Mason Raymond: Hold On or Sell High?

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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, 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 RelOzone St %PDO
14:17 (28.5%)1:58 (37.4%)1:19 (23.9%)0.90.4511020

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.

Keep Him

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.

Deal Him

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.

Parting Thoughts

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.

  • ingy56

    How many years will it take for a second round pick to put up 16 goals at the NHL level? If the team is serious about making the playoffs and winning a round or more, they have to keep him. It will send a bad message to the team if he is dealt for futures IMHO.

  • Loric76

    I say deal him.  His production at his salary is a huge bargain and cap teams will overpay for that.  Sure we’d miss the scoring and experience depth he adds, but it’s unlikely he’s here in the fall anyway.  Could we use him in the playoffs?  Sure, but we’re not a contender yet either.

  • Jmessih

    Easy decision for me…hold on. His secondary offence will be huge (and has been) for this team this season. When the 1st line is going up against solid 5 man units in the playoffs, the second and third lines become much more important for team success. In the playoffs Phil and JVR may be limited to the PP to score, Lups – Kadri – Clarkson as well as Raymond – Bolland – Kulemin will be massive factors 5 on 5. Remember how scorching hot Raymond and Bolland were together to start the year (we all know Bolland is not the same player now), but having Raymond there with him will help him ease back in nicely. If he and Raymond can generate 50% of the offence they did before with the ultra skilled first two lines we have this team will start to roll. I say keep him, plus we all know no one can replace the offence that he would leave if we “sold him” (getting picks or a prospect back). We all love Holland but Raymond’s numbers are years ahead of Holland, Peter cannot replace that much offence this year (especially on a checking line). Raymond is a veteran who knows this league, and has a decent amount of playoffs games (55) under his belt. The decision is a no brainer too me, keep him (and the fans on this site should give him the respect he deserves, he has been a fantastic player for us this year, open your eyes). And believe me I get the sell high idea, especially with what happened to Clarke MacArthur last year, but I do not in anyway think it is worth it. Go Leafs Go!!

  • Loric76

    ingy56  if a contender is going all in and willing to part with a top prospect, especially a forward that’s maybe a season or two away, you make the deal.

  • BBirde

    If an offer comes through that is decent. Trade him. Otherwise hang onto him. Don’t re-sign him.

  • Loric76

    BBirde  that’s basically it

  • Greg Fenton

    As long as the playoffs are the goal this season it doesn’t make a lot of sense to move Raymond for a 2nd or 3rd round pick, and most likely a late 2nd or 3rd round pick. 

    I know people don’t like to talk or think about it when the top line is playing and producing insanely well, but those 3 players can and have gone cold in the past for long periods of time. If they do again in March or April or May, a 20 goal player on your 2nd or 3rd line will be a pretty important element to have around. At this point, I also wouldn’t work under the assumption that Raymond should be considered gone next year. He’s not an amazing two-way player, but he isn’t bad, and having a player who doesn’t hurt you defensively but can produce well offensively on the 3rd line, who can move up when players int he top 6 miss games……lots of fans talk about having depth, thats depth. 

    As for giving players like Ashton and D’Amigo and Holland the oppertunity to play, I agree they should be given the chance, but I would sooner give it to them at the expense of players like Orr and MacLaren. Players who contribute significantly less then Raymond and who play lesser rolls. Its great to give young players the chance but that doesn’t mean they’ll play well or be NHL players. If you let a 20 goal player walk, give Holland or Ashton the chance and they drop the ball and/or can’t replace Raymond……..

  • vinoa

    Bruffins  Wow you’re right his playoff numbers are horrible. Looks like when the games get a little tighter MayRay disappears. Trade him for something worthwhile or hold onto him for a stretch run…just don’t bring him back next year/

  • Jimmie Dorey

    Leafs have traded away second rounders in the next two years (Holland this year and Bernier next). Who was dealt for as the third second rounder?

  • ingy56

    Loric76 ingy56  If someone wants to overpay, sure . But to deal him for a 2nd round pick , especially a late one, is stupid IMO.