Friday, May 29, 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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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?

An OT win over the Jets, combined with a Carolina loss to New Jersey, means the tank takes a step back, but a Daniel Winnik Gordie Howe hat trick, in front of a potential suitor to boot, and more good stuff from Morgan Rielly in the lead up to the OT winner are nothing but good things.

In other news, it’s nice to see that, after going ahead with the yearly shutdown of outdoor rinks in Toronto, MLSE sponsored keeping them open at the cost of $4,500 per rink, per week, to be split with waste management firm Green for Life.

A list of closed and open rinks (and more on the subject) is available from the Toronto Star.

Sunday Links:

  • Jonas Siegel: Winnik upping trade value for Leafs ahead of deadline (TSN.ca)
    Winnik actually has been the most productive Leaf during an astounding team-wide offensive slide, leading the group in even-strength goals (6) and points (11) since the middle of December. He sits just a smidge back of Kadri, Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk for a share of the team lead in that regard all season.
  • Emily Sadler: Apps, Armstrong to join Maple Leafs’ Legends Row (Sportsnet.ca)
    “For a team with a history as rich as the Toronto Maple Leafs, and so many great players who have worn the Leafs sweater, choosing which players to honour on Legends Row could be a very difficult task, but when it came to Syl Apps and George Armstrong, it was unanimous,” said Toronto Maple Leafs President Brendan Shanahan.
  • Steve Simmons: Simmons Says: Leafs have decision to make on Bernier (Toronto Sun)
    But in two seasons in Toronto, Bernier has lacked consistency and, at times, focus and there is genuine debate in the front office about how to proceed with him both on the ice and contract-wise.
  • Rob Longley: Maple Leafs’ Lupul shows leadership (Toronto Sun)
    “My heart is here and I’d like to stay here, but if I’m not in the plans then you show other teams that you can certainly be someone that fits in. When you’re not going to the playoffs, there’s going to be rumours.”
  • Ian Shantz: Maple Leafs defenceman Dion Phaneuf feeling “a lot better” (Toronto Sun)
    Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf took part in the team’s morning skate and considered the fact he was handling the puck again to be “a step in the right direction.”
  • Report: The Leafs interested in Burmistrov? (The Fourth Period)
    As it has been widely reported, the Jets have expressed interest in Leafs winger Daniel Winnik, who is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent July 1. According to the Toronto Sun, the Leafs have some interest in young forward Alexander Burmistrov, who is currently playing in the KHL.
  • Ken Wiebe: Leafs’ Winnik proves worth to possible suitor (Winnipeg Sun)
    Winnik also got into a scrap with Jets defenceman Ben Chiarot in the third period, giving him two career Gordie Howe hat tricks, the first coming while he was a member of the Colorado Avalanche in 2011-12, before he was traded to the San Jose Sharks

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Hot off the airwaves from Bob McKenzie on TSN Drive:

(Twitter Question) With the Leafs’ horrible drafting, why has there not been some fired scouts?
Dave Morrison has been heading up their scoring department and continues to, although there is probably a greater degree of oversight. Some would argue Mark Hunter is the de facto, in charge of all scouting issues. In a manner of speaking, I guess it kind of is a new look. You get that a lot, there was all sorts of talk when Jim Benning took over in Vancouver that Vancouver hadn’t been perceived as a strong scouting team and there was going to be massive wholesale changes to scouting department, and there hasn’t been. You’re comfortable with people going out and doing the job so long as you’re most comfortable with who has the final authority. Near as I can tell, who has the final authority is Director of Player Personnel Mark Hunter, who had a great reputation as a GM of London Knights for finding young talent and having a keen eye for that.

(Steve Simmons) Brendan Shanahan was said to have undergone an evaluation of all scouts, going over years old scouting lists.
Some people would say that the Edmonton Oilers’ scouts have taken it on the chin. They’ve done the same thing. As of now, there haven’t been significant changes in the last year or two to the Oiler scouting department. Lots of times scouts get overruled by mangers or other guys in the organization. Maybe the Oilers were ready to take Brandon Saad with a specific pick and said they needed to take a defenceman and took David Musil instead, even though the scouts might have said Saad was the best player at the time. I know it’s easier for everyone on the outside, the amateur evaluators of the evaluators, but it’s also been my experience over the years that the scouts who get the enormous amount of credit, go through periods where the picks are terrible, or vice versa, where perceived bad scouts end up making some really good picks. It’s an inexact science and some teams are better than other teams. I could build you a case for any scout in the NHL. If you hit .400 in baseball you’re a Hall of Famer, but for scouting I’d imagine it’s hard to even hit 400 in the drafting of 18-year-old hockey players.

Rumour of Ryan O’Reilly to Buffalo, and his availability:
Buffalo is interested. They were interested before and they’re still interested. I think Tim Murray is going to try everything in his power to make it happen. If he couldn’t make it happen when he had Tyler Myers, I’m not sure there is necessarily anything there that would make it easier. If anything, it would be more difficult if you are trying to get O’Reilly out of Colorado. Colorado is open to the notion, I think. I’d be shocked if it happened between now and deadline, but this summer I think it’s certainly possible because of financial implications of where his contract is going and the fact that they need help in more areas more than they need O’Reilly, even though Patrick Roy loves rolling O’Reilly out of the gate whenever he can. It’s probably not feasible to keep him long term, which is why I think he will move in the summer if not earlier.

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 3: Ryan O'Reilly #90 of the Colorado Avalanche warms up before a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on March 3, 2013 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. O'Reilly is playing in his first game this season with the Avalanche after signing his last contract. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

The odds of Tyler Bozak moving, Ryan O’Reilly’s status ahead of the deadline, the Leafs coaching situation, Roman Polak’s value, and more.

Bob McKenzie on TSN Drive on TSN 1050:

Tyler Bozak:
There are teams inquiring. Again, I think people see the distress the Leafs are in and are thinking they can pick the carcass. So, when you hear ‘total rebuild’ or ‘blow it up,’ you think they’ll make a trade for a couple of picks or ‘B’ prospects. I’m sure the Leafs’ attitude is we have to rebuild but do it smartly. “In absence of a really good pick and or really good prospects, we can’t take fair to middling draft picks or prospects for a guy like Bozak because, whatever shortcomings he may have as a so-called number-one center, who do we play if he isn’t there?” This rebuild sounds terrific, but you have to ice some NHL players. The return becomes important and right now I don’t think it’s been on a level the Leafs desire. I think at best it’s 50-50 that Bozak moves.

Is it going to take 3, 4, 5 years to turn the Leafs around?
I think, probably, in the big picture, yes. If you want a legitimate chance to get better they do have to go deeper than Vancouver did. Thing with Vancouver is, in spite of the fact that they missed the playoffs or didn’t perform expectations, at no point did anybody say, unequivocally, “we’ve had it with the Sedins, we won’t win with these guys.” They’ve built up too much currency for the way they play the game. Yeah, people said, “diminishing returns, they’re getting older,” but they’re good hockey players and they didn’t say, “we’re done with these guys.” In a manner of speaking, no one has said, “we’re done with Phil Kessel or Dion Phaneuf,” but because we’ve had collapse after collapse after collapse, there’s this sense that you can’t win with these guys. Maybe you can, maybe you can’t. Ultimately, one or both might not get dealt because the return can’t be justified. If you bring in other pieces and start to build it up, maybe they will be a competitive team with one or both of those guys in the lineup.

Who is the best coaching choice for the Leafs this offseason?
I think you have to do things in the proper sequence. If you’re Brendan Shanahan, I’m sure you’re thinking about the coach because you know Peter Horachek is a caretaker as an interim guy; [but] first thing’s first, you have to decide what is going to happen with the GM, if Dave Nonis is the general manager or if someone else is going to the be the GM. If it’s not Dave Nonis, I‘m sure the GM is going to want input as to who the coach is. If Peter Chiarelli got let go in Boston, and Dave Nonis got let go in Toronto, and Pete Chiarelli becomes the GM, it may well be that Claude Julien makes the most sense, but I’m sure if Babcock or McLellan is available [the Leafs would be interested]. This is why the Leafs and a bunch of teams are going to be eagerly anticipating what is going to happen in the playoffs. For teams that struggle like Leafs in the regular season, the playoffs become the great equalizer. Right now, the Toronto Maple Leafs are in tatters, and what they want is some company. Nothing brings company quicker than the playoffs, when some team thinks they’re going go the distance, i.e. Anaheim, Boston, San Jose; the level playing field comes when we go through who makes it and who misses and how much carnage there is on the executive and coaching front. There’s the potential for some really good hockey people, and a lot of really good hockey people might become available between now and the draft.

Bob McKenzie earlier on TSN1040 Vancouver:

Ryan O’Reilly:
There hasn’t been anything front burner on that. That said, I think the Colorado Avalanche are open to the idea of doing it, but I think their expectation is it‘s much more likely to be a deal done in offseason. If they get the right offer between now and the deadline, they might move, but I don’t think they’ve got anything close to what would make them consider moving between now and next Monday. It’s much more likely to happen at the draft or in the offseason. The door is open a crack, but no one has really kicked it in. It’s not a firesale, he’s an important piece for them, but they have concerns, obviously, financially long term with O’Reilly, and have more holes to fill, specifically on the blueline. For the right defenceman at the right time, I think they make the move. I don’t think they’ve shut the door on O’Reilly considerations at all between now and the deadline, but I don’t think they’ve been enticed by anything they’ve seen so far. Therefore, I suspect it carries over to the summer.

His [give a shit meter] is really high. This is one where his tangibles are good but his intangibles are even higher. Everybody just loves everything about him; the way he approaches and thinks the game, his effort, commitment, dedication, his personality on and off the ice, his skillset. He’s not the fastest skater in the world, which is probably what prevents him from being the prototypical number one center, and he’s maybe not going to be putting up last season’s numbers every year, but there are so many other things he does for you. At the risk of sounding cliché, the 200 foot player, faceoffs, penalty kill, blocking shots, hockey sense, ability to read offensively, make plays offensively, score goals… There really isn’t anything he can’t do other than be an elite level number-1 C who skates really well; he’s not gifted in that sense, but he is in every other facet of the game and hockey people love the full package.

Ray Ferraro on TSN1050’s Leafs Lunch:

Roman Polak’s value:
I think [playoff teams] would like him. I think he would return a draft pick or a not-an-A prospect, but maybe someone just below that. An equivalent of a 2nd or 3rd round pick, that’s the trade value. But I think playoff teams would be very interested in him.

Quite honestly, I’d be interested in, as Toronto, keeping him. They don’t have enough of [what he brings]. Someone has to lead by example. You need some veterans to do that, even as you go through this transitional stage. I know because I hear from young players and they talk of older players that they see and can’t believe now hard these guys work. If there’s nobody leading the way — you can have a coach tell you all day, but if you see a peer doing something and you go, “huh, that’s something I should probably be doing.” I think Polak can be one of those guys. I don’t think he’s going to return you so much; maybe you’ll get blown out of the water, if someone has a key injury between and the deadline and the team becomes, instead of just interested, more desperate, and says, “hey, look, we’ll give you a 2nd and a top end prospect.” Then you have to look at it. Let’s not get seduced by just first round picks here. If you’ve got three or four seconds in the next two years, you can really do some damage there. My experience with the draft is there is a clear separation generally at about pick 20, and then from player 20 to player 40 a player could be just about anything. A player in that range is in essence kind of a first round player anyway.

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Ice hockey is a popular sport with North American gamblers. In the old days, these punters had to find a Las Vegas sports book, in order to place their bets, because Nevada is the only state where gambling is legal. Nowadays though, there are many online sports books that provide you with betting lines and odds on every NHL event. These websites offer second-by-second match updates. Here are three well known online sports books that will take your ice hockey punting to the next level. All of them have a good reputation, because they pay out promptly, offer fair odds and have decent customer support.

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Olli Jokinen makes his Leaf debut tonight hoping it’s his first and fifth-last game in Toronto.

The Leafs and Jokinen both will be pulling for the same thing, which is that he returns to his natural center ice position and convinces some GM tout there that he could be of some use to a team in the playoff mix down the stretch as a veteran depth player. From there, the Leafs might be able to grab a late conditional pick that’s dependent on playoff results. It would be nice  to get him out of the way of Holland and Carrick and get those two more minutes in the final 25 games.

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Pierre Lebrun

Pierre Lebrun joined the Bryan Hayes Show to discuss, among other things, the Kessel to Florida rumour.

How real is the Panthers-Kessel connection?
Let’s go through this together. I can tell you, from sources in both front offices, there have not been any conversations between the two teams concerning Phil Kessel. Having said that, if you’re going to look for a team to get into the mix — and I think this is a June conversation more than anything — the Panthers have a tonne of cap room, a new owner, have had trouble scoring this year, and I think Tallon has always been fond of Kessel. I would suggest, if this conversation ever happens between Tallon and Nonis, that they’re going to say they are not giving up any grade A talent for this guy.

Is that the same impression elsewhere?
There are Phil Kessel lovers in the league. Who is the President of Hockey Ops in Calgary? [Brian Burke]. The Kessel derby gets going in the summer and it wouldn’t surprise me if Calgary at least looks into it. He’s not GM and he would adhere to Brad Treliving, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were a part of that mix. I know a few other teams that would be in that have asked not be named. I think what’s going to be interesting is this, when the time comes on Kessel: Is this going to be about simply getting rid of the contract and getting little in turn, or if the Leafs are willing to eat some of the contract and then get something in return, because he is a very good offensive player. Those are two different transactions and I don’t think you’re pulling both off in one deal.

As low as people’s opinion is of Phil Kessel in some areas of this city, you’d be surprised what you hear from other teams. That’s not say they don’t agree 8 million a year is a lot.

On Dion Phaneuf:
I wrote this yesterday in my rumblings blog, if Toronto phoned Detroit tomorrow and said Phaneuf is now a 5.5 million player instead of a 7 million player, do we have a conversation? The answer would probably be yes, they’d be intrigued by that conversation. What we’re hearing from our sources with the Leafs is that they’re not interested in eating contract right now.

Bob McKenzie on TSN Drive:

Olli Jokinen — Any chance they get some value for him?
I guess. Anything is possible. He hasn’t the kind of year that would generate a lot of interest, but you never know now; at the last moment someone might be sitting there who has lost out on this guy or that guy, feels like they want a veteran body, and they might get a little something something. I wouldn’t go to the bank on it.

Does him having next to zero playoff experience water down any attraction?
I think there’s an element to that. Mind you, internationally, for Finland, he’s been pretty good, and those are playoff type games. Our stats guy sent out a thing that showed people playing the most NHL games with least playoff experience and Olli is right up there. Only way you can get playoff experience is to get it and it’s kind of late in the game for Olli at this point.