There’s nothing like an 0-6-1 start to push the rumour mill into full swing. Â Â The following is a quick rundown of some of the talk working its way through the grapevine.
As always, this is only talk — as in, players rumoured to be under consideration, not deals that are on the brink of consummation. Â Take it for what it is.
Nathan Horton has been discussed previously on this site, so for the sake of avoiding repetition I won’t go into too much detail here. Â Â Horton would certainly fill the need for a player with size who can crash the net and be a presence in the corners. Â Â However, two questions come into play: Â would the Leafs be able to find a way to fit Horton’s salary ($4m) under the cap limit, and what would Florida want in return?
The Panthers, thought to be getting ready to rebuild (again), would be looking for picks and/or prospects in a deal. Â Â The Leafs are short on picks and have only a few prospects they would consider moving, so finding a deal that works for both sides may not be a very easy task. Â Â Word along the grapevine is a third team may need to be brought into a deal, if the Leafs were to decide to pursue Horton.
Matt Barry of HockeyBuzz fame opines that Frolov to Toronto may not be out of the realm of possibility. Â Â The 27-year old Frolov, an unrestricted free agent after this season, earns a reasonable $2.9 million. Â To fit this salary under the cap, the Leafs would have to move some salary to L.A. in such a deal … to accomplish this, Barry suggests a most interesting name: Vesa Toskala. Â Â Barry asserts that a deal such as Toskala + a defender (it is no secret that LA is actively seeking defensive depth) could be enough to net Frolov and backup goaltender Erik Ersberg.
It is an intriguing thought, although for the record sources here have made no mention of who the Leafs would consider exchanging for Frolov. Rather, the talk has been that L.A. has indeed made him available and the Leafs are considering him as one of many possible options. Â Frolov has plenty of talent, but carries a reputation as a player who takes more than his share of games off. Â Â The chief question is, would Frolov respond to Ron Wilson? Â Interestingly, Barry notes that Frolov did play quite well for Andy Murray, who handles his players in a manner similar to Wilson.
Next to Florida, Minnesota is the most heavily-rumoured team to be in Toronto’s dealmaking sights, namely because the Leafs have problems in net and the talented Josh Harding is stuck behind Niklas Backstrom for the foreseeable future. Â Â In theory, a deal here would make sense for both sides as the Wild (whose record thus far is not much better than that of the Leafs) Â have a number of injury problems and could be looking to bolster their depth both up front and on the blueline.
Sources suggest the Leafs’ brass has a strong interest in Harding (a pending RFA earning an affordable $1.1m), but there has been no indication to date that Minnesota would be interested in moving him. Â Â However, given the need for a shake-up on both sides, this rumour makes more sense than most.
The Blues have struggled out of the gate, and with several key players underperforming, a shake-up could be in store for a team widely considered to be a contender in the West this season. Â Last season, young guns such as David Perron and David Backes were thought to be untouchable; word on the grapevine is the only untouchables at this point in time Â appear to be TJ Oshie and young defenders Erik Johnson and Alex Pietrangelo.
The Leafs, in desperate need of a power forward who can fill a top-six role, are said to be very interested in Backes, who has had a rather disappointing start to the season thus far but is signed through next season at a very reasonable $2.5m per. Â Â The question is, do the Leafs have the sort of player(s) the Blues would want in any sort of deal? Â Â The Blues, a team with plenty of depth up front, are thought to be Â looking to add some defensive depth to protect against the risk of injuries decimating their blueline corps (Brewer, Jackman, and Colaiacovo all have extensive injury histories).
The rumours mentioned in this blog all make sense from a needs-standpoint. Â Clearly, the Leafs’ most pressing needs are stability in net and a power forward up front who can be a force in the corners, crash the net, and create screens and tip-in opportunities.
Harding fits the bill for a goaltender; at 25 the pending RFA is young, affordable at $1.1m, has put up good numbers, and is in a situation where the goaltender in front of him is signed at starter’s salary (Backstrom makes $6m) for three more years following this season. Â Â From that perspective, the rumour of the Leafs’ interest has merit. Â The shoe fits, but of course the question remains: what would the Wild – a team rife with needs – want in return?
Similarly, the forwards rumoured to be of interest to the Leafs fit the bill from a size and skill perspective (Backes and Frolov are 6’2 216, Horton stands 6’2 229; each has scored over 30 goals previously). Â Of course, any transaction between teams is a two-way street. Â Whether the Leafs have the necessary pieces to another team’s puzzle remains to be seen.
It is important to note that the players mentioned in this blog are those whose names have been most commonly circulated around the proverbial campfire of late. Â There has not been talk of deals close to completion; rather, the talk has centred around players the Leafs may be watching closely with eyes toward talking deal with one or more teams in the not-too-distant future.
Looking forward to your thoughts as always.