After Tuesday’s Dion Phaneuf trade sent shockwaves through Leafs Nation, it’s the Toronto Marlies who will be most affected in the short term while the Leafs gain some much-needed cap space moving forward.
As part of the deal, Matt Frattin, Casey Bailey and Ryan Rupert all departed Toronto, leading some to wonder if this will affect the Marlies‘ campaign to win their first ever Calder Cup.
So what are the Marlies losing with the departure of these three gentlemen?
In a somewhat unprecedented move the day after the trade, Ottawa have loaned Matt Frattin back to the Marlies for what appears an indeterminate timeline. “Loaning” used to be a regular occurrence when NHL teams shared AHL affiliations, but the move away from that system (with 30 teams now in the AHL) makes this a strange occurrence. A loan straight after a trade, back to the affiliate of the team a player was just traded from, is an even rarer circumstance.
Toronto could use the extra manpower right now without having to tap back into Orlando, as there is doubtlessly more movement to come before February 29. This loan appears to be a part of the trade agreement, with Ottawa taking on the Standard Player Contract and perhaps thinking they have a better chance of flipping Frattin for something themselves if he stays with the league-leading Marlies.
Frattin has been a shadow of the player we’ve come to expect at the AHL level. Essentially a point per game player before this season, his speed and wicked shot were his biggest assets. His 26 goals last year were a big factor in the push for the playoffs, while in 2012 he was a dominant force in the Marlies quest for the Calder Cup before an injury curtailed his involvement in the Final.
It’s perhaps that knee injury and the second one that followed that led to Frattin’s drop off in production. This season has been one of disappointment with nine goals and 22 points on the most potent offensive team in franchise history. As much of a leader that he’s become in the young Marlies locker room, the 28-year-old winger was never in the Leafs plans moving forward and therefore wasn’t a surprise inclusion in this trade.
Casey Bailey played six games at the backend of last season for the Leafs after they won the sweepstakes for the college free agent. That purposely burned a year of his two-year entry level contract, bringing Bailey a year closer to UFA and setting the Leafs up with a one-year flyer to see if there was worthwhile potential in the player. They were certainly hoping Bailey would be one of the Marlies better prospects this season. As many first year professionals do, Bailey has struggled for consistency and has been overtaken by rookies Zach Hyman and Nikita Soshnikov in the pecking order. He may well garner better opportunities to impress on a struggling Binghamton Senators team.
Ryan Rupert endeared himself to Marlies fans as the street fighter type of player you’d always want on your side. In his two seasons so far, he’s had to prove himself in Orlando in order to make the Marlies lineup, but rarely did he let Toronto’s affiliate down. At just 21 years old, it seems harsh to judge him as a career AHLer, but that is probably his ceiling and Toronto have better current and future prospects in the pipeline at the centre position.
So if the Toronto Marlies are losing two if not three players, who will be replacing them in the lineup?
Tobias Lindberg is the most interesting prospect in the trade and seemingly the one with the biggest upside. A 2013 fourth round pick by Ottawa, Lindberg really impressed last season as an import rookie for the all-conquering Oshawa Generals. He’s a big, strong winger who put up 78 points during the regular season and a further 19 during 21 playoff games en-route to an OHL championship and Memorial Cup win.
Prior to joining Oshawa, Lindberg was a part of Djurgårdens’ junior system and represented his native Sweden through the U16-19 age groups.
His rookie AHL season has been one of some promise on a struggling Binghamton team, although he’s been limited to 34 outings thus far.
Lindberg has proven to be more of a playmaker in Binghamton, with 17 of his 22 points coming in the form of assists while averaging just two shots per game. If you delve deeper, it’s a good sign that eighteen of his points have come at even strength, with five goals and eleven primary helpers.
He has been used on both special teams in Oshawa and Binghamton and will no doubt be afforded similar opportunities by Sheldon Keefe. Toronto’s head coach has the resource of Leafs assistant coach D.J Smith, who was Lindberg’s coach in Oshawa last season, which should make the transition easier for all involved.
A left-handed shot who generally plays on his off-wing, Lindberg’s first practise was on a line with William Nylander and Kasperi Kapanen. That could be more to do with acclimatization than anything else at this point, but it’s a tantalizing possibility.
Despite Binghamton playing Toronto five times this season, the Marlies winger has only played against his new team twice, with an assist in the first game and a breakaway overtime winner as recently as January 30 in a game where he was noticeable for the right reasons.
Lindberg is by far the biggest body in the current prospect group and should bring an interesting dynamic to the team. Despite his size, Lindberg isn’t overly aggressive, having taken just four minor penalties this season.
Colin Greening was initially thought to be joining the Marlies, but he will begin his Toronto career with the Leafs. It could well be a short-term arrangement with Tyler Bozak and Shawn Matthias looking likely to return next week after the West Coast road trip.
If he is reassigned, the Marlies will be receiving a NCAA graduate of Cornell University.
Drafted by Ottawa in 2005, Greening played 24 games for the Senators in his rookie season and made a big impact as part of Binghamton’s Calder Cup victory. After earning himself an eight million dollar pay day in 2013, Greening has declined in production and looks a shadow of the player he was before. Most Senators fans will tell you no longer playing on line with Jason Spezza had a lot to do with it.
A 13-point return for 29 year old left him way down Ottawa’s pecking order in regards the next call-up to the NHL and it was of little surprise that Ottawa wanted to clear him off their books as he’s contracted through 2016-17.
The St. John’s native has just a pair of points in his last 16 AHL outings and both of those came against the Marlies on January 30. At a minimum, he brings some veteran savvy as well as some size and skating ability.
Predominantly a left winger who can play at centre, Greening has also been used on the right side this season, giving the Marlies some flexibility in the lineup but more importantly some much-needed cover at the centre-ice position.
In summary, the Marlies are no worse off for this trade, even if Frattin departs before the season ends and Greening fails to feature. In the loss of Casey Bailey and Ryan Rupert, there are undoubtedly players in Orlando who could step into their shoes should the need arise.
— Toronto Marlies (@TorontoMarlies) February 11, 2016