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John Mitchell joins Nik Kulemin as the second Leaf to re-sign with the club today. Â After initially not being qualified by Toronto, Mitchell hit unrestricted free agency with an understanding that Brian Burke intended to offer him a new contract. Â The purpose of waiting was financially-driven as it allowed Toronto to save at the very least 250,000 on Mitchell because he was not qualified.
Somewhat surprisingly, there has been a fair amount of debate over yesterday’s signing of Colby Armstrong.
I find this interesting becauseÂ much of the criticism seems to revolve around the notion of $3m equating to more than a 15 goal career average, even though Armstrong wasn’t exactly acquired for his offensive prowess.Â Â The main criticism seems to be, why would the team be willing to make a $9 million investment over 3 years, when similar production can likely be found at a cheaper rate?
Now, it seems most decided to stop at that point and take the easy road; that being negativity for the sake of negativity (a known idiosyncrasy of Canadian hockey fans).Â But instead of screaming “WHY did they sign him?”, I propose a different question:Â Why DID they sign him?
Trades are never won or lost when initially made, and tonight’s multi-player deal with Chicago is the very embodiment of that fact. Analyzing a deal that sent Kris Versteeg and Bill Sweatt to Toronto for Viktor Stalberg, Phillippe Paradis and Chris Didomenico involves a lot of subjective potential measurement. Â Making the task more difficult is that two teams often come together to execute a trade for very different reasons in a salary cap era.
On the eve of unrestricted free agency, the Maple Leafs made a big first move to upgrade their forward group. According to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, the club has swung a deal to acquire Blackhawks winger Kris Versteeg and prospect Billy Sweatt in exchange for winger Viktor Stalberg, along with forward prospects Chris Didomenico and Philipe Paradis.
Versteeg, still just 24 years of age, will instantly become a big component of the Maple Leafs’ core moving forward. He has two seasons of 20+ goals under his belt already, and is under contract for two more years at $3.08 million per season.
Meanwhile, Sweatt, the Blackhawks’ 2007 2nd round pick, was ranked as the 7th best prospect in the Chicago farm system by Hockey’s Future. He is described as a talented two-way player with top end speed and finishing ability on the rush. By all accounts, Sweatt is also an excellent defensive player and effective penalty killer, which should ease the pain of losing Paradis.
For Greg McKegg, nothing has necessarily come easy in his hockey career. Â A slow start to his rookie campaign in Erie, followed by a knee injury which threatened the start of his season this past year, McKegg began the year as a winger for the Erie Otters that ISS ranked in the 90′s.
It was something that McKegg couldn’t not think about, no matter how much he tried.
“It’s something you try not to think about too much really, but you can’t help but look. Â It was disappointing to see that for sure, but I think it gives you that edge to work harder and show people that you deserve to be higher up on the list.”
And that is exactly what he did.
Being described by some in the hockey circles as a perennial underdog, McKegg did the only thing he knew how to do. Â Work hard.
Monday afternoon’s 5pm qualifying offer deadline has come and gone. A QO is simply a mandatory minimum contract, valued at either the player’s previous year’s salary or slightly above, which prevents said player from becoming an unrestricted free agent on July 1st.
The Maple Leafs extended qualifying offers to forwards Nikolai Kulemin and Christian Hanson, while letting go of forward John Mitchell and defensemen Matt Jones and Phil Oreskovic. Collegiate free agent signee Kyle Rogers was also among the Marlies’ restricted free agents, but there is no word yet on whether he was qualified. If Rogers becomes a free agent, the Leafs will have trimmed down their contract obligations down to 43.
Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos also adds that the club will look to bring Mitchell back for a lesser salary, and continue to discuss a long-term contract with Kulemin, though the latter is believed to be seeking north of $3 million per season. Around the league, some may be surprised to hear that the Islanders will not be bringing back 26 year old forward Sean Bergenheim, an industrious checker who has averaged 12 goals/year over the past 3 seasons.
Brian Burke must have felt a lot like the eponymous Old Mother Hubbard when he first reached into the Leafs prospects cupboard. Of course, unlike the elderly dog-mistreating crone of the rhyme, Burke already knew what lay in stock prior to his arrival in Leafs country. In short: a few notable exceptions to a decade of draft property mismanagement.
Subsequently, the draft of 2009 looked to be a vital cornerstone in Brian Burkeâ€™s rebuild. The first chance for the Leafs to restock in a new, finally directed era.
It’s been a hot topic, and a touchy one at that for the better part of almost a year, since the day the trade was consummated. Â The Toronto Maple Leafs, toward the end of the pre-season, announced that they had traded two firsts and a second round pick to the Boston Bruins in exchange for Phil Kessel, a young American born sniper who the B’s were having issues resigning.
It was a steep price to pay, but you have to give to receive, and in Kessel the Leafs got a bona fide goal scorer who looks like he could be a perennial 30 goal scorer (more on that later.)
And yet some people have cast Kessel to fail, no matter what impact he has on the Leafs, attaching him forever to the trade that brought him here.
This past week, Bill Watters took that to the extreme, and took a piece of integrity written journalism and turned into something sensational and downright wrong, all in the name of making Phil Kessel look as bad as possible because he doesn’t agree with the trade.
It was a quiet Day One at the 2010 NHL Draft for the Maple Leafs, but the team stepped up its game in a big way on Saturday afternoon. The club wheeled and dealed its way into the 2nd round of the draft and through some crafty maneuvering in the later rounds, managed to add seven new players into the organization.
The Leafs were able to significantly upgrade their depth up front, by grabbing six forwards to go with one defenseman. Surprisingly, Leafs’ Swedish scout Thommie Bergman had a big day, selecting three players from the Swedish leagues.
According to Howard Berger, who reported live from the NHL Entry Draft this weekend, there is a ton of steam behind the Leafs and Bruins looking to make a trade for forward Marc Savard. It seems the Leafs understand he could have a long-term effect from a concussion injury, but the upside of putting him and Kessel back together is just too good to pass up on. Berger explains that the deal does not involve Tomas Kaberle and that Kaberle talks are actually down to minor whispers at this point. Expect that situation to become more relevant as the off-season continues. The trade for Savard surrounds the availability of forward Nikolai Kulemin, who is a pending RFA and is seeking more money than the Leafs are willing to offer. That said, the Bruins could move forward with a $3M dollar Kulemin if they shed the contract of $5M plus from Savard. All in all, it becomes a win/win with the Bruins getting younger and cheaper, adding a player with high potential to become a solid defensive forward, while the Leafs would get their number one center, elite playmaker, and instant chemistry with Phil Kessel. SilverSevenSens now state he has waived his NMC to play for either the Leafs or Senators. ESPN chimes in on it as well. “Reports started to surface that Bruins forward Marc Savard and his agent have eased off the player-s limited no-trade claue that allows the Bruins to deal Savard to only five undisclosed teams. Chiarelli would not confirm or deny the reports. ‘I’m not really into speculating that kind of stuff,’ he said.”
Rough Friday night for Leaf fans, but that’s in the past now. Rounds 2-7 of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft kicks off today at 1pm ET on NHL Network. The Maple Leafs are slated pick once in the 3rd round (62nd), once in the 4th round (112th), twice in the 5th round (122nd and 144th) and twice in the 7th round (182nd and 202nd).
Rumors are circulating that the Leafs will attempt to trade into the 2nd round if the price is reasonable.
This live blog will be updated with thoughts and pick analysis throughout the afternoon.
I’ve been holding off on posting one of these, as the sheer volume of Toronto-borne speculation renders separating the plausible from the impossible a rather difficult task.
Without further ado, here we go:
- There is no guarantee that Tomas Kaberle is traded this weekend. Sources say the chance that he could remains a member of the Maple Leafs beyond the Draft is increasing by the day.Â The reason?Â “Burke wants a player who can step in and play right away. He wants to win now, and is far less concerned about getting draft picks than he is about getting an impact forward.”
Next up: Fredrik Sjostrom, profiled by SkinnyFish:
The Summary:Â Brought over from the Calgary Flames alongsideÂ Dion Phaneuf, Shoe Storm was initially overlooked in that deal as Phaneuf was the big name coming back. However it quickly became apparent that Sjobacca was just the man to fix the atrocious Maple Leafs’ penalty kill, something that he’s become one of the league’s best at.
Read more here.
Where do you see Schlitzstrom fitting in to the overall scheme of things for next season? Does he play low minutes on the 4th line and PK, or does he continue to play on the 3rd like he did this past season? After this year, do you think he should resigned for the 2011-12 season? Do you have any other awesome nicknames for him?
Rate Sjostrom’s performance last season on a scale of 1-10 relative to his potential and your expectations for the season.
Next up, Viktor Stalberg by PPP:
The Summary: Viktor Stalberg made a big splash in the pre-season as heÂ led the NHL with 6 goals in 8 games. Then came game number three of the season andÂ the player known as the A-Train. AfterÂ Anton Volchenkov‘s hit Stalberg began a steep decline that led him to the AHL for 39 games. He returned in December but his impact was minimal until he found a bit of chemistry with his fellow Frat PackersTyler Bozak andÂ Christian Hanson. It was enough to make someÂ wonder if there was any hope to marry his exceptional speed with a more physical game.
The Toronto Star continues to shine a light on the Kaberle front. According to Brian Burke, he has “four concrete offers” on the table and seems to be rather confident he can land a first round pick. That said, the Toronto Sun suggest that of the six teams interested in Kaberle’s services, the Ducks have expressed the strongest interest.
Weâ€™ve partnered up with Pension Plan Puppets to bring to you a Player Review series, where we will be evaluating and grading the 2009-10 season for every Leaf who featured in a significant number of games for the Blue and White last season, with an eye towards 2010-11. Next up we feature Luke Schenn, profiled by Skinny Fish:
Luke signed a Maple Leafs Annual and I'm boasting about it.
“The Summary: People will point to the Calder worthy performance ofÂ Tyler Myers, or the Norris worthy performance ofÂ Drew Doughty and then say that Schenn had a terrible season; a sophomore slump if you will. Those people are dead wrong. Doughty is among the elite of the elite defensemen in the game, and Tyler Myers benefited from being on aÂ Sabres team with terrible defense while playing in front of the game’s best goal inÂ Ryan Miller. Schenn, on the other hand, played on a team with proven veteran defensemen like Beauchemin, Phaneuf, and Kaberle. Another thing to note is that Schenn was never touted as a point producing blue liner; his game is out of a shut down style of play against tough competition. Myers led his team with nearly 3 minutes of PP time a game; Schenn averaged 14 seconds.
As we head into the draft weekend, Burke’s shown the fans and media that a) he’s not afraid to swing a huge deal and b) no one’s going to see it coming. You can bet he’s going to be be mulling over and considering all sorts of huge blockbuster type scenarios over the next few days, and there could be the teeniest, tiniest, slightest, smaller than Wallin’s point totals chance that he’ll have an interesting decision to make: whether to trade Schenn or Kadri. Yes, I know the popular opinion is to never trade either of them and I’m fully on board with that, but this is purely hypothetical. Imagine Sidney Crosby or whatever player of your choice is coming back the other way.
Now… the other team has given you the choice of giving up either defenseman Luke Schenn, the former 5th overall pick and future defensive anchor on the blueline, or Nazem Kadri, the former 7th overall pick and talented potential 1st line center. Which one would you be more inclined to trade away, and which one would you be more inclined to keep?
No copping out!
Now, I for one dislike the “coulda, woulda, shoulda” debate when it comes to the National Hockey League Hockey Hall Of Fame. Â After all, I think it somewhat demeans and disregards the accomplishments of those who are selected, and that simply isn’t right.
No one knows better than I do how much Dino Ciccarelli deserves the call to the Hall. Â I have been telling more or less anyone who will listen for a number of years that I thought he belonged. Â I couldn’t be happier for Â Angela James and Cammi Granato, the first female players to be enshrined. Â And Jim Devellano and Daryl “Doc” Seamen are both incredibly intelligent men who deserve their spot along hockey’s greatest.
But as a Leafs fan, it’s hard not to feel selfishly snubbed once again. Â With yesterday’s vote for the Hall of Fame here and gone for another year, the only thing I could think of wasn’t what was, but what could have been.
And what could have been would have been really special.
Just had a brief word with Leafs head of amateur scouting Dave Morrison, who spoke about the approach to this weekend’s draft without a first or second round pick in hand (as of now):
We have done our list the same as we would in any other year fully prepared for anything that may happen. However we have certainly spent more time looking at a group of players that we think could be there when we pick at 62. Every year we try to unearth a gem and it will be no different at this draft.
Given that the scouting staff has focused more efforts than usual in looking at players within the 62nd pick range, you would think this gives them a slight edge in finding that “gem” should he be out there.
Weâ€™ve partnered up with Pension Plan Puppets to bring to you a Player Review series, where we will be evaluating and grading the 2009-10 season for every Leaf who featured in a significant number of games for the Blue and White last season, with an eye towards 2010-11. Today we feature Wayne Primeau, profiled by Garrett Bauman.
Acquired via trade, Primeau was brought in to provide a veteran presence to a young locker room, add grit to the fourth line and fill the role of defensive faceoff specialist.
Although he did not particularly stand out during his 59 games, Primeau was relativley effective in his limited (albeit important) role. An unrestricted free agent, he is unlikely to return barring a substantial paycut from the $1.4m he earned last season.
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