Rumour season is in fine form as the Toronto Maple Leafs, yet again, limp to the finish line.
There are a lot of big names being thrown around that carry big contracts, and while we don’t know if any of them will be moved we can reasonably assume at least some of the Leafs pending UFAs will be gone by the trade deadline. In particular, the three players that are getting the most attention in Toronto are Daniel Winnik, Mike Santorelli, and Cody Franson.
The trade market has not been set yet, but we can look back at previous deadlines to get a rough sense of what to expect in return. Below are some forward deals pertaining to Winnik and Santorelli specifically:
|Matt Moulson, Cody McCormick||2nd, 2nd, Torrey Mitchell|
|Tuomo Ruutu||Cond. 3rd, Andrei Loktionov|
|Derek Roy||Kevin Connauton 2nd|
Daniel Winnik and Mike Santorelli are both legitimate top 9 forwards on any contender. They are each versatile, cheap, and can produce without PP time. They are going to have value. Winnik is playing to a 32 point pace, Santorelli a 44 point pace. But as we can see above, that value is maybe not as high as some people would like it to be.
There are a few things working against getting extremely high returns on Winnik and Santorelli. First off, they were both available this summer and nobody was jumping through hoops for either. They’ve both shown to be undervalued players worth more than they signed for, but it’s doubtful that teams will do complete 180s on either player. Winnik will probably be acquired to play on a third liner, and fill in spot duty on L2. If Santorelli is played as a C it will be on the third line, but he has a chance to be a second liner on a good team on the wing. He too is likely a L3 player, though.
The second point is that history shows us not to expect a great return. Above we see not much of a return on similar players who can play up and down a top 9 in various roles. When Brian Burke first came to the Leafs he was able to trade a similar type player, Dominic Moore, for a 2nd rounder. That would be the ideal return here considering previous history.
The third factor is that there are a lot of sellers this year, and that could drive the market prices down (your basic supply and demand scenario). The East playoffs are all-but decided. We have a good guess as to the current eight playoff seeds, although there is at least a chance Florida can swoop in. With the injury to Steve Mason, the Flyers are seemingly all but done. So, we’re looking at 6-7 sellers from the East alone to pick apart. The West is a different story though, with only Edmonton and Arizona truly out of it. Even if nobody else falls off and sells, you’re looking at nine harder sells, nearly a third of the league (and remember, 53% of NHL teams make the playoffs). Nobody is giving up high draft picks for good but not great players in that market.
On defense, though, it’s a different story. Good defensemen rarely get traded because they are so hard to find, but here are a few recent examples of deadline defensemen trades:
|Andrew MacDonald||3rd, 2nd, Matt Mangene|
|Robyn Regehr||2nd, 2nd|
|Jay Bouwmeester||1st, Reto Berra, Mark Cundari|
As we can see with defensemen, two things are readily apparent: Not many “quality” (I say that loosely considering the names there) get traded, and when they do, they net high returns. There are other potential strong defensemen getting traded this season too though, including Zybnek Michalek, Mike Green and Andrej Sekera. That means Franson might not be the player certain teams covet most and that could hurt, or even help, his return depending on how you look at it. It’s easy to see that the asking price should at least start with a 2nd round pick, but it is up to the Leafs to create a bidding war and drive his price up. He’s currently tied for 16th league wide in defensemen scoring, he’s right handed, 6’5, and only 27. A return of more than a 2nd, say a 2nd and reasonable prospect, or even a 1st round pick is not out of the question here.
All in all, when it comes to selling off some rentals, management should be able to expect something along the lines of a 2nd, prospect, and some 3rds or 4ths on the way. Can they get creative with these deals and get even more in return? Perhaps packaging players together to drive up the price, as Buffalo did when they added Cody McCormick to Matt Moulson and took back a salary? Trading the rentals one by one will net value, and the team does not have their 2nd round pick this year, so adding more to their group is not only positive, it’s somewhat of a necessity. Getting creative is where things could get really interesting, because, as we can see, selling off rentals isn’t all that enthralling.
- For those keep tracking at home, the Leafs and Bolts have combined to essentially swap David Broll and Carter Ashton for Richard Panik and a conditional 7th round draft pick. A year ago Carter Ashton was crushing the AHL (16 goals in 24 games), and David Broll was a promising “new fourth liner that can hit, fight and play a little.” His point totals weren’t much in the AHL, but he had a decent showing with the Leafs and had the label of an “elite possession player” from his former OHL GM and current Leafs AGM. Now the Leafs have Richard Panik, who has 8 goals and 9 points total in 48 games shooting over 17%. He’s done a decent job driving play when you look at his WOWYs, and his hustle has helped draw a noticeable amount of PPs. Tampa Bay’s farm team needed help so that was their primary reason to make the move, but it will be interesting to look back on these swaps of assets a year or two from now. Are Ashton and Broll having awful years, or are they washing out of pro hockey altogether? Panik has some promising games, but his shooting percentage is far too high to believe he’ll keep scoring at this rate (which overall, isn’t impressive as is), and he isn’t exactly a smooth player to watch.
- The real sticking point for the Leafs is going down from 50 standard player contracts to 48. A few weeks ago, for example, the Florida Panthers put an at least intriguing young defenseman on waivers and the Leafs could not have picked him up freely if they wanted to because they couldn’t have absorbed another contract. Now they can add two players without having to send a single player back the other way. They can also absorb unwanted players to get greater players from opposing teams.
- A lot of reports coming out lately that the Leafs are “very ready” to move Jonathan Bernier, so let’s take a look at the Leafs two goalies, who are the same age. A debate that has happened time and again since Dave Nonis acquired Jonathan Bernier. Reimer is bigger and heavier, plays a blocking style that isn’t always pretty, but he’s a battler in the crease; he was drafted 99th overall and worked his way up through pro hockey benefitting from some injuries within the Leafs organization and seizing opportunities. Whereas Bernier is on the smaller side for goalies, playing a cleaner style of goaltending using his athleticism and swallowing up rebounds calmly, along with some puck handling abilities. Here are their respective career numbers to this point in time:
- For reference, here is an excellent article from Eric Tulsky on predicting future goalie success using save percentage. Both goalies are in that range of starts not (150+) with save percentages we can use to guess future success. It is worth wondering and mentioning that Reimer’s overall numbers may be skewed slightly to the negative side because the two worst save percentage seasons of his NHL career have been the last two seasons, when he has been a backup seeing spot duty.
- It would be reasonable to say Bernier has been a slightly better goalie than Reimer to this point in their careers. Let’s call Bernier an 8 and Reimer a 7.5. The betting would be that the Leafs can acquire a return that’s, say, a 7 or 8 back for Bernier, but only a 5 or 6 for Reimer. Bernier, a first round pick, once considered the best goalie not in the NHL and extremely talented, versus Reimer, who kicks out rebounds, has no real pedigree, and has been a backup for a season and a half now. So, logically you net out ahead by trading Bernier. At least, that’s the thinking anyway, as many have noted in the comments sections over the months as I have voiced criticism towards Bernier’s play this season.
- 2015 UFA goalies, by the way: Antti Niemi, Michal Neuvirth, Devan Dubnyk, Thomas Greiss, Jhonas Enroth, Viktor Fasth, Curtis McElhinney, and Ray Emery are the notables.
[quote_box_center]”Even if Evander Kane was a sterling individual who kissed babies the Leafs have too many wingers who can score. Need centres & D.”[/quote_box_center]
– Bob McKenzie, on the possibility of the Leafs being interested in Evander Kane.
The Leafs have two wingers that can score well—JVR and Kessel. Lupul can rack up points too, but struggles to stay healthy. Other wingers signed next year: Leo Komarov, David Clarkson, Richard Panik (RFA). Wouldn’t exactly say they are flush with scoring wingers over here. Should they go all out for Kane? Of course not. The overarching point is not a bad one. But the idea that they have enough scoring wingers is false. Acquiring Kane would also allow them to trade a current winger to help plug another problem and shift around assets positively.
[quote_box_center]“There were a lot of songs that were overused. We’ve cleaned all that up. We used some tried-and-true market radio research to determine Toronto’s favourite radio songs. We found there was a much broader consensus about what music works at a hockey game. It goes across all genres: rock, pop, hip-hop and country — heavily rock. There are some favourites, and some songs people never want to hear again.”[/quote_box_center]
– Alan Cross, on his new job with the Leafs overseeing in-arena music.
I wrote about The Extra 2% earlier in the year and noted how part of it was enhancing the arena experience to attract fans and make noise. This is hardly the Leafs first attempt and hopefully, for them, another way to turn attention away from the on-ice product. Many of you will probably remember all the ceremonies under the Burke regime as another example of this.
[quote_box_center]“I don’t really look at the contract. I know it, I understand the political ramifications of everything that goes on. I have to try to push myself into just staying as a coach and doing what I think is best for the team.”[/quote_box_center]
– Peter Horachek, on scratching David Clarkson.
Sounds like a coach with nothing to lose, first and foremost. The reality of the matter is this, Clarkson is killing whatever line he is on. He doesn’t have the skill to play on a scoring line, and he isn’t heavy or strong enough to play on a good grind line. What will have to happen is the following: The team is not good enough to justify buying him out now, nor will they be good enough to do it anytime soon. They’ll have to pay and play him until they actually need to open up the cap space once they’ve built the roster back up. Then, they’ll buy him out. The only other alternative is trading him by retaining money and sweetening the pot by attaching an asset back.
5 Things I Think I’d Do
- I think I’d just keep pouring minutes on Rielly the rest of the season. In the 14 games Horachek has been behind the bench, Rielly has averaged 23.5min/game. For the overall season he’s playing just over 19 minutes. Looking over the 2012 draft class, Rielly has a chance to be among the elite D of that class which includes Jacob Trouba, Hampus Lindholm, and Ryan Murray. I’ve eyeballed development arcs of current top end defensemen, and they almost always get thrown into big minutes immediately and build their game up through that. Rielly had a quietly solid rookie season, and now he has an opportunity to rise to the occasion where he’ll either succeed carrying that into next season, or he’ll falter and you can build him back up during the summer with a collection of lessons to teach from. With the season all but over, it’s a win-win situation.
- I think we’re starting to see the Jake Gardiner we thought the Leafs signed in the summer. The first three games under Horachek he played sparingly, but since that he’s played over 20 minutes in 9 of 11 games and has 5 points in them with an overall CF% over 57. The Jake Gardiner rumours were all over Toronto earlier in the season, but that has to give management pause. I wrote back in December arguing we had to let Gardiner play out the season and see how he bounces back, and right now it’s happening. With Franson all but gone and Phaneuf rumours running rampant, you can only change your defense so much. Let’s revisit Gardiner rumours at the draft after the season concludes.
- I think another guy I’d like to see get increased minutes is Peter Holland. He’s playing only 14:25/night and just under a minute on the PP per game. He has 18 points in 44 games, which is nothing to sneeze at, and although his underlying numbers haven’t been the strongest, he’s the biggest C option the Leafs have right now. Some might snicker to the idea of Holland being a top 6 C, but he’s playing to a 34 point pace in limited minutes with little PP TOI, but what happens if you increase that? Nobody is going to confuse him to be a Selke candidate, but can he center a secondary scoring line successfully? That seems very plausible. Let’s find out by heaping more responsibility on the player.
- I think the Clarkson situation is really tough. As I said above, he’s not skilled enough to play on a scoring line, and he’s not heavy or strong enough to play on a grind line. He’s basically a fourth liner at this point and when he comes back into the line-up that’s where he should play. The Leafs can roll three reasonably-okay lines at the moment without him and if I was Horachek I wouldn’t be putting Clarkson in my top 9 just to make people happy at this point. So, stick him on the fourth line as an energy player and make him force his way up the line-up, the same way he broke into the league.
- I think I’d get Stuart Percy up as soon as he’s healthy and rolling to get him NHL reps. He had a good showing earlier in the year and there’s reason to think he’s a solid NHL defenseman, but he’s not the fleetest of foot. He needs reps against NHLers, at NHL speed, as much as possible to adjust. His timing is just a little off as someone who likes to slow the game down, and these are the times you work out those kinks. They are trying out Granberg and Holzer, and they are right handed which is always a need and I get that, but Percy figures to be the more important piece in the future.