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National Hockey League

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Heading into free agency, nearly every Leafs fan knew that Nonis wanted to bring in David Clarkson, considered your prototypical Carlyle guy. Well, I’m sure you all know that Nonis got his man, and at a hefty $5.25 million cap hit for 7 years. There’s been much discussion since the signing about the contract Nonis gave to Clarkson and I don’t particularly want to beat a dead horse. So, without really delving into the subject of whether or not I think he’s worth that money or term, I want to give Leafs fans a look into what Clarkson brings to the table.

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Joe Colborne Traded

Joe Colborne, restricted free agent no longer, has re-signed with the Maple Leafs to a one-year, one-way contract valued at $600,000.

The Leafs remaining RFAs include Cody Franson, Carl Gunnarsson, Mark Fraser and Nazem Kadri. By handing out the one-way deal, Colborne came in at a pretty cheap hit of $600,000, leaving the Leafs with around $10 million in available cap space.

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The Leafs extended their relationship with center Tyler Bozak and signed winger David Clarkson from Free Agency. Bozak’s new deal is a 5-year, $21M deal while Clarkson comes in on a 7-year contract worth just north of $5M per over that span. Clarkson’s contract includes limited No-Trade and No-Movement clauses.

We all know what Bozak brings, and, in my mind, it’s nowhere close to the term and contract value received. As for Clarkson, it’s an overpayment yes, one that doesn’t worry me so much; not because of him not really being a true 30 goal scorer, but because he’s a player who does numerous other things to help your team.

David has a solid frame and plays a hard nosed game. He can defend teammates and is a dangerous offensive player on both wings. Clarkson can create havoc when utilized up close on the powerplay. He’s strong on the cycle, he provides net presence and can finish in tight. The Leafs needed a forward like him.

BUT. It’s the term on the contract is what I find most baffling. Clarkson is 29 years old, and even if he can continue to play on the level shown during the last two years (45 goals in 128 games, 216 PIMs in that span) he probably won’t be at that level for even 2/3 of the contract duration.

While Clarkson is an upgrade on MacAthur, MacArthur just went to Ottawa for 3.25 million for 2 years. Make of it what you will.

Discuss.

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Morgan Rielly

From the Official Site:

The Toronto Maple Leafs announced Monday the schedule for the 2013 Rookie Tournament in London, Ontario. This year, Maple Leafs’ prospects will compete in three games at Budweiser Gardens beginning Thursday, September 5 versus rookie teams from the Ottawa Senators, Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks.

“The Maple Leafs are thrilled to return to a great hockey city like London for the annual Rookie Tournament,” said Leafs Senior Vice-President and General Manager David Nonis. “It’s a great opportunity for us to evaluate the players in our system against their peers from other NHL clubs.”

Tickets for the 2013 Rookie Tournament officially go on sale Saturday, June 8 at 10 a.m. Tickets can be purchased at the Budweiser Gardens Box Office, by phone at (866) 455-2849 or online at www.budweisergardens.com. Ticket prices for the evening games are Adults – $19.25 and Students/Seniors/Kids – $14.25. Prices for the afternoon games are Adults – $16.75 and Students/Seniors/Kids – $11.75. Additionally this year, Full Day Passes will also be offered at $26.00 for Adults and $21.00 for Students/Seniors/Kids.

Toronto, Ottawa, Pittsburgh and Chicago’s 2013 Rookie Tournament rosters will be announced at a later date.

2013 Rookie Tournament Schedule

DATE                     TIME                       EVENT                      LOCATION
Thur. Sept. 5         2:00 PM            Pitt vs. Ott                       Budweiser Gardens
7:00 PM            Chi vs. Tor                       Budweiser Gardens
Fri. Sept. 6             T.B.A.                Practice                          Budweiser Gardens
Sat. Sept. 7           2:00 PM            Ott vs. Chi                       Budweiser Gardens
7:00 PM            Tor vs. Pitt                       Budweiser Gardens
Sun. Sept. 8          2:00 PM           Chi vs. Pitt                        Budweiser Gardens
7:00 PM            Tor vs. Ott                        Budweiser Gardens

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So today, a trade happened.

I don’t want to delve too deeply into a breakdown of the trade – mostly because I think this is a topic on its own and you can find what you need elsewhere. Instead, I’m going to focus on the mindset of Leafs management, what this means for James Reimer, as well as the potential Jonathan Bernier carries. I left a semi-large post of my thoughts on the trade in the comment section, but I’m going to expand on it here.

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At some point in the near future, some of you are going to find out who the real James Reimer is. I wrote a post not too long ago about Reimer’s upside and long-term projections and made it clear that I have a great deal of faith in Reimer’s future with the Leafs. Not only does he give the team stable and consistent goaltending, he’s capable of stealing games.

So at what point does the rest of the fan-base follow suit and believe?

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Dion Phaneuf

Let’s start this off with a bold proclamation:
Dion Phaneuf’s 2013 campaign was his best season in the NHL to date.

I really believe that. Phaneuf has rounded into the complete, 1A defenseman that Brian Burke and Dave Nonis envisioned when they swindled the Calgary Flames into one of the most lopsided trades in recent NHL history.

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Dave Nonis

I really wanted to write a wrap up notebook, but I wasn’t going to subject myself to watching that game again, nor do I particularly want to write about it. I mean, the only time I watched that Bergeron game winner was live and that’s how it is going to remain, so I wouldn’t be much of a source for insight or analysis.

It really was a great year for the Leafs, though. At the beginning of the season I didn’t think they would make the playoffs, and at the beginning of the first round I wasn’t sure they would make it much of a series. They proved me wrong both times. They proved a lot of people wrong.

In order for the Leafs to get better, though, they’ll need to have a strong offseason and smooth out some of their rough edges.

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Just a little over 24 hours since the Game 7 letdown, it’s become clear to me I am way too emotionally involved with a damn hockey team; so much so that I start to wonder about myself for being this brutally devastated over a game. But I want to say that Leafs Nation is a special, special thing. I enjoy the fans of this team almost as much as I enjoy the team itself. That’s a weird statement to make, but for those that don’t live here or haven’t experienced playoffs in Toronto, it’s a beautiful, crazy thing. Just as the weather seems to turn a corner, sun dresses are dawned, beers consumed on patios, car stereos are cranked a little louder (mandatory windows down) and Leaf flags start appearing everywhere you look.

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With their backs against the wall, the Maple Leafs will look to force a seventh game by winning at home for the first time this postseason.

Toronto will undoubtedly play with the desperation they showed for most of Friday night. The difference tonight will be that the Bruins are also starting to feel the pressure.  Boston will be throwing everything and the kitchen sink at the Leafs and James Reimer in an effort to close out this series.  With the continuing struggles of Seguin and Marchand, the offensive load will likely be carried by the Krejci line.

At the other end of the ice, two feisty Leafs centers in Mikhail Grabovski and Nazem Kadri earnestly want to make a contribution of their own to their team’s success.  With the way Grabovski has elevated his game in these playoffs, it should only be a matter of time before the Belorussian finds his name on the scoresheet.

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Game #4, Boston Bruins at Maple Leafs

Toronto looks for their 1st win on home ice in this series (and in 9 years) and you can expect that they will be a little less tight in the 1st period than they were in their 1st playoff game at the ACC on Monday night. Toronto has been getting progressively better during the series and looks to be the match of Boston if they play their system and don’t gift them goals like did the entire game on Monday.

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The unexpected catharsis of Saturday’s night win in Boston has provided Leafs Nation with a much needed release of some tension and anger after game one’s eye-opening reality check.

The Leafs are now heading into Toronto tied with Boston after stealing home-ice advantage.  For the first time since 2004, our Toronto Maple Leafs will host a playoff game in the Air Canada Centre!

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A Leafs win and a Jets loss would mean the Leafs are officially post-season bound. Oh my god, it’s been so long I don’t remember how to feel. What boggles my mind is how many Leafs fans weren’t even 10 years old when it happened. God, that makes a man in his 30s feel old. Let’s see what happens…

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As the Toronto Maple Leafs skip along to their first playoff berth in eight seasons, Dion Phaneuf’s play is forcing his name to be included in discussion for the Norris Trophy.  The Norris is awarded annually to “the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position,” and that sure sounds like the play of the Leaf captain this season.

He plays a physical, two-way brand of hockey and sits fifth-best in league for defensemen scoring with eight goals and 18 assists for 26 points in 42 games.  He’s a leader on the ice, the best defender on the team by a mile and has joined forces with Phil Kessel, Nazem Kadri and James Reimer to drag the Leafs into contention.

But how does his performance this season stack up against performances past, and what greater truths can we find about the anatomy of a Norris Nominee?

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A Toronto Maple Leaf hasn’t won a major NHL award in an embarrassing amount of years. This year, however, it looks as if there could be a case made for 3 award nominations —major or otherwise, for the Leafs.

The last “major” award was Doug Gilmour winning the Selke Trophy in the 1992-1993 season, 20 years ago.

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The league’s fourth ranked team, the Toronto Maple Leafs (we beat Boston in something!), host the New Jersey tonight seeking to snuff out their dwindling playoff hopes by completing the season series sweep over the Devils.

Settling for a comfortable playoff position cannot be the approach if you’re Carlyle’s Leafs. The goal has to be to try to chase down home ice advantage for round one, or at the very least to finish strong headed into the playoffs. There is a definite advantage for teams who are playing at a playoff level with playoff intensity already by the time game 1 of the Quarterfinals rolls around. Winning games like this one against desperate teams will help keep the Leafs confident and battle ready for the big dance.