Not much news to speak of in Leaf Land outside of Friday's re-signing of Nikolai Kulemin to a cap friendly 2-year, $5.6 million deal (we signed the AHL's Crosby though, more after the jump). Kulemin's cap hit was $2.35M last season, or 3.65% of the $64.3M total cap, it goes up to 4% under the $70.2M cap next season, so it was a pretty negligible raise where it counts.
The addition of James van Riemsdyk to the wing could mean Kulemin spends big chunks of his season on the third unit. Theoretically a third line with McClement and Kulemin comprising two/thirds sounds promising; in my head it's capable of shutdown defensive play, faring well in the possession battle and chipping in some secondary offense. Kulemin may of course remain with pal Mikhail Grabovski if the JvR at center experiment actually works out.
I'd slot someone like Frattin on the other wing, but like many mock lineups we're forgetting Tim Connolly and Matthew Lombardi are still under contract and on the Leaf roster. Yeah, this is all too early to make any conclusions about, so let's just get into some links.
Onto some Sunday reading.... [more…]
Get ready to hear about nothing but Shea Weber for the next six days. And rightfully so. After inking what will be the biggest contract for a defenceman in league history on an offer sheet with Philadelphia, Weber's The Man in the hockey world right now.
Apparently this whole thing developed after a few attempts at a trade for Weber, in which the Flyers eventually said "enough of that, here's a spaceship full of money."
Now David Poile has to make a decision on whether he wants to basically flatten his team or match the offer. We wanted hockey news, Paul Holmgren delivered, again.
Does this relate to the Leafs? Some fans raised the question about whether Toronto should have been in on Weber as well. As much as the Leafs could use extra help on the blueline, I guess they didn't see it as enough of a priority to go and spend $110 million and four first round picks on. I'm indifferent.
This does relate to the Leafs in that a team in the East potentially becomes more dangerous, while the landscape in the West, and particularly the Central, has changed quite dramatically in the last little while. Did I have the Leafs passing the Flyers in the standings this coming season? No. But you still don't want to see elite players jumping in to your conference.
It's a monstrous move that's given us a lot to talk about until this comes to some sort of resolution. And after the fact, it could pave the way for other big transactions to take place. Hopefully there's some more shuffling soon before I lose my mind thinking about what the Leafs are going to do to fix their own mess.
Much noise has been made about the Leafsâ€™ need to change their goaltending situation this offseason. Iâ€™m choosing to phrase it like that mainly due to the vast differences in opinion about what it really seems to mean. Really, fans just collectively want to know that whatever happens, the result is an improved team. Unfortunately, that may be defined differently than an improved organization, which â€“ at this still-relatively early and unproven stage of what must be considered a full rebuild â€“ should be the true priority.
Prudence really does suggest running with a James Reimer/Ben Scrivens tandem next season and seeing if one of the young goaltenders can claim the #1 starter role beyond question. Patience and public relations may prevent that from happening; if the rumors are to be believed, an outside hire for one of the slots is all but inevitable at this point.
One name in the discussion â€“ rumored, perhaps, far less to this point than he should have been as a candidate for acquisition by Toronto â€“ is the Los Angeles Kingsâ€™ Jonathan Bernier. That doesn't mean we haven't discussed him to death. We have. I'm just wondering why he doesn't emerge more often as the preferred choice. [more…]
The new CBA negotiations have started and everything seems quiet on the trade front. Not muchÂ of relevance currently going on in around the NHL.
Now, donâ€™t get me wrong, labor negotiations are easily the most important thing happening this summer because, clearly, they will significantly impact the game in the foreseeable future which is why itâ€™s prudent to always keep one eye on the process. But what we've heard so far is nothing to be alarmed about, at least not yet.
At this point we are two weeks past the opening of NHL Free Agency, three weeks from the draft, and five weeks from when the Stanley Cup was won. In contrast we are about 12 weeks away from the start of the regular season, assuming it opens on time. For the record, Iâ€™m optimistic it will. There is still an awful lot of off-season to go.
With that in mind it begs the question, â€œHow come we expect the Leafs to be fixed by now?â€ Recognizing that player movements start shortly after the Cup Finals end, weâ€™ve given Brian Burke a month to fix a team that had the fifth worst record in the league. Thatâ€™s a pretty tall order.
Granted, Iâ€™m as impatient as everyone else. The off season can be an incredibly painful few months if your team isnâ€™t making trades or signing players. I would like to see more done for the Leafs than adding some size to the wing, and upgrade the bottom six forward group, arguably what should have been the lowest priorities on team that has obvious issues up the middle, in net, and on defense. [more…]
Steve Dangle posted an interview with Patrick Burke over at The Leafs Nation last night, touching on many more important topics than the one I'm about to quote, so be sure to head over there and read up on the progress of the You Can Play Project and related matters.
Later on in the interview, Patrick rebuked the criticisms launched his father's way in regards to Brian's decision to march in the Gay Pride Parade during the opening of unrestricted free agency on July 1st.
Did you want to touch on the Leafs â€œcontroversyâ€?
The Pride Parade was on July 1st. That was the first day of free agency, and now we're seeing some random idiots who are using that to say that my dad wasn't doing his job. If you want to criticize moves that the Leafs have made or haven't made over the past few years, that's fine. That's how sports works. That's what the media and the fans are there for, to say 'I don't like this trade, I don't like that trade, I like this signing, I don't like that signing.'
But for anyone to use You Can Play and to use Toronto Pride as a means to criticize the Maple Leafs and my dad and the job that's being done there is just over the top in its ignorance. It shows that they're not paying attention to how much he cares. It shows that they're now aware of how cell phones work if you needed to be in touch with somebody. It shows they're not aware of how great of a support staff the Toronto Maple Leafs have with Dave Nonis and Dave Poulin and the rest of them there. It shows they're not aware of how free agency works.
Why is there a picture of Mark Messier holding the Cup? Why do we care about the Rangers? Well, read on. Just the other day, I was watching a documentary about the Rangers' Cup win in 1994 (Road To Victory: The 1994 New York Rangers Story) which got me thinking about parallels between the two franchises, Rangers and Leafs.
Indeed, there are plenty to choose from. Letâ€™s start with the fact that both teams are a part of the Original Six. What is inevitably a major consequence of that is plenty of hockey tradition and a devoted, passionate fanbase.
When comparing the markets, there is a distinction of NY having more sports teams (Yankees, Mets, Nets, Red Bulls, Knicks, Liberty, Islanders, Rangers based in NY City and NJ Devils, Giants, Jets in the greater metropolitan area), but the size of that market is a really good comparable to Toronto.
Next up, letâ€™s consider the Cup drought which Rangers fans had to endure for 54 whole years (1940-1994). The Leafs, as you certainly donâ€™t need reminding, won their last Cup in 1967, which has the drought lasting 45 years now.
The Leafs certainly didnâ€™t give us much to talk about over the weekend, nor did any team for that matter, so I have very little to offer you in the way of structured commentary today. Instead, Iâ€™ve got ten questions to start you talking hockey on a Monday morning.
- Which Leafs roster player would be the hardest replace if they are traded?
My answer: Carl Gunnarsson, finding a 22 minute a night reliable defender for less than $1.5 million isnâ€™t worth losing.
It's Friday, and I have hockey links.
There hasn't been a lot of news since the Parise & Suter signings, but there's been some discussion surrounding James van Riemsdyk over the past day or so. Carlyle mentioned he could try him at center, and heads exploded.
Have another link? Toss it in the comments section below.
Fan sentiment is a strange thing. Not that I'd claim to know much about the NBA, but I seem to remember the response to Lebron James and his free agent cronies deciding to play together in Miami being... decidedly negative. Two short years later, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter - by far and away the best two NHL free agents available this summer - colluded ever so slightly to sign matching (cute!) contracts with their hometown Minnesota Wild for 13 (ha, wink!) years' worth of probable playoff contention. It's almost poetic. (Links after the jump) [more…]
Though we've endured a pretty boring free agency period so far, it looks like we may still be treated to some substantial roster movement in the next few weeks. Some have said that once the big pieces like Parise and Suter are locked up, we could see the trade market spike, but for now we're in a dead zone. Because of this, as Leafs fans, it's hard not to feel as if we're looking at opening night's roster. Not the case.
In Burke's interview with Bob McCown on The FAN, posted by our own Declan Kerin, the Leafs' GM was asked if this roster, for the most part, is the one that he'll go to battle with in October. Burke said the possibility of that is remote, and he still has a lot of work to do. He seems focused on addressing the situation at center, but whether the goaltending gets sorted out is obviously in the air. Either way, I think we could be looking at another top six shakeup up front.
Two of the biggest names of this year's free agency remain unsigned. Both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are taking their time to pick their destination and career path for the foreseeable future.
Parise retreated to Minnesota to discuss the situation with his family and will most probably make his decision today.
"Parise's agent, Wade Arnott: We have thoroughly deliberated every option with Zach. He wishes to take some time to step back and review all with his fiance and his family. We could be drawing closer to a decision."