Now what?

527

The John Michael Liles buyout watch is officially over, for this year, anyway.

Nazem Kadri and Cody Franson are still RFAs, and the Leafs currently have just 4.9M in cap space to retain them both. While many have pointed out that Korbinian Holzer and Trevor Smith are accounted for on the Leafs capgeek roster even though neither figures to make the team, it also has to be said that the Leafs aren’t going to play with a roster holding the bare minimum of 12 forwards and six defensemen all year. Something has to give.

There are a few different ways things can turn out now.

The attention will still probably be on Liles because he sticks out as the bad contract on the team plus he’s not exactly a great fit anymore due to his contract and the surplus of defensemen in the Leafs organization. While the ideal situation would be trading him away for a draft pick and being rid of his contract to create 3.8M in cap space, that seems pretty unlikely right now.

However, the Leafs might be able to flip Liles to another team in exchange for another bad contract that isn’t as burdensome as Liles’ deal is. Teams that have the cap space and need help on defense include the Islanders, Panthers, Avalanche, Coyotes and the Capitals. Each team has a player or two that is sort of on the outs, or doesn’t have a great contract either that you can envision the Leafs swapping Liles for (Carkner, Bergenheim, Hunwick, Klesla, Chimera, for instance). Now, Liles had a really rough year being healthy scratched for 12 straight games, and scoring at a 28 point pace; if that’s not enough, he’s turning 33 this year, has three years left on his deal, and has a modified no trade clause. Moving him won’t be easy.

Failing trading Liles, the Leafs might be forced into a more unattractive alternative like trading Nikolai Kulemin or the unsigned Franson.

Frankly, trading Kulemin doesn’t make much sense because his trade value most likely doesn’t correlate strongly with his on-ice value. Most people see his 30-goal season and the fact that he hasn’t come anywhere close to that since (plus, he’s extremely important defensively for the shutdown line). That said, when you look at the rest of the forwards on the Leafs with high salaries, he’s the only guy that it would make sense for them to move based on the projected top six and Bolland being brought in this summer.

Of course, as mentioned, the Leafs could also decide to trade Franson. This season Gardiner will be up with the team full-time, they just signed Ranger, they seem to really like Fraser, and they might hope for a Liles bounce-back should they not be able to fit Franson in/trade Liles.

Franson had a huge season, finishing in the top 10 for scoring by a defenseman, but he didn’t even average 20 minutes a night so his value might be a little inflated right now. Defensemen who are worse than Franson currently such as Jordan Leopold, Douglas Murray, and Robyn Regehr each netted their teams multiple picks but their GMs moved them at the trade deadline. The August and September trade market isn’t exactly the same desperate beast it is in February. Logically, it’s easy to assume that if the Leafs were going to trade Franson because of his salary demands, they would have done it at the draft.

So, perhaps the Leafs believe they can fit Franson and Kadri under the cap. On the surface that might seem tough, but despite Franson’s season maybe the Leafs are looking at PK Subban’s two year bridge deal worth 2.8M per season. There isn’t much of a precedent with Franson because he only played a 48 game season, and although he’s always been touted as a talented defenseman his TOI and point totals have never been great. He’s only really starting to put it together now. In the last few seasons, Ryan Suter, Dennis Wideman and James Wisniewski each finished in the top ten in scoring (technically Suter and Wideman were tied for 10th together in league scoring) before cashing in huge as UFAs, but all of them had a past track-record of success and were UFAs as opposed to RFAs.

Obviously Franson’s in line for a raise, but never having this level of success over a full 82 game season nor averaging at least 20 minutes a night really should bring his cap number down to something lower than what many are expecting.

Then there’s Nazem Kadri, who had a monster 44 point season this year. As good as he was, his total body of work in the NHL reads to be 63 points in 99 games, which is a .64 points per game average. In the last few years there have been other bridge contracts around Kadri’s scoring range; for example, Matt Duchene had 150 points in 219 games (.68ppg) before signing a two year deal worth 3.5M/season, and Tyler Ennis had 92 points in 140 games (.66ppg) before signing a two year deal worth 2.8M/season. Considering Kadri doesn’t have a high TOI or large sample size to draw from, he could be getting something around the Ennis range as opposed to the Duchene range.

Failing a trade or signing Kadri and Franson to low deals, the Leafs could also work the minors and count their pennies. For instance, having TJ Brennan (600K) on the team instead of Korbinian Holzer (787K) saves them a few bucks, as would Troy Bodie(600K) beating out either Frazer McLaren (700K) or Colton Orr (925K). Although unlikely, the Leafs could also waive Liles which would save them nearly a million. If he is claimed that would really help the Leafs; the downfall is that, if he isn’t, that would probably kill any trade value he has whatsoever.

The bottom line really is that, while Kadri and Franson were huge pieces for the Leafs last season and hopefully in the future, they aren’t in positions to command huge money yet. That 4.9M seems a little small to fit both in, but it might be closer than many people are giving it credit for.

Tuesday morning links…

30 Teams in 30 Days
OHL prospect wiz Brock Otten broke down the Leafs OHL prospects, of which there are nine. I really liked what he had to say about Percy and Broll in particular.

Bulking up for any available position
Kyle catches up with Joe Colborne who has interestingly gained nearly 10 pounds this summer, a summer after growing another inch. With a healthy hand again and a filled in body, I’m expecting a good year from big Joe.

Bernier saviours opportunity to battle Reimer for no. 1 job
Bernier predictably talks about how he’s excited to battle it out for the number one gig and, you know, actually having a chance at it. Now, I did think it was interesting that he said he tries to stay on his feet as long as possible because that’s a big difference from what we’ve seen in net these past few years.

Who is Dave Nonis?
Steve Simmons had a nice piece on the man that is Dave Nonis. There’s nothing here in regards to team building or his philosophy, but it’s interesting to read his journey.

Curious case of Jim Ralph
I’m a fan of Jim Ralph and it’s great if he is indeed going to return next year, but geeze what a weird situation.

Farewell column: This is the business for me
Dave Perkins’ final column was on Friday, but I still felt it was worth posting. Happy retirement, Dave.

  • mcloki

    -Keon- Who would be our backup goalie then? That’s the most important question. Lots of time to fit these two on the roster. One fits for sure. The last one needs a bit of finagling. But it’ll get done.

  • HeatherRickAkin

    My guess is that Nonis is entertaining several trade scenarios and eventually something is going to happen. I do not see the Leafs entering the regular season with absolutely no wiggle room , should a situation present itself to improve the team during the season . I see Kadri and Franson signing and staying , because they were so good last half-year, and they still have their best hockey ahead of them.  The Liles situation is not good . He is a proud pro and good team guy , but he has to feel like his time in Toronto is over, or close to it. His contact and age work against him, but as Anthony points out, there are ways to make trades work , and there are teams out there who could well use JMLs services.  The return for Liles wont be much, unless its a multi player trade, but, in this day and age, the cap rules . Finally, a nice gesture to mention Dave Perkins retiring .  Thanks to Anthony for a good wake-up read, as usual .

    • Dink

      HeatherRickAkin  After the compliance buyout passed it was like Nonis saying  to 29 GM’s: “Liles is here ..come and get him if you want him but I am not giving him away”

  • Jantz

    -Keon- Personally i don’t want to trade Reimer. He will battle it out with JB and the best man will claim a slight majority in games played. Just because Bernier was given 3/4 –  1m more per season than most of us anticipated does not mean that Carlyle will show him any special treatment. We have 2 dynamite young goalies and I’m hoping that whoever looses the starting job will still play great and only increase their trade value as time goes on.
    JR has to improve his puck handling and rebound control but i still believe he has a 50/50 chance of outplaying Bernier. Both guys have plenty of upside and i’m very confidant that one of then will become a top 6-8 goalie in this league.

  • Jantz

    Thanks for the write up Anthony.

  • MaxwellHowe

    Thanks Anthony, its good to see the cards placed on the table, so to speak.  Of course, it may be that Nonis has worked out a deal for Liles (his previous discussion of trades suggests he doesn’t hurry anything).  Or it may be that he figures he still can work a trade out.  If Streit can get $4 million, is Liles’ contract that unreasonable?  The Leafs could retain $800 000 of that salary and the contract doesn’t look so bad.  It is notable that the AVs, according to rumpor, were waiting for Liles to become a free agent so they could sign him.  Well, if that interest is out there, why hand Liles over for free?
    And maybe Nonis is taking his time because he figures that his bargaining position with Kadri/Franson is better this way.  If he had bought out Liles, the agents would take the position that the money is there, so pay up the big bucks.  Maybe Nonis figures he should sign them first, then make the moves he has resting on the back burner to right the salary cap issue.
    Or maybe Nonis has accepted that he must trade Kulimen or Gunnarsson.  IMO, Franson is a more significant asset on the backend than Gunnarsson.  he might be willing to trade the latter to keep the former.

    • Dink

      MaxwellHowe Any one of the D can be traded

    • Jantz

      Interesting take on wanting to sigh Kadri and Franson first to lower cap deals before potentially trading Liles. I just hope he plays like he did pre concussion and then the opportunity will be there at some point to make a good trade for us.
      FYI, Streit is making 5.25 for 4 more years,

  • Mind Bomb

    Good morning Folks

    • mcloki

      Mind Bomb Morning MB

      • Mind Bomb

        mcloki Mind Bomb Morning MC, man, my desk is Killer today, sometimes its not worth the day off lol, not much Hockey talk for me today, sigh

  • mcloki

    It’s going to be a slow day today.

    • Burtonboy

      mcloki Typical August for sure

  • Zep2

    -Keon- Signing Bozak and using the Compliance buyout on Bozak is the move that is getting all the criticism. Odd though that Grabs hasnt been signed since he could be got on the cheap.
    Bernier and Bolland were moves to solidify areas of percieved weakness / depth
    Bozak / Grabs were done to keep Carlyle happy . Im happy to give him a B+ but if they have to move Kulie of Franson the mark will go to C

  • Burtonboy

    While I’ve been happy with the Nonis’s work so far there is one fly in the ointment that has bugged me since it happened and that’s the Bernier contract . I was shocked when I saw the 2.9 mil cap hit. 1.9 would have been more appropriate until this guy proves himself . Its not like we had a shit goalie and were desperate. That extra 1 mil would go a long way solving the problems we face at the moment. It will be interesting to see what the plan is going forward

    • MaxwellHowe

      Burtonboy I think Nonis was up against the wall with Bernier, though he should have seen it coming.  The fear was an offer sheet, which is the reason LA dealt Bernier when they did.  If nonis didn’t offer $2.9 million, Bernier would most certainly have gotten an offer sheet for at least 3 million, and if the Leafs didn’t match the compensation, I think, would have been a 2nd round pick – this after already giving away a 2nd round pick and Scrivens and Frattin for Bernier to begin with.
      So the Bernier situation was unique

      • Burtonboy

        MaxwellHowe Burtonboy Maybe.  Bernier would have had to sign the offer sheet. Not sure I would even want a player who holds a gun to your head right off the bat like that.

      • Burtonboy

        -Keon- He’s a little behind in his body of work as well

      • dlb eh

        MaxwellHowe Burtonboy 
        if Reimer plays as well as he did last year, which typically means he’s healthy…and if Bernier beats him out of the starter’s role.
        then Bernier’s contract is a bargain and Nonis is a genious.

        • Burtonboy

          dlb eh MaxwellHowe Burtonboy Yep can’t complain too much if he’s significantly better then Reimer . We will see soon enough. Until then I reserve the right to dislike the contract lol

      • Jantz

        Not sure about the offer sheet situation however, I think he was just supporting JB. Nonis clearly feels he has upgraded the position and with all due respect to JR, he certainly expects JB to be the starter. He probably didn’t want to nickle and dime a guy that was clearly unhappy backing up Quick and who may be our long term answer between the pipes for the next 8-10 years.Overpaid based on his limited body of work and high draft status but hopefully he repays Nonis with a breakout season.

      • MaxwellHowe

        -Keon- With good young goaltending in huge demand, with a price tag so relatively cheap, with so little compensation involved, with a chance to absoiutely screw over the Leafs, he would have been offer sheeted IMO

      • Greg Fenton

        MaxwellHowe -Keon- I don’t thikn Bernier’s contract is bad or anything, but I agree with Keon, offer sheets are one of those things fans talk about but GM’s rarely ever use. 
        And even if someone did use one on Bernier, the Leafs saved 100,000 by signing him before he got one…..woohoo.

      • MaxwellHowe

        Greg Fenton That last argument is befuddling. You are not paying attention to my point. I am offering an opinion as to why he got $2.9 million. I am saying that much less than that and Bernier might well have just waitied for an offer sheet. And there was a good chance he would get one which is why LA unloaded him when they did. If the Leafs had offered much less or waited they might have been forced to sign him to a contract as dictated by another team. In terms of price AND term. So this is why he got $2.9 million. Nonis may not have been clever to put himself in that position, but all I’m saying is that is why Bernier got the money he got.

      • Greg Fenton

        MaxwellHowe Greg Fenton And our point is, it would probably never come since GM’s rarely use them.
        And if your’e expecting him to a 3 million dollar offer sheet, why the rush to save 100,000? Why not take more time, get him for 2 million or 1.5 or whatever, and if he got an offersheet, all it cost them was $100,000…which is nothing. LA unloaded him because he wanted a chance to be a starter and he wasn’t going to get that with Quick on the Kings, and if Reimer establishes himself as the clear cut #1, we’ll probably see Bernier moved again for the same reason. 
        I don’t think its a bad contract, I just think your reasoning for it is off.

      • MaxwellHowe

        Greg Fenton MaxwellHowe With all respect, there is a reason Bernier was traded by the Kings so early in the offseason, and a reason why he was the only significant RFA the Leafs signed before free agent day.  Offer sheet.  Bernier was a great offer sheet bargain.  Everyone knew this.  And, again, taking the chance of an offer sheet coming would have forced the Leafs to agree to someone else’s money and term.  And you’re forgetting that Bernier has no loyalty to the Leafs.  He could have held out as long as he wanted waiting for a good offer sheet.  Not like the Leafs were going to have him sitting after giving up two roster players and a pick to get him.

      • Greg Fenton

        MaxwellHowe Greg Fenton Or the Kings liked the deal for him, and Noni’s liked the contract, so why wait around? 
        As I said, offer sheets are more of a fan concern because GM’s rarely use them. Pieterangleo is one of the best young D-men int he world right now……how many offer-sheets are the blues dealing with? If teams were just waiting to send an offer sheet to Bernier, why wait so long on Kadri? Wouldn’t hte same logic apply?

      • MaxwellHowe

        Greg Fenton MaxwellHowe No one has Pieterangleo money or they don’t want to give up the draft picks involved and they realize the Blues would match.  Heres the thing with Bernier.  Several teams were trying to trade for Bernier – Flyers, Devils, NYI.  I’m sure the Oilers or Flames would love to have gotten him, but the Kings were not dealing in their conference.  So are you suggesting that after failing to get him in a trade for assets, those teams would pass on the opportuniy to sign him for nothing but a 2nd round pick?  C’mon Greg, give me a break.  Nonis paid slightly under the likely offer sheet amount and avoided a long term contract that some jerk like Holmgren or Feaster would offer.  These guys have offer sheeted before.  They’ll do it again.

      • Greg Fenton

        MaxwellHowe Greg Fenton Someone like Nonis, if he didn’t have an issue with an offer sheet, should/would be worried about getting a franchise D-man and fitting him in afterwards. 
        Yes, they probably would because GM’s seem to view offer sheets as dirty pool. “If we do that, the Kings will pouch our players” etc…. 
        As said, if it was a conern why no offer sheet to Kadri? The Flames could use a 22 year old center, why not offer him 3.3 million?

      • MaxwellHowe

        Greg Fenton MaxwellHowe But that argument can be thrown right back at you.  Why sign Bernier so soon, and just before free agent day?  Why not let him sit like Kadri and wait?  Because Nonis knew an offer sheet was a real possibility.  Christ, the Kings before him knew that.

      • Greg Fenton

        MaxwellHowe Greg Fenton They had a deal with Bernier they liked. They don’t with Kadri. The Kadri situation just shows the offersheet thing isn’t really an concern. If it was, he would have been signed a while ago.

      • MaxwellHowe

        Greg Fenton MaxwellHowe And that wonderful deal just happened to have been reached late on the evening of July 5, just before free agency opened up on July 6.  Right on

      • Greg Fenton

        MaxwellHowe Greg Fenton Again, if they are that worried about offer sheets, why didn’t they sign Kadri as well? Or do you think he isnt’ good enough for other teams to want him? Not worth a 2nd round pick, hell maybe even a 1st?

      • MaxwellHowe

        Greg Fenton MaxwellHowe No, I don’t think a young centre of Kadri’s abilities is as valued as a young goalie of Bernier’s reputation, particularly by teams like the Flyers and Flames that have a history of putting out offer sheets.  I agree, offer sheets are rare –  but Bernier was a rare opportunity for goalie starved teams to snatch a young goalie with a great rep.

      • Greg Fenton

        MaxwellHowe Greg Fenton Really? No teams out there could use a young center of Kadri abilities? The Flames wouldn’t like to add that? I guess beause they are so loaded at center and lots of 2nd round picks end up being as good as Kadri right?

      • Greg Fenton

        MaxwellHowe Greg Fenton Same with Pieterangelo. Sure it might cost multi. 1st roundres to get him (if the Blues won’t match), but so what? What are the odds the Leafs (for example) would draft a player that good anytime in the net 3-4 seasons?

      • MaxwellHowe

        Greg Fenton MaxwellHowe Not as hard to find as a good young goalie.  Again, proof in pudding.  Bernier signed just before free agent frenzy.  Not an accident Greg.

      • Greg Fenton

        MaxwellHowe Greg Fenton There is zero evidence of a causational relationship.

      • MaxwellHowe

        Greg Fenton MaxwellHowe Sure there is.  Bernier was sought by other teams in a trade.  Specualtion was out there he might get an offer sheet. Kings unload him before that happens.  Leafs sign him just before free agent frenzy, but don’t sign Gunnar, Kadri, Franson.  he was treated differently though ntiehr the team nor the player had a reason to be particuarly loyal to one another. Bernier got more than twice as much as his previous contract though he had done little in the last year to warrant much of a raise. Thats circumstantial evidence, and damn convincing

      • Greg Fenton

        MaxwellHowe Greg Fenton Thats a correlation, which does not imply causation. And the Leafs not signing their other very valuable RFA’s and leaving them exposed would indicate they are not that worried about offer sheets.

      • MaxwellHowe

        Greg Fenton MaxwellHowe Yes, the correlation does imply causation.  And yes, the fact Gunnar et al were left unsigned beyond July 6 indcates they had no concerns for offer sheets.  For everyone but Bernier.

    • Dink

      Burtonboy 2 quality goalies for a total of 4.7 million looks pretty good to me

      • Burtonboy

        @Dink Burtonboy Not if its at the cost of a Kuliman or Franson. Wrong yr to be doing that deal.

        • Dink

          Burtonboy Lot of goalies out there making that much all by themselves, we can always trade one in Toronto

        • Mind Bomb

          Burtonboy 100 Percent BB

    • rustynail

      Burtonboy 3.4 if you include retained salary to get him.

      • Burtonboy

        rustynail Burtonboy Yep forgot about that

  • Zep2

    -Keon- I mentioned soon after the trade one would be gone by training camp next year at the latest, probably Riemer.  Price-Halak, Lou-Schneider situations are only manageable for so long