Bob McKenzie joined TSN Drive with Dave Naylor on Sunday to discuss the Santorelli/Franson trade and the logistics of moving Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf:
On the trade:
The Leafs were angling to try to get a first round pick for Cody Franson. They probably wouldn’t have been able to get that on its own for just Franson, so they packaged Santorelli and they get a prospect in Brendan Leipsic and a first round pick, which is a good days work under the circumstances. They obviously took the contract of Jokinen back and will try to dispense that if they can. If not, they will just play out the string with Olli.
The blueprint for moving Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf:
A lot of it depends on their contracts. The fact that they have so many years left with so much money left tends to devalue them a little bit, or maybe a lot. It’s hard to say, especially in context of between now and the deadline because no one knows what the cap is going to be. It’s really complicated, teams are fearful of making that type of move by the deadline. Not to say it can’t happen, but it’s not likely.
The blueprint for players, the good players in the NHL, whether it’s Evander Kane who is 23, or if it’s Phaneuf, who is 29, or Kessel, who is a bit younger, the general rule of thumb is that you want a good player back, a really good prospect, and a first round pick. That’s the textbook of any individual good player in the NHL that’s in his prime. Three elements: First round pick, high prospect, and a good player. It’s obviously a sliding scale depending on a lot of different factors. It’s harder to get that for the player if they have that many years left with that much money. A $7 million cap hit for Phaneuf, $8 million for Kessel, tends to devalue the return because teams tend to say, “sure we’ll take Dion or Phil. They’re not playing very well right now, obviously Dion’s hurt, Phil hasn’t had a great season but he has great numbers over a number of years, sure we’ll take your player but it’s got to be a soft deal. In other words, you’re going to pay the price for us taking on that contract.” The biggest thing you’re getting back is cap space, not actual returns on the players, or varying degrees of it. That’s the problem you run into: You’re selling low.
Will they retain salary?
The problem they’re going to run to is that they’re in a cap crunch. They’ve got the Clarkson contract, Robidas contract, Gleason they’re still paying out; that’s 10-12 million dollars that is eating up cap space on players that aren’t playing nearly as well (or at all) as the Leafs hoped they would. It’s tough to take back salary, and that’s the other element: There will be teams who say they, “yeah we are interested in Dion, why don’t you take two or three million back, and we’ll give you a 2nd or a 3rd round pick and a prospect.” Suddenly, the Leafs are faced with the decision of how valuable is the space, how much are we eating, and what is the draft pick and the prospect.
How quickly can they be moved?
The trade deadline is difficult, not impossible, but extremely difficult. It’s more likely in the summer. Right now the Leafs, in the strongest manner of speaking, are at a strong disadvantage trying to move these guys. They’re not playing well, they’ve got lots of term left, and they’ve got lots of dollars left. What the Leafs need to do is wait to even out the playing field a little bit. The way the playing field evens out is for some team who thought they were going to go deep into the playoffs to get bounced in the first round. Suddenly now there’s a different dynamic and tone from the teams. “We thought we were pretty good but we aren’t as good as we thought we are, now we need to make some moves and one of those moves could be Dion or Phil.” At the best of times it’s going to be a tough deal to negotiate and navigate, but probably the best hope for Toronto is for some outrageous things to happen in the playoffs, for teams to get eliminated who thought they were better than they were.