With the Daniel Winnik trade goes the Leafs’ most consistent player of the past couple of months, as the Leafs get necessarily worse in the short term while fetching good value for their final major pending-UFA (Jokinen, Holzer and Booth could be moved, but if there’s any value to be had is unknown).

Roman Polak, with one year left on his contract, seems to be the most likely remaining candidate to be moved for value, while Tyler Bozak’s name has been gaining steam as well, with Bob McKenzie reporting a possible New York Rangers connection yesterday. The Rangers don’t ostensibly have the cap room, but Glen Sather has proven daring enough time and again, should he really want to make something happen. The Rangers are in a bit of an unknown spot with Mats Zuccarello in contract talks and his name has been floated in the rumour mill recently, with Elliotte Friedman reporting the following yesterday:

[quote_box_center]5. I’m a Mats Zuccarello guy. Big fan of his game, and that did not change watching him lead everyone with five shots in Tuesday’s win.

He and the Rangers are not close on a new deal and he can walk this summer. The simple move for New York is to keep him, make a playoff run and take their chances later. But, there are rumours they will consider trading him, see what they can get and, if necessary, flip that for something else.

I can’t prove or disprove those rumblings, but they’re out there.[/quote_box_center]

This isn’t a fit on the surface. The Leafs are sellers, so — while Zuccarrello is a year and a bit younger than Bozak — taking on a 27-year-old pending UFA instead of futures doesn’t seem to make any sense. The Rangers are buyers as legitimate contenders in the East and will not be looking to make an, at best, sideways step. The fit likely isn’t right on that front, but there’s always some possibility Sather can move salary in a separate deal and turn and give the Leafs the futures they’re likely looking for, something in the neighbourhood of a prospect (or young pro) and a 2nd or 3rd round pick. Note: The Rangers don’t have their first this year due to the Martin St. Louis trade.

Approximating Bozak’s value is a highly challenging task if the disparate views on him among fans and media is any indication. When you consider Bozak has spent so much of his time since entering the League next to Phil Kessel getting significant all-situations minutes and so little time in a more appropriate role, logically it’s fair to assume an opaque understanding of his real value likely exists among the League’s general managers as well. He does check some boxes as versatile top-9 center who can contribute in all phases of the game, but he’s never excelled in any of those areas, per se. A GM would be taking a gamble on the remaining three years of his contract, having to project where he slots in and what he can produce in a lesser role on a team with some actual center depth to speak of.

The biggest obstacle is that playoff-bound teams tight to the cap, who might have been otherwise interested, are looking at Bozak’s $4.25 million and saying it’s not going to be a straightforward deadline-add scenario. Bozak also has a modified No Trade Clause (believed to be a list of 12 teams he can be moved to, although that can always be relaxed).

The Leafs are reportedly pushing hard to find some value and a landing spot for Bozak, which makes a lot of sense. It’s a case of the sooner the better with Bozak. It’s easy to forget how old he is — 29 in a few weeks — and he’s almost definitely at his peak right now, if it didn’t already come and go last season. As each game goes by, the Leafs‘ case seems to be weakening given his recent performance. While hanging onto significant assets like Kessel or Phaneuf for a while yet may be necessary if the return value isn’t out there for them, getting out from under Bozak’s contract, collecting what assets you can,  and freeing up that space to allow for Kadri’s raise seems like a must; if not in the next few days before the deadline, by the offseason.

Especially when it doesn’t look like good news for the Leafs, or any to-the-cap spending teams, as far as 2015-16 salary cap projections are concerned.

[quote_box_center]6. One GM said this week he is now planning on a $69M cap — if the players don’t vote for the escalator. Ouch.[/quote_box_center]

Hopefully the Leafs find a way to add some more futures, including a second round pick for 2015, but they’ve done all the work required of them before the drop-dead deadline in terms of their expiring contracts. Now we wait and see if something bigger is in store.


Thursday Links:

  • Elliotte Friedman: 30 Thoughts — Flames face deadline crossroads (
    As Toronto goes through its rebuilding, here’s a stat to know. In the 2011-15 OHL Drafts, the teams with the most selections were Sault Ste. Marie (with 69) and London (67). Those GMs? Kyle Dubas and Mark Hunter, now members of the Maple Leafs’ front office. You can expect both men will carry this philosophy with them to the NHL. Picks, picks, and more picks.
  • James Mirtle: Leafs keep focus on future with Winnik trade (The Globe and Mail)
    Winnik was traded because the Leafs want to draft and develop – and in order to do so, they need picks. Lots of them.
  • Video: New Leaf Zach Sill has a big mouth (MLHS)
    Watch as new Leaf Zach Sill relentlessly chirps Dion Phaneuf and stirs the waters against his now-teammates while mic’d up during a meeting with the Leafs in December of 2013.
  • Video: Dave Nonis on the Daniel Winnik trade to Pittsburgh (MLHS)
    Dave Nonis addresses the media, discussing the Winnik trade and other potential moves headed towards the March 2nd trade deadline.
  • Audio/Transcript: Daniel Winnik discusses trade to Pittsburgh (MLHS)
    “I mean, I enjoyed it for sure and will never forget the experience. Extremely happy to have played for my hometown Toronto Maple Leafs, even to have worn an A, I know it was just the just one game in Carolina, but that’s a big part of my career because I haven’t worn a letter before. A lot of good memories leaving this place.”
  • Transcript: Bob McKenzie on Winnik trade, what’s next for Leafs (MLHS)
    Hey, two draft picks for a guy you signed in the summer for a shade over a million is like buying draft picks. If you told teams, “give a million bucks and you get to use the player for 5-6 months, and get you get a 2nd and 4th,” they would say, “works for me.”
  • Associated Press: Dion Phaneuf expected to return to the lineup Thursday vs. Flyers (Fox Sports)
    ”I feel that I’m at a point that I’m comfortable and strong enough to come back,” Phaneuf said. ”It’s been a little bit longer process than I originally thought, and with being off for the amount of time that I was, I have that excitement to get back into real game action.”
  • ClrkAitken: Examining Dave Morrison’s Draft Record (Pension Plan Puppets)
    The overall quality of the Leafs picks during Dave Morrison’s era definitely suffers due to the volume of high picks traded away during his tenure. However, even when accounting for this fact his results have frequently not met expectations.


Tweet of the Day:

Yesterday Nylander scored his third goal and ninth point in 14 games since coming overseas, with a nice and dirty one:

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Alec Brownscombe is the founder and editor of, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He's published five magazines on the team entitled "The Maple Leafs Annual" with distribution in Chapters and newsstands across the country. He also co-hosted "The Battle of the Atlantic," a weekly show on TSN1200 that covered the Leafs and the NHL in-depth. Alec is a graduate of Trent University and Algonquin College with his diploma in Journalism. In 2014, he was awarded Canada's Best Hockey Blogger honours by Molson Canadian. You can contact him at