a team with this much skill though,” said Joffrey Lupul, injured for most of the scoring nose-dive and thus careful as not to criticize teammates. “It’s really odd that that would happen. There’s not one thing. It’s a number of different things.”
  • James Mirtle: NHL’s foray into analytics not off to great start (The Globe and Mail)
    The troubling part of the NHL’s launch is how confusing and, in some cases, wrong the new data are. Without a filter for games played or ice time, for example, little-known players such as Andrew Agozzino and Miikka Salomaki lead the league in points per 20 minutes.
  • Michael Langlois: Always waiting for the future can be draining for Maple Leaf supporters (VLM)
    The truth is, while it would be nice to see the Leafs win some games (winning always beats losing in pro sports), it’s just awfully difficult to attach significant meaning to almost any results that we see right now.
  • James Mirtle: The Leafs aren’t this bad (The Globe and Mail)
    “This isn’t the situation I thought I’d be in at all,” Lupul said of when he signed his five-year deal. “But I don’t think this team is as bad as we’ve shown the past couple months. I think there’s some really, really positive pieces and some young guys playing better.
  • Kevin McGran: Maple Leafs’ Dion Phaneuf ‘hopeful’ to return this week (Toronto Star)
    “It feels good to be out with the guys again,” said Phaneuf. “It’s tough mentally when you’re out by yourself day after day and just doing treatment and rehab. It wears on you. I’m hopeful to play this week. I want to see how it (the hand) responds.”
  • Sean Fitzgerald: Are the Maple Leafs ‘bulletproof’? How a full-scale rebuild could affect TV, sponsors and businesses (National Post)
    A year after teaming with Bell to buy a 79.53% stake in MLSE, Rogers Communications Inc. announced it would spend $5.2-billion over 12 years for exclusive Canadian rights to the National Hockey League. Would a bad Leafs team soften ratings projections?