UFA Day: It’s time for Nonis to deliver

Dave Nonis
Chris Young/Canadian Press

With free agency upon us – and fresh on the heels of Mikhail Grabovski’s buyout – the Toronto Maple Leafs are going to be an incredibly different looking team come the fall.  Through General Manager Dave Nonis’ machinations since taking over the reins in January, the Leafs roster now looks more shallow and vulnerable than it did at the end of the season less than two months ago.

Quite simply, Nonis slowly and quietly backed himself into a corner with the choices he’s made since taking over from Brian Burke.  On a team that appeared to over perform benefitting from a shortened season, the general consensus was that there were a lot of upgrades that need to be made if this team was going to remain a winner.  Nonis has to have a master plan, because right now, the Maple Leafs do not look equipped to contend for their first back-to-back playoff berth since 2004. And that’s all on him.

I can think of four moves that Nonis has made in his tenure that I completely support, ones that showed clear direction and made the team better.  And they are all fairly marginal.  The first was the forcible demotion of Tim Connolly to the Toronto Marlies.  The other three were the trades of Matthew Lombardi, David Steckel and Mike Brown.   This freed up space for the likes of Nazem Kadri and Matt Frattin, young talent that made the team better.  It made the team look like a meritocracy.  Talent won out, and replacement level veterans were sent packing.

Just about every move he’s made since then, from acquiring Ryan O’Byrne and Frazer McLaren; and all-but-begging Calgary for Miikka Kiprusoff; to his recent off-season antics have been at best, dubious decisions that haven’t clearly made the team better at the time or down the road.

Even the area where Nonis is getting plaudits heading into today – cap management – appears to be something of an illusion.  As of this writing, the Leafs have a little less than $25-million in cap space available; second most in the league heading into free agency.

Half of that will quickly be eaten up in contract renewals for Kadri, Jonathan Bernier, Carl Gunnarsson, Cody Franson and Joe Colborne.  So they’ll realistically have about $12 million to play around with to replace an entire forward line (Grabovski, Frattin and MacArthur) while finding an upgrade on a rail-thin defense corps.

I’ve been told by many Leaf fans on Twitter since Thursday’s noontime bombshell to practice patience with Dave Nonis.  I don’t sit in on the meetings.  I’m not privy to the trade proposals being flung MLSE’s way.  I am not their organizational architect. They’ve got a point, certainly.

But patience is in short supply.  After only six months into his tenure as the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, I believe that Nonis has inherited a playoff-calibre team assembled by Brian Burke and whittled it into something almost undefinable.   He’s stripped the team of a few cheap, useful parts.  His availed cap space only becomes beneficial if he uses to it to upgrade on parts let go or expunged; not to re-sign Tyler Bozak or overpay on a similar mediocre center talent. The team has let go of their only centre to crack 50 points in a single season.  He solidified goaltending, though it was not an area on anyone’s radar and comes potentially at the cost of destabilizing morale.

This is his time.  He’s got two months, starting at noon today, to reforge this team into his own image.  There’s no greater stage in hockey than Toronto, and Dave Nonis is going to have to put on one hell of a show to convince me that he’s building a winner.  Cause it’ll be his job (and fans’ hopes) that’ll get terminated if not.

Previous article Audio: Grabovski rips Carlyle
Next article UFA Day Open Thread
Michael Stephens has been writing for Maple Leafs Hotstove since 2010, and has featured in the 2010 and 2012 Maple Leaf Annuals. Former Editiorial Intern at The Hockey News. Undergraduate degree from the University of Windsor. Chat me up about all things hockey on twitter @MLHS_Mike
  • steele123

    I think something big will happen, all these moves especially the buyout of Grabbo must lead to something big and if it doesn’t there we have every right to question the leadership.

    I wonder how much of the second guessing of Nonis is tied directly to our fanboy love, admiration and respect of Burke and we’ve placed an ungodly amount of pressure on Nonis because he picked up the gig right after Burke was fired.

    • theacs1966

      steele123 I trust BB over Nonis but he could change my mind by the end of the dayl.  I’m not holding my breath though.

  • Savo43

    What time doesthe ufa period begin?? I’m on a house boat in the middle of shuswap lolll.

    • SteveHoltom

      Savo43 Drop in on Cody Franson while you’re there. I hope they lock him into a good contract.

    • 1DERYRS

      Savo43 12pm EST

  • Cameron19

    To console us if all Nonis does is waste the new cap space on Bozak: http://www.thestar.com/sports/hockey/2013/07/05/why_tyler_bozak_is_worth_five_years_25_million.html

    • Cameron19

      canuckintheuk Cameron19 Oh I know, it’s a terrible article.  I could destroy every one of his points – but at least someone is trying, lol.

    • theacs1966

      canuckintheuk Cameron19 Depends, what is the exchange rate on English Pounds to American dollars today?

      • colino17

        theacs1966 canuckintheuk Cameron19 3.8 million pounds is likely almost 5 million dollars so I guess Canuck agrees with the article lol

      • theacs1966

        colino17 theacs1966 canuckintheuk Cameron19 It wasn’t a serious question.  JUst being a smartass.

      • colino17

        theacs1966 colino17 canuckintheuk Cameron19 as was I 😉

    • Great Dane

      Cameron19 He will make a good agent, if he believes all that himself.

  • Kouba

    Isn’t deliver synonym to give birth? English l. is fun sometimes.

  • theacs1966

    Could be worse people, we could have Gillis as GM and no cap space and an old team.

    • king leary

      Totally agree. It’ll be a bummer if we end up managing cap space for its own sake (or worse overpaying guys and moving sideways) but temper tantrums and grief over losing grabbo aside,our team is being run professionally. Even if we take one step back to go two forward, I believe.

  • Dink

    Important day for David Nonis

  • Jordan29

    So important I’m leaving work early. Let’s get this going!

    • Loric76

      Jordan29 I stayed home lol


    Side Note to the Frenzy… If Giroux gets 8.275 mil per year for 8 years what are we going to have to pay Kessel?? Giroux doesn’t even have a 30-goal season under his belt

    • Jordan29

      6-7 mil at most

    • Loric76

      1DERYRS can’t include anything Holmgren does in comparibles.  He’s fucking nuts

    • Cameron19

      1DERYRS Giroux is a center – they will always get more than wingers.  I would say that Letang’s contract is more of an indicator of what to expect with Kessel.

    • Jantz

      1DERYRS That contract has clearly made Kessel’s floor @ 7.5. No home town discount for Giroux. Holmgren just potentially ruined our shot at a reasonable deal for Phil.

  • TOHockeyNut

    I don’t see enough available through UFA that will fill the holes that have been created and fit in under the cap. If there is not a big trade coming, I don’t see this team being any stronger than last year.

  • Komas Taberle

    Baby Huey has a fistfull of cash and he better spend it wisely!