Gold is Canada’s and the players are on flights back home. The NHL season starts up again on Tuesday with just nine days remaining until the March 5 NHL Trade Deadline. As the Toronto Maple Leafs push towards its second consecutive playoff berth, could Mason Raymond’s 16 goals and 19 assists in 60 games this season make him one of the hottest buys on deadline day?
Signed to a cheap $1-Million, one-year deal during training camp, Raymond is on an expiring deal and could be the Leafs best trade chip come deadline day. With so many teams tight under the salary cap, Raymond is a rare commodity and could bring in a decent haul from the right bidder (recall that Pittsburgh did trade two second round picks for Douglas Murray, a toxic asset).
It’s not like there wouldn’t be suitors, either. All three of California’s teams have cap space, high round picks and could use a depth scoring option for a long playoff run. Winnipeg, Phoenix and Vancouver are all trying to chase down the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
In pursuit of building a playoff contender, the Leafs have shed the next three years’ worth of second round draft picks, and don’t possess an intimidating prospect pool. The ability for the Leafs to both make the playoffs and stock the cupboard is both a unique and realizable opportunity. But does the removal of Raymond from the lineup sink the team’s postseason chances? Or do the Leafs already have the depth to replace him in the system?
So what’s it going to be?
By The Numbers
Per www.extraskater.com, here are some of Raymond’s more salient usage and advanced statistics.
|EV TOI/G (Tm %)||PP TOI/G (Tm %)||PK TOI/G (Tm %)||Corsi Rel||Ozone St %||PDO|
|14:17 (28.5%)||1:58 (37.4%)||1:19 (23.9%)||0.9||0.451||1020|
What we can see is that Raymond features heavily in the Leafs lineup in all situations, is generally a bit better at driving play while in somewhat sheltered minutes, and has performed well above average in on-ice shooting and save percentage.
As evidenced above, Raymond plays a bunch of minutes in all situations for the Maple Leafs and handles them well – or at least better than most of his forward peers. It’s hard to find a player at any price tag that can provide top six offense while taking PK and defensive assignments. His usage is similar to, though obviously lesser than, James van Riemsdyk’s in this capacity. He features in nearly a third of the gameplay by time on ice alone.
On a team that gets handily outshot, Raymond is among the better forwards at directing the puck towards the opposition’s net. I’m not entirely sure how that’s possible given his propensity to stop up and curl back three steps inside the blueline, but the numbers bear it out.
His 16 goals and 35 points represent the fourth highest totals on the team; his 6 power play goals are third on the team. He’s had a career resurgence in Toronto, and has already hit his second highest single-season goal total with 22 games to go. He’s playing better than he has in years, and the Leafs don’t have a single option to replace him internally with a 20-goal pedigree. Most teams don’t trade one of their top point-getters just ahead of a stretch drive.
Moreover, he’s been healthy this year, which hasn’t been the case for many Leaf forwards. With van Riemsdyk taking a puck to the throat in Saturday’s Bronze medal game, there’s the ever present concern of losing a top six forward to a long term injury. The Leafs offense has looked far less dominant than last season, so keeping the cheap depth could be a necessity in case of ailments.
It’s also worth mentioning that Raymond’s 55 career playoff games is the second most on the Leafs after Dave Bolland (67 GP). For all of the talk of adding a veteran presence, this team is still very young in terms of playoff experience and Raymond’s played for a Stanley Cup before. The Leafs padded the lineup last offseason with Bolland, Jonathan Bernier and David Clarkson specifically to insulate the team with guys who have gone deep in the post season. Raymond is that type of guy too.
He might feature in the PK a fair amount, but the Leafs also happen to sport one of the league’s worst marks (78%, 28th place) in that regard. The team should be bolstered by Bolland’s return, and between Bolland, van Riemsdyk, Bozak, Kulemin and McClement there could be a precipitous drop off in his PKTOI. On the defensive side of the puck and especially on the PK, D’Amigo could be useful as the 6th PKing option with a healthy squad.
In terms of the PP, one of the team’s greatest strengths (22.4%, 2nd place), he’s still getting the third most minutes among left wingers, and the Leafs have better puck distributing options available. The club might try to reset (factory restore?) David Clarkson’s season and give him more man advantage opportunities to stimulate his offense.
The Leafs already struggle with the salary cap, and shedding any weight could be beneficial. Especially if the Leafs are unwilling to demote or depart with Colton Orr and Frazer McLaren, getting any cap space would be a boon.
This is mostly a future focused argument, but the Leafs already have 2 centers and 4 wingers signed to deals through next season. While not perfect, Kessel, van Riemsdyk, Bozak, Lupul, Kadri and Clarkson are more definitively in the long term plans of the Maple Leafs than Raymond is. He’ll want a raise this offseason, but his asking price could be well above what the Leafs need from a top 9 forward. With the core set in the present, it would behoove the Leafs to look at improving their prospect pipeline.
Another consideration should be for the Leafs young talent that’s had trouble matriculating into the NHL ranks due to a log jam in the bottom six forwards. Peter Holland, Jerry D’Amigo and Carter Ashton are all still young in their NHL career but deserve a longer look and more ice time with the big club. The Leafs don’t have a complete picture of what they’ve got in the three young ‘tweeners, but creating a roster spot could help give all three more opportunities. They are far more likely to be in Leafs uniforms next season, shouldn’t they get more experience now?
Holland especially displays a skillset that could replace or at least mitigate the loss of Raymond’s offense. Just 22, Holland’s possession numbers look worse than Raymond’s this season, but hasn’t received consistent minutes in offensive situations. Also worth noting that the Leafs gave up a decent defensive prospect and a second round pick to acquire Holland, so finding a way to both recoup the pick and provide Holland a roster spot makes good sense for the franchise.
Clearly there are many variables in play, and any substantial injury to a top six winger will probably cease any trade discussion. For Dave Nonis and his staff, it’ll come down to just how much they value Mason Raymond’s contributions this season and into the spring. Is Raymond essential for the Leafs to not just make the playoffs, but make the second round? If so, keep him and plan for a long run. If not, it’s in the club’s best interest both short and long term to find him a new home.