PHOTO: Ghetty Images. PLAYERS: Probably won't be Leafs.
PHOTO: Getty Images. PLAYERS: Probably won't be Leafs.
NHL Free Agency was, originally, to be a major component of the Brian Burke ‘rebuild’ model – or ‘retool,’ whatever you want to call it – when the Maple Leafs’ new GM arrived in Toronto. And despite perpetual inflation, it remains the surest and easiest avenue for a team to obtain top-quality players in their prime without sacrificing any organizational assets beyond cash. Factoring in the promises of a quick turnaround and transactions we shall not name, lest we incite debate involving high-end draft picks exchanged for promising young stars, free agency to the Brian Burke model becomes…well, not quite a necessity…but a really, really valuable step in getting the Toronto Maple Leafs back to the Stanley Cup finals as efficiently as possible.
One can’t exactly say it’s worked out nicely, thus far.
The problem, as Burke’s lamented, has been the distinct lack of premier free agents available. Teams have compensated for the league’s attempts to “liberalize” the market by locking up their talented players before they become UFAs.
If leaked reports are to be believed the NHLPA is preparing to file a grievance pertaining to the NHLâ€™s rejection of the unprecedented 17 year, $102 million contract filed last week by the New Jersey Devils for Russian forward Ilya Kovalchuk. The report suggests that even if the Devils and Kovalchuk can agree on a restructured deal, the NHLPA may still decide to file a grievance in a preventative effort for future contracts.
The latter part is particularly significant for those who have been viewing the leagues rejection of the initial contract as an act of political posturing in the face of the PAâ€™s on-going power struggle and an attempt at drawing a line in the sand.
About a month ago, we tookÂ a look at Phil Kessel’s production, including the on-pace numbers for this season and (theoretically) projected 82-game statistics.
With 10 games left to go in the season, perhaps it’s time we re-visit and update those predictions — this time in the context of other “name” or “impact” players to see just where exactly Phil Kessel ranks, production-wise, among the league’s elite.
It’s starting to feel like Groundhog Day.
For the 3rd time in a week, the Maple Leafs face the Devils. To be fair, the matchups have all been unique in that both teams have undergone significant overhaul between each game.
For the second time in four days the Maple Leafs will face off against the New Jersey Devils, this time at the ACC. In what seems to be the most nonsensical decision made in recent memory by NHL schedulers, come this Friday the Leafs and Devils will have faced off three times in one calendar week. What’s up with that?
As you are all undoubtedly aware, the Leafs have a few new faces in the fold, and we are all eager to see what Phaneuf, Sjostrom, and Giguere bring to the table as members of the blue and white.
Note: I won’t get into trade analysis here; that has already been covered in excellent fashion by the MLHS crew in prior posts.
An interesting question was brought up by Dave Hodge yesterday morning on TSN’s The Reporters amid the Phil Kessel whirlwind that erupted over the weekend: if Peter Chiarelli wasn’t interested in matching an offer sheet at the dollar figure to which Burke eventually signed the 21-year-old, described by Sports Illustrated’s Michael Farber as “a one in 500 chance,” why didn’t Burke submit the offer sheet and pay but a third rounder instead of an additional first round draft selection? Farber seemed convinced not only that Chiarelli wouldn’t match but that Burke’s decision to go the trade route instead of offer sheet avenue was to save face, anticipating the charges of hypocrisy he would encounter linking back to his response to Kevin Lowe’s offer sheet submission for Dustin Penner that ultimately went unmatched while in Anaheim.
What? You were expecting Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin to top the leading scorers in March? Well then. You’d be wrong … sort of. AO actually was tied at the top with another player.
Yes, Sid the Kid (11-6-12-18) ranked near the top of the list, tied with Ottawa’s Jason Spezza (14-8-10-18). Meanwhile, the Great 8, (12-8-11-19) scored two more than Sid, and two more than the NHL scoring leader for the month of March.
As the 2008-09 season moves into the stretch drive, it is perhaps time for fans of teams most likely not making the playoffs to take a closer peek at the top prospects entering the draft.
Based on the Maple Leafs’ current spot in the standings with 13 games to go, it is safe to assume that this team will not finish last overall, and perhaps not even in the bottom five.Â Â A finish anywhere from 23rd to 26th overall (picking 5th to 8th) appears most likely at this point.
With that in mind, here is a modified version of the International Scouting Services (ISS) mid-season rankings which were released in February.Â Modified, in that the list is #3 – 12, as those are most likely the players that the Leafs will be looking at come the first round of the Entry Draft.
image via maple leafs.com
The Maple Leafs look to extend their two game winning streak Tuesday night as they entertain the New Jersey Devils sans Martin Brodeur. Rookie Jeremy Williams looks to continue a streak of his own having scored in each of his first two appearances this season.
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#5 – C Jiri Tlusty, 20, Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL)
Drafted: 1st round, 13th overall in 2006
Strengths: Strong skater with good acceleration. Quick hands, a great shot and excellent offensive instincts. Complete player who can bang a bit, and provides a developing two-way game. Possesses some gamebreaking ability.