Q&A Mailbag with Anthony Petrielli


We aren’t in the dog-days of summer yet, but in terms of Leafs content things are in a lull until the draft and free agency. With that in mind, I answered some of your questions:

Daniel Marois: As a guess, what type of player do you feel the Leafs would want to jump into the top-10 for? If someone like Valeri Nichushkin slips outside to just outside the top-10, would it be worth it to jump up about 10 spots to get him? I am still banking on Toronto targeting Max Domi and seeing how far he slips. If someone takes him in the top-10, so be it. But if he is still there between picks 12-15, I can see Toronto kicking tires to move up a few spots.

The guy I’ve always loved in this draft and think makes a ton of sense for the Leafs is Sean Monahan. He’s a center, he’s 6’2, he’s nearly 200 pounds already, he’s a good scorer, he’s strong defensively, and he’s a true core player. I’m not sure if people looked down on him last season because he had Toffoli and Prince on his team and those two were as dominant as anybody, but this year Ottawa was really bad and Monahan still shone. Monahan led Ottawa in scoring with 78 points in 58 games, while the second overall scorer on their team put up 40 points. The Leafs were really interested in Brayden Schenn back in 2009, and Monahan is awfully similar.

I think the Leafs would try to trade up to get a center if the price made sense, but I’m not sure they would trade up for a winger like Domi or Nichushkin unless they rated said player extremely high and the player was sliding. Elias Lindholm is another center that should go in the top 10 who is extremely talented and has all the makings of a number one center. Curtis Lazaar and Bo Horvat are two guys who could both go in the top 15 and are worth watching for as well.

When I spoke with Morrison, I asked him if they evaluate their own system, identify weaknesses, and then put more emphasis on those positions. He told me not really. They’re mainly concerned with getting the best player available.

This all said, I think it’s extremely difficult to trade up into the top 10 and am not holding my breath that the Leafs will be able to get there.


MikeGartner11 1-What do you think the status of the teams leadership is. Phaneuf/Lupul/McClement.

I’ll start by saying this: the captaincy seems to mean a lot more to other people than it does to me. Being a leader does not come down to whether you wear a letter or not. In fact, the biggest part of wearing a letter in this market is dealing with all the media pressure and criticism that comes your way when you do wear it. By that token, I think Phaneuf does a pretty good job of always responding to the media, not letting the criticism hurt his play, and answering the bell when necessary. If Sundin or Clark had scored the goal he did in game 6 after the criticism he took in game 4 they would have been hailed as heroes in this market.

It seems most fans want Lupul to be captain, and my main thought on that has always been this: Lupul is the guy who makes the party fun, not the guy who organizes it. Plus, I think he’s fine as it is. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

I don’t think the Leafs have any leadership issues, I just think the entire team needs to get more experience and needs some shoring up around the edges. We also aren’t in the dressing room, so we don’t see what Phaneuf is really like. Any comments we make about Phaneuf’s leadership or that of anybody else is purely speculation based on media reports or cliché player quotes.


MikeGartner1 2 – Can/Will Rielly and Gards co-exist on the blueline next season?

From what I’ve seen so far, I don’t think Rielly is ready for the NHL yet and I’d send him back down to junior, but if he shows up to camp and is ready, there’s no doubt that they can co-exist.

Anyone who doesn’t think two high-end, puck-moving defensemen can play together on the same defense should look at Chicago who has Duncan Keith and Nick Leddy. I’ve always said good players will figure out a way to excel together and this would be no different. They will be fine playing on the same defense. It’s the other teams that should be worrying, not the Leafs.


Waiting4LSC My question to you would be, “If you are NoNo, what would you do this off-season to improve the club?” I would ask that you engage in best thoughts for trades, and obviously who you would release from the Leafs roster.

If I look at the Leafs roster right now, provided all RFAs are resigned, I’d write it out to be something like this:


In looking at that, my main goals would be to sign a top nine forward – and that could go in a lot of different directions — in order to bump Komarov out of the top nine, to sign a right-handed forward who can win faceoffs and play good defence to play on the Komarov-McClement line, and to bring in a solid defenseman, preferably a right sided one.

I’d also look to move out Liles. I don’t think the fit is right here even though I still like him as a player.

I’m purposely not mentioning names because there’s just too much speculation and fantasy in that for my liking. I will say, though, that bringing in a center for Kessel and having the next two lines comprise of either Lupul-Grabovski-Kulemin/Colborne-Kadri-Frattin or Frattin-Grabovski-Kulemin/Colborne-Kadri-Lupul would be my main goal up front.


Cameron: Any chance the Leafs explore their options with the amnesty buyouts? I don’t mean, ‘will they use them’, I mean, will they look at swapping their own buyout candidates (Komisarek, Grabovski, Liles), for more expensive buyouts (ie. DiPietro, Lecavalier, Richards), in order to gain some valuable assets?
Our new president seems like the kind of guy who will want us using our financial might to get ahead. I just can’t see this organization wasting an extremely valuable amnesty buyout on a 2.33 million dollar Komisarek, for a grand total of 3.5 million in cap savings. That would be a gigantic waste for the league’s richest franchise…

I think this is a great idea and the Leafs should be open to doing it, but the best way to answer the question is to look at each situation.

Brad Richards – The Rangers have 13M in cap space and Stepan, Hagelin, Zuccarello and McDonaugh are all RFAs while trade deadline acquisition Clowe is a pending UFA. Freeing up almost 7M more in space for next year would be a huge boost to them. The Rangers have already used one buyout on Wade Redden, but unless you include the remaining 5 years and 39M on Rick Nash’s contract, New York doesn’t have any other bad contracts. Considering the Rangers are one of the richest teams in the league, they have no real reason to trade Brad Richards along with a good young player when they could just buy him out.

Rick DiPietro – The Islanders have a lot of cap space, but they are a budget team so this is worth looking at. DiPietro has 36M – which equals 24M to be paid on the buyout — left on his contract and even though the Leafs are the richest team in the league, I do seriously wonder if ownership would approve that. That is a huge salary to pay off just to get a player like whom? Bailey? I don’t know if Leafs ownership is willing to approve it. That’s basically a massive transfer fee to acquire a pretty good but not great young player. Maybe if it’s someone crazy like Ryan Strome the Leafs would be willing, but could New York with any self-respect intact do such a thing?

Vincent Lecavalier – Lecavalier has 45M left on his deal – 30M to buyout — so this one I question even more. That is a ton of money. Getting this money off their books would be huge for Tampa, so it’s not that I worry they won’t deal within their division. I do question if Tampa has the assets in their system to make this kind of massive price worthwhile. The Islanders are full of young pieces to make this type of trade, but Tampa has a shallow system that doesn’t contain much that I love, personally.

We’ve never really seen GMs have this kind of tool and idea at their disposal, but I think it has potential to be a really savvy move. You can speculate on the reason, but we’ve also never really seen GMs be this creative and ballsy before. I’d be surprised if such a move came to fruition.


@PepLeafsGooner Leafs have 2 compliance buyouts. Komisarek an easy choice. Who, if anyone, would be the other??

Komisarek is more than likely getting bought out, so we don’t need to talk about that.

Immediately Liles comes to mind as the second guy to buyout, but I think the Leafs could trade him. I’d even be willing to retain some salary if it meant receiving a decent asset back in return.

Ideally, I’d aim to keep the second buyout because of the aforementioned trading possibilities. I don’t see anyone else I’m dying to buyout on the Leafs – yes, I know how much Grabovski is making — but that can change in a year. I’m willing to see what Grabovski does over a full season in a scoring role because I think he’ll be fine. If he isn’t, though, I wouldn’t mind having the buyout option around for next year.


@stmeiklejohn If Domi or Horvat are available when the Leafs pick who would you want them taking?

I know everyone wants me to say Domi, but I’d pick Horvat. Domi had more points than Horvat during the regular season and playoffs but my reasoning is simple: I project Domi to be a winger in the NHL and I value centers more than wingers.

Horvat is bigger, noticeably thicker, and looks stronger. He’s already fantastic defensively and he has proven he can score goals in the OHL. Finding good two-way centers is extremely hard to do and I think Horvat has a chance to be one in the NHL. The Leafs center pipeline is also extremely shallow.

Usually small wingers with skill aren’t really my thing because I think those are easy to find, but with Domi it’s a discussion because he’s feisty and I think he’s a game-breaker. I’d be happy if the Leafs ended up with either of the two, but I prefer Horvat.


@burtonboy12 Do you see Mark Fraser fitting into the Leafs plans going forward. Short term and long term.

I think Fraser showed well this season and should be in the Leafs top seven to start next season. At 27 he does have a lot of hockey left in him, and he definitely brings an element of physical play the Leafs defense doesn’t get from many of their other options.

My guess is that he’ll be with the Leafs next year, but after that things get iffy. One of Toronto’s defense prospects would really have to emerge quickly –like a Granberg or Percy — to bump Fraser off the team completely, but right now I think he’ll be a Leaf for the next two years before the young kids really start to emerge. The Leafs are just full of talented young defensemen, and short of trading them eventually they will start making the team and pushing out the Frasers and Kostkas of the world.


@Devane138 What top 4 D do you think the Leafs should target and are capable of getting?

This is a tough question. First and foremost, I do want to see the Leafs upgrade their defense, but could they have a true top four D emerge internally? Gardiner stands out, but frankly I think he would need to be put in that role for the full year and go through some bumps growing into it.

If you want acquisition possibilities, I think Streit, Zidlicky, Regehr and Hainsey are all worth looking at as UFAs depending on the role they would fill. It’s just baseless speculation to talk trade targets, but Robidas, Yandle or Morris stick out to me as guys that should be targeted. I’d be all over it if Calgary was willing to move Giordano, but Feaster called him an untouchable so I’m not holding my breath. I do think it’s feasible for the Leafs to acquire any of the other listed options though.


@degratesports Five players you think can be acquired that help the Leafs that many wouldn’t?

Boyd Gordon
Gordon is a guy I’ve mentioned before, so some of you won’t be surprised at all to see his name here. He’s a rock defensively, can play center or wing, he’s one of the better penalty killers in hockey and he’s a monster in the faceoff circle. The Leafs never really had a problem scoring last season and Lupul was barely in the lineup. When I look over my notes from the year though, I do think there was a problem with slowing games down, halting teams from dominating their zone, and getting the puck up ice. I think Gordon would help in all those regards.

Jamie McBain
McBain has one year left at 1.8M on his contract, but I include him here as he was said to be available at the trade deadline and is clearly on the outs in Carolina. He’s a 6’2 righty who broke into the league and put up 14 points in 10 games. The Canes thought they had a top four defenseman in the making, but he’s never become that; he does have 30 and 27 point seasons under his belt, though. McBain gets lost defensively easily, but he has skill and can move the puck. When I look at the Fraser-Franson dynamic on the third pairing from this year, I think that can be replicated with McBain in Franson’s place, to a degree (McBain’s not as talented as Franson). I’m a huge fan of hockey bargain shopping and I think this is a guy with skill who can be a good fit in Toronto. The Leafs have a line-up full of skilled forwards that makes defensemen who can get them the puck look good.

Ian White
Like McBain, White’s another potential bargain bin guy who would be signed more to take a chance that he could rebound. What I like about the Leafs defense currently is that they could be fine if they simply bring in a solid guy to anchor their third pairing, because Gunnarsson-Phaneuf and Gardiner-Franson have the abilities to be a solid top 4. Asking Ian White to play on your third pairing isn’t exactly a big deal for him. He had a really good year in Detroit playing alongside Lidstrom last season, and was great in San Jose when they picked him up at the deadline the year before that. I’d bet that he rebounds in Toronto, a place where he was once very successful. White’s turning 29 this year.

Craig Adams
Most people don’t know Adams, but he’s one of my favourite grinders in the league. He’s 36, he’s won Cups with Carolina and Pittsburgh, and he’s played 799 regular season games plus another 89 in the playoffs. Despite the Pens star-studded line-up, Adams is a guy Bylsma leans on heavily to close out games when they are protecting a lead. He’s a monster on the penalty kill, he’s physical, he’s right handed and he’s been through it all before. The Leafs struggled to put lines together that could shut down top lines all year, and I think Adams would be a boon in that regard.

Valtteri Filppula
Filppula is a pretty notable name in comparison to the other players I included here, but nobody ever talks about him so I figured he was worth throwing into the mix. Other than the 66 point season he had last year, Filppula has settled into the league as a guy who will put up 35-40 points a season. The bottom line with him is that his skill and speed game would fit nicely in the Leafs top 9 group, he can play center or wing, and he’s a strong two-way player. Filppula’s good on the cycle, he’s versatile so he can play on any line, and he’s only 29.