Lou Lamoriello met with the media before hopping on TSN Overdrive to discuss the team’s deadline moves and the final 20 games of the season.
How busy were things today, and what do you think of the moves you made today?
Lou Lamoriello: Well, I don’t think we were too busy. I don’t think we that we came into this trade deadline with any aspirations… if we something didn’t happen, we would’ve been fine. We had the opportunity to acquire certainly Brian Boyle the other day. I think it’s been well written what he brings to us at this point. And today we picked up Eric Fehr, who also is a mature individual who has had the experience of winning. I think the both of them will add something to the young players that we have in this lineup, and we’re very pleased about it.
How busy were you in the sense of other teams calling and inquiring about your players?
Lamoriello: I think that every team – every general manager — interacts with each other over these 48 hours, whether it’s just a phone call to see what’s going on. I don’t think we were any different than anyone else. You always try to listen and see if there is something you should be aware of.
How important is it in terms of the stage of where your team’s development is right now for your team to get some playoff experience?
Lamoriello: That is something we all strive for, but I think the most important thing right now is just staying on the course, not thinking about the end result. Continuing to do the things that they’ve been doing. Let that take care of itself. I think what we’ve done right is here is give them — that is our younger players — our opportunity to be around some people who have the experience and also to help them develop that culture of winning.
When teams like Montreal and Ottawa made moves today, did that put any more urgency on your plans for today? Did you think about changing course at all as other teams made moves?
Lamoriello: Absolutely not. As I said earlier, if we didn’t do anything… we’re not going to get off track on what we’ve set out to do and that is to establish a franchise that has an ability to sustain a competitiveness over a period of time. We did not want to make any transactions that would get in the way of the development of our players. The players that we added are role players that will be in a fourth-line situation that could move up if necessary, but they will not be taking away from anything with the development and the progress of the future.
How much more valuable was Eric Fehr given the fact that he satisfies the requirements for exposure to the expansion draft?
Lamoriello: That certainly enters in the thought process of what decisions you’re going to make. Also, we were able to acquire a fourth-round pick in doing so, and in the same time help out our Marlies team with a different dimension player — the defenceman, that is. All of the above enters into the decision you’re going to make, but we have no expansion problems whatsoever right now. The prime purpose was to help these young players grow and continue to do what we’re doing. We’ve been pleased with them. We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. We don’t want to get in our own way. So, anything that we were going to do had to be something to support and keep the progression on a normal process.
When adding a player like Boyle, how important was it to send a message to the other players that we’re in it this year, we’re going to make a run for it, and we’re going to give you guys another piece?
Lamoriello: Well, there’s no question. You can speak about what you’d like to see happen. You can speak about the position you’re in. Sometimes you have to show it in something tangible. We were in need of that position and the type of player that he is. We all know that we were missing that. He brings experience. He can play in all situations and he’s a tremendous character individual. I had the opportunity to know him when he was in college and also played against him when he was with the Rangers. The amount of playoff games he’s been in, going along with Eric also… you can’t buy experience.
Was there more reluctance for GMs to make moves around the deadline this year than years past?
Lamoriello: I don’t know if there is reluctance. I think the parity has a lot to do with it. There are so many teams that are in the race, if that’s what you want to call it, but I really don’t know how anybody else was thinking. I just know that where we are with our franchise, where we are with our team, and what the plan has been put in from Brendan when he got here… we’re not going to get off that. Anything we did was not going to get in the way of that, but what we could do to support that, to encourage that, we had the opportunity to do, so we did it.
You had a lot of salary cap space through LTIR that’s going to go unused. What are your thoughts on that? Are you disappointed you aren’t going to be use it better, or are you okay with that?
Lamoriello: First of all, I always get a kick out of… when there is money available, do you just spend it? Is that what you do?
Sometimes a lot of teams do.
Lamoriello: I think that what you have available is something that we’re very fortunate [to have] and the support that we have here from ownership, but you have to have fiscal responsibility for what you do and there has to be a reason for doing it. You don’t just acquire or spend for the sake of doing it.
Did you have any experience or agents turning you down with No Trade Clauses because they were maybe afraid they would end up with the Marlies instead of the Leafs?
Lamoriello: You’d have to ask somebody else that question. I couldn’t answer that. In other words, I have no idea.
Did you come close to any moves that didn’t quite come together today?
Lamoriello: I don’t think there is any such thing as almost. You either get a transaction done or you don’t, and that’s the best way I can answer that.
Soshnikov went down. Is that just to make him eligible for the AHL playoffs or is he down?
Lamoriello: It was a paper transaction. He was sent down and recalled, but he is here. That is just to make him eligible for the American league.
Any thoughts on Frankie Corrado’s time here?
Lamoriello: Frankie was a solid citizen, without question. Certainly, he had a lot of patience. But it’s no one’s fault. It’s just the way it goes. Now he has an opportunity to go somewhere. But he was a fine young man. It just didn’t work out.
Did the expansion draft have an effect on the deadline this year?
Lamoriello: Uh, maybe. I don’t know. As I said to a previous question about that, if you can satisfy it and it doesn’t get in the way and it helps your team, you have to look at it. But I can’t answer that question. I don’t know what other people were thinking.
Can you comment on the report that Valtteri Filppula turned down a trade to Toronto?
Lamoriello: No, I have no comment on another team’s player.
How often do you take a step back and think “wow, I can’t believe this guy [Auston Matthews] is a Maple Leaf’?
Lamoriello: Well, as I’ve said often, we’re glad he’s with us and we’re glad he’s in our uniform. He’s a special young man both on and off the ice.
We were also talking about Mitch Marner and just the kids in general. Through 62 games you guys are currently in a playoff spot. What has impressed you most about the impact all of these rookies have had on your team?
Lamoriello: It’s really an easy question for me to answer. I don’t know if I’ve ever been impressed with a group of young players at this level, and playing together so many of them, with their commitment towards the game. They want to be good. They’re willing to pay the price to be good. They’re the hardest workers each and every day. They love the game. They’re the first ones on the ice. They’re the last ones off. And I’m saying collectively — not one or three or four of them, but all of them. And they get along, and they love the game. I mean, they’re having fun when they’re doing it. I think it’s obvious when I watch tapes over of the game. After seeing it live and the camera goes the bench, they’re smiling. They’re talking to each other. They look comfortable in their own skin. That’s extremely impressive at this level in the NHL when you’re 18, 19, 20, 21 years old. So they’re special and we’re very proud of them.
Going into the season, was it fair to say you were looking for answers with the group that you had? With the young group, and some of the acquisitions — namely a guy like Frederik Andersen? 60+ games, have those questions been answered as far as — do you have a number-one goaltender? Do you have a number-one centerman in Auston Matthews? Are you pleasantly surprised, or are you right on track with where you thought they would be?
Lamoriello: We thought that Freddie could be and would be a number-one goaltender. We also knew that he had not played as a number-one with the number of games, so we knew there would be some bumps along the way. Unfortunately for him, when he came in at the beginning of the year — as you know — he was hurt coming out of the World games and maybe we rushed him along. No one’s fault. He said he was ready to go. It took him a little time. But we’re extremely pleased with Freddie. He’s our number one goaltender and it’s our obligation to give him support so that he doesn’t have to take the full load.
As far as Auston goes, he impressed each and every one of us from day one. At each and every level, he went higher. Whether it was at the world juniors, whether it was at the world championships, whether it was training camp, he just seemed to rise to the occasion. Smooth as he possibly could be, not getting excited. You notice when he scores a goal, you don’t see any exuberant sort of celebration. He’s a pro at 18 years old and there is no height to where this man can’t go.
How satisfied are you with the additions and the trades you made leading up to the deadline?
Lamoriello: Brian I’ve known since he was playing at Boston College and I certainly watched him play against us when I was in New Jersey for the Rangers. We certainly know the success he’s had in Tampa. He’s a veteran who knows how to play the game. He knows what his role is. He accepts his role. He can be used in all situations. He’s a consummate pro. He had an A on his shirt in Tampa with a lot of exceptional players there, so we know what the organization thought of him. It was really supported and substantiated by the number of players that he played with and wished him well over the last 48 hours as far as the impact he’s had on them. So we know what we have there. He traveled all day, got in there, dressed up, and played the game. We certainly know that when he gets on track he’s going to be a tremendous boost to the fourth-line or whatever role that Mike finds for him.
In Eric, we had an opportunity to satisfy a lot of individual things with reference to another veteran who had the experience of winning. He’s won a Cup. He’s a role model and can play in all situations. When given the opportunity to play, he’s certainly going to help us. It gives us depth. He knows what his role is and he also accepts it. When you have the opportunity to get two veterans who you know will be supportive of the young players, have respect for the abilities of the young players, and want to help them grow and help be a part of something… that’s something special.
If we went into this trade deadline and didn’t acquire anybody, we would not have been upset. We are going to stay on the course. Nothing that we did will get us off. No young players were given up. We did give a second pick up for Brian which we felt very comfortable doing, and we were able to acquire a number of those over the years. So we feel very good about these additions.
This time of year, teams are defined in two groups, either being buyers and sellers. This organization has been defined as sellers for a number of years. This year, based on the acquisitions you made — specifically the Boyle deal, you bring in a veteran who at this time is a rental and you gave up a second round pick — you guys have been defined as buyers. At what point, and why, did you guys determine you should be buyers?
Lamoriello: First of all, I don’t want to say I take offense to the word buyers and sellers because it doesn’t say much for the game and what we do. But the reason that we were able to do that is, with the progress that our players have made and how they’ve sustained it over a period of 60 games and overcome slumps — whether it be personal, whether it be wins and losses — and still kept going forward… I felt it was our obligation to give them support to show them that we believe in them, which we do, and to help it along if it’s necessary to get where we want to be. We are where we are because of this group we have here. The addition of a Brian Boyle and an Eric Fehr just helps move that along with some support. At this time of the year, when each and every team that is getting ready for the playoffs or is fighting for the playoffs, the veterans sort of jump up their game. We saw that with the players in San Jose last night against us. So, we wanted to give them the support so that these people can help them along through this process.
Are there any Marlies you think that could make an impact or play for you at all over the final 20 games?
Lamoriello: Well, we certainly have a couple of Marlies that, without question, will be playing in the NHL. How soon they get here — and I would say we have half a dozen of them — I’d rather not get into their games, but a couple of them could be here right now and I think could be contributing. But we want to make sure that we don’t rush their progress. We had Freddie Gauthier up for the last four or five games and he got better and better. It’s better if he goes down there now and plays not the seven or eight or nine minutes that he got here but the 17-18, not unlike when Brownie was here last year or Zach Hyman, or Soshnikov. We sent them back even though they were starting to adjust. They need to go and play the minutes that are necessary each and every day and learn. I think we rush players now. Years ago, players were in the minors two and three years and no one got excited about it. Now, for whatever reason — a lot of it has to do with the salary cap, a lot of it has to do with free agency — we rushed them. We’re trying not to do that unless they show us that they can accept it. We were fortunate to see some players this year. I think if we didn’t handle them the way we did last year… I don’t know how it would’ve been.
Mike Babcock was asked about how he feels the kids, the rookies, will handle the final 20-25 games, and how they will learn on the fly how to win big games. He responded by saying he’s not worried about the kids. They know how to win. They come from programs that have winning pedigree. He said he’s worried about the veterans who have been here for quite some time because they haven’t been winning recently — guys like Kadri, Bozak, Gardiner, Rielly. When it comes to the veterans, do you evaluate them differently than the rookies over the final 20 games, or are they constantly under evaluation themselves in terms of whether or not they can learn how to win?
Lamoriello: I think we’re all under evaluation 24 hours a day. But I support what Mike said and I think that the two veterans that we brought in here are here not only to help the young players that we have but the veterans. Remember, the veterans that we have, they’re not that old. They’re 24, 25. Morgan Rielly is the same age as some of the “young” players that we have here. It is a young group; I think the second youngest team in the National Hockey League. And yes, there is no winning experience with a lot for them and that’s what we have to get. But teams go through that. I had the experience with that in New Jersey when I first went there. The Devils had never made the playoffs. So, it takes a little time, but you cannot get ahead of yourself. You have to do all the things. To answer your question, absolutely we have to find out who is ready for this. I’ve said throughout the year — we have to establish who our core players. And what do you mean by a core player? That’s the foundation of what your franchise is that you can count on night in and night out and they will be the leaders of the pack. And that’s what we have to find out.