Yesterday, the Maple Leafs said goodbye to the longest-tenured member of the organization and all-around good guy, James Reimer, before losing decisively to the Montreal Canadiens a few hours later. The forecast called for pain.
Sunday morning notes:
– Damien Cox claimed last night that the Leafs had no choice but to move James Reimer before the deadline because of his six-year, $6 million AAV contract demands. Reimer’s agent immediately denied it on Twitter. The figures named don’t sound within the realm of reason, even as an unrealistic first ask to anchor a negotiation. The Leafs could’ve just waited it out, played it by ear and evaluated where Reimer was at in terms of contract demands in June and July – it would’ve avoided the perception that they traded Reimer for next to nothing – but this management group has been steadfast in adhering to the plan: all UFAs must go to the highest bidder. The Leafs have to tread carefully when offering term to a soon-to-be 28-year-old with league-average career numbers. Knowing that, they didn’t want to risk losing Reimer for nothing.
The specifications of a trading partner that made sense for Reimer: a playoff team who needed a rental goaltender as insurance. The market was tiny. It seems likely the Leafs were negotiating with one team after St. Louis traded for Anders Nilsson.
– He’s taken some flak for his perceived overpayment on Roman Polak and Nick Spaling last week, but this was a good bit of follow-up business by Doug Wilson. He’s gone from an underperforming $6 million tandem in Antti Niemi and Alex Stalock to a $5.3 million tandem of two .916-.918 goaltenders aged 26 and 27 in Martin Jones and James Reimer. Who knows if Jones proves he’s the real deal long term or if Reimer has any future there — such is the nature of goaltending — but you can’t deny the Sharks are in a much better place between the pipes at the moment.
– Lou Lamoriello spoke after the trade yesterday and mentioned management’s desire to take a look at Garret Sparks (and potentially Bibeau as well) down the stretch was a motivating factor in the Reimer trade. That would suggest Alex Stalock joins the Toronto Marlies if they can’t flip him by Monday at 3 p.m. With Jonathan Bernier unlikely to move, Sparks is the likely candidate to stick out the rest of the season with the Leafs. In the final year of his entry-level deal, he’s the one the Leafs actually need to make a decision on. Antoine Bibeau has one more season left before he’s an RFA.
– PA Parenteau left last night’s game with muscle spasms/tightness in his shoulder/neck area but doesn’t expect it will be much of an issue. He still anticipates a trade in the next 36 hours, and during interviews yesterday he spoke about his time in Toronto in the past tense.
– Damien Cox also reported last night that William Nylander will be brought up for his first set of games with the big club following the trade deadline. If true, the question becomes — are the Leafs going to limit him to fewer than nine games, or are they willing to burn a year of his entry-level contract knowing it doesn’t affect RFA status?
– Byron Froese broke his hand last night on a PK Subban shot and his season is over. Another Toronto Marlie will be called up, and there are a couple of options available. Based on role, Sam Carrick is a natural fit in the fourth line center, penalty-killing role Froese occupied. Carrick has four points in five games since returning from injury and is relied on by Sheldon Keefe on penalty kills and key defensive zone draws, so he could be Keefe’s recommendation knowing the role Babcock needs to fill. Carrick is also an RFA at year’s end, so a decision will have to be made on whether he’s going to occupy one of the 50 SPC slots going forward.
– Among the remaining UFAs that aren’t sure bets to move (i.e. everyone but Parenteau), I’m most curious about what Lamoriello can fetch for Brad Boyes. Boyes assisted on the Leafs’ lone tally last night in Montreal, bringing him to seven points in his last eight games. This is the wild part: The only forward to make an appearance for the Leafs this season and average less TOI/game than Brad Boyes is Rich Clune. Boyes has played 11:50 on average, which is 17th among Leafs forwards. He has 21 points in 48 games, 16 of which are at even strength — that places him first on the Leafs in points/60 at 5v5 and third on the Leafs in points/60 in all situations. While he’s been playing against checking lines, this is solid production given the limited usage. Perhaps Lou can sell him as a low-maintenance veteran who can chip in secondary offense from just about anywhere in the lineup for very cheap. Unfortunately, the optics aren’t great when you’re playing down the lineup on a brutal Leafs team. In addition, Boyes has no real playoff experience to speak of — just three first-round exits over 11 NHL seasons — which doesn’t help Lou’s cause.
– Also from Cox: He expects Jared Cowen to move by Monday at 3 p.m. The Leafs passed him through waivers yesterday, which means any team can immediately stash him in the minors and save a little less than a third of his cap hit, but any trade will involve taking a contract back for the rest of the season. Cowen can be bought out this summer for a $675,000 cap credit in 2016-17 followed by a $750,000 cap penalty in 2017-18.
– Remaining UFAs on the Leafs roster: Boyes, Parenteau, Michael Grabner, Mark Arcobello, Alex Stalock