It seems like a long shot; more of a silent hope and a prayer than something that actually seems possible of happening. Its seems like something that could only happen in NHL 12, but recent events have made a Rick Nash to Toronto deal look as though it could be possible.
Just this morning Toronto GM, Brian Burke, met with Columbus GM, Scott Howson. It is reported that they both enjoyed the continental breakfast and shared a side of pancakes, but even more interesting is that they discussed hockey! Now lets not get too ahead of ourselves here. Burke is known to pull off the big trade (i.e.. Dion Phaneuf), and it seems like the Leafs finally have the assets to make something like this happen with the likes of Luke Schenn, Jake Gardiner, Nazem Kadri, Matt Frattin, and Joe Colborne. Some of these players would probably have to be sent packing.
Even more intriguing are rumours that Howson is looking to package Nash, and once promising goalie Steve Mason. I have been told that Mason has been reading the “Andrew Raycroft Biography: So thats hockey?”, and it seems to be affecting his play as of late. However, if there is validity to this, Columbus will need a goalie in return so either Jonas Gustavsson, or James Reimer would have to be part of the package.
In pure speculation, I would assume the deal would be structured somewhat like this:
To Columbus: 1st round pick (maybe one more), Matt Frattin, Nazem Kadri, Luke Schenn, James Reimer/Jonas Gustavsson
To Toronto: Rick Nash, Steve Mason
So cross every finger and toe you have, say a little prayer every night until the trade deadline, and carry at least 5 lucky horseshoes on your person at all times.
If good old Burkie can pull off this deal, I think it will be a given that he never has to do up his tie ever again (not that he does anyway).
Darren Dreger reported last night that the Toronto Maple Leafs have received an offer from an unidentified team for UFA to be, Mikhail Grabovski. He went on to say that the proposed deal included a second round pick and a prospect. Today, Dreger expanded upon the topic, noting that the prospect is currently at the AHL level. Everyone already knows my thoughts on dealing Grabovski, if not, you can read them here. There are many components the team should seek to add in order to become better, but subtracting Grabovski – at the price of a second round pick and a prospect – would set the team back in many ways. Unless the team has a deal to bring in another center immediately, they would probably be forced to call up Joe Colborne, unless they plan on promoting Matthew Lombardi or Darryl Boyce up in the lineup. Tim Connolly still has a year left on his deal, but his uninspiring play as of late has me hesitant to pencil him in any higher than the third line. To set the record straight, I don’t think the Leafs will pull the trigger on this deal. If they liked it, it would have been done already. It’s no secret Brian Burke and Grabovski’s agent are probably negotiating, but at this point we’re not privy to the negotiation status or direction. It’s at best a guessing game whether Grabovski will stay with the team, or if his demands will force him out. Right now, here’s where I think we are down the middle:
- Grabovski is our best center, but similar playing styles to Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul has him playing on a different line. Grabovski is a playmaker primarily, but can find the net if given the chance. He’s diligent defensively, and he checks effectively.
- Tyler Bozak has developed nicely into a dependable center, and has had the luxury of playing with Kessel and Lupul. Like Grabovski, he’s primarily a playmaker, but can find the net on occasion. Bozak is also considered a defensive asset, and checks industriously. Grabovski is the better center option, but Bozak has found a niche for the time being on the top line.
- Tim Connolly is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. We all know he has the capability to put up some serious numbers, but when you watch him play, his decision making and work ethic makes you sit there and wonder ‘why?’. Why, as in, why we ever signed him. He’s currently playing on the third line, but brings nothing to the line that a prototypical third liner would bring. He’s not overly physical, and his lack of work ethic sets his linemates back.
- Matt Lombardi is the most predictable player in the world. Having watched him closely for most of the season, his only ‘moves’ are driving wide with speed and going five-hole. Seriously, watch highlights of him scoring: he’s in alone, or driving wide, and he scores five-hole. As a checking option, he’s decent but commands a hefty price tag. He’s decent for spot duty in the top six, but I wouldn’t be confident placing him there for an extended time.
- Darryl Boyce is your standard thirteenth forward / fourth line center / AHL call-up kind of guy. I like his work ethic, his physicality, his speed and willingness to battle. For all these reasons, he’s great to have around for the spots I listed above. Any higher, and your just shooting yourself in the foot or being delusional about his skill.
Moving out Grabovski without acquiring an adequate center in return would require Connolly, Lombardi or Boyce to move up into the top six. There’s a big issue with that happening, and thus, at this point its really not ideal to be discussing a Grabovski trade. In an ideal world, I’d look to deal any of the other centers first. Too bad this world isn’t ideal.
After potentially fielding offers for Clarke MacArthur at last year’s deadline, Brian Burke decided to hold on to the winger who went on to finish the season with a career best 62 points in 82 games. The 62 point season was MacArthur’s first real offensive outburst over his 7-year professional career.
Until last season, he had been hovering at around 0.42 points per game. Amazingly, this stat spiked to a staggering 0.76 points per game last season (over 82 games as well). This season, he’s at a respectable 0.61 points per game, having played in only 46 games.
It’s hard to make a solid read on which player MacArthur truly is.
Is he the 0.60 – 0.70 PPG player, or the career 0.42 PPG player?
This is the decision Brian Burke will have to make, and it will most likely come this season. If Burke truly wants to upgrade his forward corps, he’ll most likely have to move a few bodies out, and MacArthur could be a candidate.
His $3.25 mil cap hit isn’t anything to be worried about, but as one of the higher paid forwards on the team, they may look to move his salary in order to accomodate another forward. Salary isn’t much of a problem this year though, the Leafs will have approximately $7 mil in cap space on deadline day (according to Cap Geek).
There’s a few ways you can look at MacArthur going forward:
He’s missed seven games over the course of the season, including the first two games of the season to suspension. With that in mind, he’s had a decent season to date, and thus…
- He’s finally found his scoring niche, and will continue to score at a 0.60 to 0.70 PPG pace.
- At best he’s an above-average third line player playing with an exceptional center (Mikhail Grabovski) and a recipient of power play time (averaged 1:45 in 08-09, 2:09 in 09-10, 2:55 in 10-11 and 2:01 this season, 11-12).
One more stat for you perusal, MacArthur has only 32 hits this year compared to the 115 he had last year. That element of his game is part of the reason his line was so successful last year. You know Burke looks for forwards with size, and loves when his players play with an edge. Burke may opt to exchange MacArthur with someone like Tuomo Ruutu, a career 0.57 PPG player who already has 102 hits so far this season.
MacArthur could bring a decent return, be it draft picks and prospects or as part of a package to land an upgraded forward. In my opinion, these two ‘heightened’ offensive seasons are anomalies as a result of playing time, special teams opportunities and linemates.
It would definitely be in the best interest of the Toronto Maple Leafs to deal MacArthur now while his value is at it’s peak. Making an upgrade now while being able to maximize the return on MacArthur is the most optimal solution moving forward.
It’s not a surprise that the Leafs are trying to upgrade their lineup in anticipation of (finally) pushing for a playoff spot this season. It’s been constantly noted that the Leafs would like to add some size in the top six, while still searching for that elusive number one center.
They often say that when you make a trade ‘you have to give to get’. That’s why many rumours and trade proposals this season have included names like Luke Schenn, Clarke MacArthur and Mikhail Grabvoski, amongst others. Brian Burke often states that no player on the roster is ever untouchable (as they should be) and that’s why, naturally, we see the names of better players appear in these trade rumours.
You could spend countless hours dissecting all the rumours, but today we’re looking at Tyler Bozak and Mikhail Grabovski, two centers who both have some value in trade discussions.
You’ll often hear Grabovski’s name appear in trade rumours involving elite-level talent: Bobby Ryan, Eric Staal, Ryan Getzlaf, to name a few. The consensus is that the other team will want a decent center in return in order to fill the void. This would be the logical starting point of any deal.
Grabovski is a very tradable asset. He’s only 28 years old, he’s a pending UFA, and he currently clocks in at a modest $2.9 million cap hit. He’s a consistent offensive threat, he’s durable, and he plays with an edge. All this makes him very attractive in trade discussions.
That’s why Brian Burke should be pushing hard to keep Mikhail Grabovski. He brings so much to the table, it becomes immediately difficult to replace his output. Joe Colborne and Nazem Kadri are both center prospects in the system, but neither look primed to fill Grabovski’s shoes and equal his scoring output quite yet. Tim Connolly is signed through next season, but hasn’t made as much of an impact as desired.
Mikhail Grabovski is a tradable asset, but taking him from the lineup would set the team back no matter who the club acquires in return.
This is why Burke should lobby hard to trade Bozak instead, including supplemental assets to cover the talent-gap. Bozak is a young player who many teams would love to add to their roster. He’s defensively tenacious, can hold his own offensively, and is signed through next year at an affordable $1.5 mil cap hit. He doesn’t hold as much value as Grabovski, but he would perk the interest of quite a few teams.
To cover the talent-gap the Leafs would likely be required to send an additional pick (anywhere from a third to a fifth round pick) and a prospect, in addition to the rest of the package. In the end, a deal for an elite level player could end up costing the Leafs a top draft choice (first round), Tyler Bozak, top prospect, additional prospect, and a mid round pick.
It would be a steep price to pay, but I’d gladly pay it before dealing one of the best second line centers in the league away.
After a strong start to this month’s home stretch, the leafs fell back to earth and maybe even lower as they lost two very important games over the course of the weekend. Friday night the Leafs were in Buffalo and for the most part did play a fairly strong game but were unable to pick up the victory and ultimately lost by a score of 3-2. The following night at home on Saturday the Leafs played host to the Rangers. This game was not very fun to watch from a Leafs’ perspective as they were unable to get anything going for majority of the game and ended up getting shut out by a score of 3-0. A 4-2 record this month is not that bad, but because of the extremely tight standings, the two losses this weekend ultimately have pushed the leafs out of the playoffs and sitting in 9th place. This is not the end of the world, simply because a winning week this week will put us back into the top 8 as it is literally is that close, however it is an area of concern as the Leafs need a strong end to this month’s home stand.
Another area of concern has been the ‘cooling’ off of the leafs’ top snipers Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul. They have now gone 3 consecutive games without registering a point; their longest streak of the season. On the bright side, center Tyler Bozak is set to return to the lineup Tuesday night and return to the Leafs’ top line alongside Kessel and Lupul. Tim Connolly has simply not been able to connect with the 2 snipers, something Bozak has, therefore a shift in the lines have been implemented ahead of Tuesday night’s match-up with the Senators. The line-up is as follows:
On the defensive end, after briefly being sent down to the Marlies, rookie Jake Gardiner is back up with the big club. It is not yet known who will be sitting on the defensive end, but all eyes point to Gardiner getting back into the lineup. Finally in goal, James Reimer will see his first action in six games, as he tries to get back into the win column and win back his number 1 job.
This past week also saw the beginning of a long month ahead filled with crazy trade speculation and rumors. The spark to this period… Brian Burke’s comments on a radio show where he stated that the Leafs are closing in on a deal and although things can change, it is “very likely” the Leafs make a move shortly.
These comments were made last week, and we have yet to see a deal, so maybe it fell through? Or perhaps Burke is waiting for the right opportunity to make a splash. Regardless Burke knows we are one impact forward away from being a contender in the East, and personally I have a gut feeling it will be sooner rather than later that this forward lands in Toronto.
Time to cue the names rumored to be on the move… We have heard the likes of James Van Riemsdyk, Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf and Eric Staal just to name a few. With Van Riemsdyk’s most recent concussion you can all but scratch him off the list as potential trade bait (unless it is very minor and he returns to action within the next few weeks).
Bobby Ryan is probably the most rumored to be on the move of the remaining three and perhaps the most acquirable asset for the right price. The rumored asking price for Ryan/Getzlaf from Anaheim’s perspective would be one of Joe Colborne or Nazem Kadri, a prospect, and a 1st rounder. Depending on who that prospect is and how high they are on the rankings can essentially make or break this trade.
Looking through GM Brian Burke’s eyes, I think it is safe to assume he expects he would have to let go of one of those young prospects although he might try to ship off a roster player instead of another prospect to minimize the damage done to the youth pool. Also, because the Leafs would be acquiring another top line asset, this makes a 2nd/3rd line guy expendable, for example Mikhail Grabovski or Clarke MacArthur (both of whom have been rumored to be on the move).
Finally defenseman Luke Schenn may also be used as heavy trade bait simply because our defensive depth has exceeded expectations this season and with John-Michael Liles set to return soon, the logjam on the back end is quite a waste. Yes I know, the more depth the better, but there comes a time when excess parts are converted into covetable assets, which in this case means trading a defender (and perhaps more), for an impact, top-six forward.
With all of that said, the rumors are expected to wheel in as we approach the end of January and into the beginning of February. Burke is known to make his ‘big’ moves well ahead of the deadline so it is safe to say the end of January is a possible time frame for one of these deals to go down (if they do). Until it happens, all of us fans will have to wait patiently and hope Burke can pull of some magic like we have seen him do in the past.
Aside from the rumors, these upcoming games are as big as ever, and the team needs to focus on winning some hockey games and picking up points, ensuring they are back in the top 8 for good.
May 4th, 2004. That date can mean many different things to people; but for any die hard Toronto Maple Leafs fan like me, you’ll recognize that date as the last time the Leafs saw playoff action. It was game 6 in the conference semi-finals against the Flyers where they lost 3-2 off Jeremy Roenick’s GWG to put away the series. Since then I’m sure many suffering fans have developed distaste for the Flyers, I know I have. But that’s all in the past; it’s time to look ahead to the future which looks very promising.
This year’s free agency class hasn’t created much of a “frenzy” for the Toronto Maple Leafs. It’s safe to say that the Brad Richards situation put a damper on the Leafs’ hopes of acquiring a top line centre. Despite all this, the Maple Leafs and fans have a lot to look forward to this coming season. Arguably the biggest name the Leafs have signed this off-season is Tim Connolly. The 30-year-old had 13 goals and 29 assists in 68 games last season with the Buffalo Sabres. Connolly will add some jump to the top 6 forwards, and he has the potential to be a 70-point or more player, provided that he stays healthy. He will be contending with Tyler Bozak and Mikhail Grabovski to centre the top line of Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul. Mathew Lombardi is also in the mix for the top centre position, if and only if he is healthy enough for action. Nazem Kadri will most likely be moved into a winger position, which will suit his style of play a lot better. Kadri has the skill, but the size factor is his biggest issue. If he wants to have an impact on this time, he’s going to have to train hard so he can provide more “truculence” along with his finesse.
Brian Burke also locked up three of their solid grinders Mike Zigomanis, Darryl Boyce, and Joey Crabb to one-year contracts. Along with the acquisition of Philippe Dupuis, the Maple Leafs will have all the force necessary from their forwards. And who can forget Colton Orr? Expect to see a lot of offense this season. The forwards are developing quite nicely within the organization. Joe Colborne and Tyler Biggs are just two names for fans to get excited about.
With the average height of 6’3, the Maple Leafs’ defense will hopefully live up to the expectations they’ve had on their shoulders for the past two seasons. Look for Luke Schenn to continue his strong and dominate play on the Leafs’ blue line from last season. With any luck, John-Michael Liles will do what he was brought here to do, which is fill in the hole of puck-moving defenceman Tomas Kaberle. Brett Lebda was the closest thing the Leafs had to Kaberle during the second half of the season; that isn’t a good thing. Miraculously Burke was able to pull a rabbit out of the hat and actually acquire something decent for him in Cody Franson and Matthew Lombardi. Many fans including myself have been less than impressed with the performance of Mike Komisarek, former all-star defenceman for the Montréal Canadiens. If his dreadful play continues, it is likely that Burke will pool him in a trade for another asset that he may have his eye on. And let’s not forget about Optimus Reim, the Maple Leafs’ number one goalie James Reimer. The 23-year-old from Morweena, MB, had a 20-10-5 record, with .921 SV% and a 2.60 GAA; not bad for a kid buried within the system. He is an outstanding athlete and human being, who this year will give the Leafs some much needed support in goal.
May 4th, 2004. Given some of the additions Brian Burke has made combined with the development of the young players in the system, that date will likely be changed to mid/ late April of 2012 when the playoffs begin. The Maple Leafs are a solid young team and should definitely make the post-season this year.
- Michael Cappabianca
With the calender reaching August, the 2011-12 season is right around the corner. It seems Brian Burke is done signing free agents, due to the abundance of forwards and defense. Tons of questions still remain on the Toronto Maple Leafs. But here are a few thoughts and opinions on their upcoming season.
1.I feel that Komisarek and possibly Bozak will be dealt this season for a prospect or a mid round pick. Possibly packaged together, or separately in bigger deals.
2.Frattin will out play Kadri in preseason and will take his spot in the line-up. Kadri will start the season with the Toronto Marlies, and will build chemistry with Colborne. Is it a good thing? I say yes. Kadri should be top 6 or AHL bound this season. Putting him on the third line is going to hurt his development.
3.During pre-season, Ron Wilson should put Kulemin on a line with Phil Kessel and Tim Connolly, and put Lupul with Grabovski, and Macarthur. With Kulemin’s strong board play, and his great defensive play; him and Connolly would really help that line defensively and offensively.
4.Cody Franson won’t live up to the high expectations many Leaf fans are already putting on him. Unfortunately, many Leaf fans only see his size, offensive capabilities, and age, and think he will be a stud. Playing on a great defensive team, Franson wasn’t that good in his own end, and using a better choice of words than Bill Watters– Franson is “soft”.
5.If the rumours of Phil Kessel training with Gary Roberts are true; And with the addition of Tim Connolly–who is known to be a play making centre; Kessel will score 40 goals this season.
6.With the additions of Greg Cronin and Scott Gordon to the coaching staff, and a few new additions to the Leafs line-up; The Leafs power play will rank around 15th in the league.
7.Dion Phaneuf will return to his old self. With the additions of Connolly and John-Michael Liles, Dion Phaneuf will improve this season, and will get most of his points on the power play.
8.Mathew Lombardi won’t be healthy enough to start the season in October. He will play his first game as a Maple Leafs late November or Early December.
9.James Reimer won’t be as good as he was last season. But he is still going to be a steady goalie this season. His attitude will help him get out of funks, and won’t allow him to go into a sophomore slump.
10.If the Leafs aren’t over .500 in the first 3 games, the famous “Fire Ron Wilson” line will come back more than ever.
11.If Lombardi is indeed healthy, there will be no need to panic if Tim Connolly goes down with an injury. In the 09-10 season, Lombardi was able to put up 53 points in 78 games with the Phoenix Coyotes, registering 19 goals and 34 assists.
12.If he is still a Maple Leaf this season—Tyler Bozak will be an effective third line centre with Colby Armstrong. The 2 have shown chemistry in the past, and have been very effective on the penalty kill.
13.Luke Schenn will be re-signed in the next 2 weeks. Don Meehan—the agent of Luke Schenn; has publicly stated Schenn’s contract will be an “August issue”.
14.Brian Burke will get a first line centre sometime this season. Burke knows the Leafs desperately need a true number 1 centre, and he will work harder than ever to acquire one.
15.If the Leafs get out to a steady start, and don’t go on 5 game losing streaks like before, they will make the playoffs.
With this year’s free agent frenzy pretty much over, with the exception of a few decent UFA’s remaining and the exciting controversy of RFA Steven Stamkos heating up, the beginning of a long dreaded summer is starting to kick in. Throughout July and August we will see some trades and signings here and there, but the true anticipation is waiting for September to come and training camps to open. Until then, I decided to look ahead towards next summer’s free agent frenzy and speculate on some potential UFA’s and RFA’s that may break the bank or be of interest to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Although 2013 is being looked at as the best potential free agent market in the last decade with names such as Sidney Crosby, Corey Perry, and Ryan Getzlaf all being UFA eligible (although they are likely going to re-sign), the 2012 class as it stands looks to be fairly good as well. Keep in mind that many of these players that are going to be mentioned will resign with their current club, however it is inevitable that most will not, so time to fuel the speculation.
2012 will mark the end of an era in terms of a few key veteran UFA’s. First up is defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom who recently re-upped with Detroit for 1 more year. Although he is still as effective as ever, I am sure 2012 will be the year he finally hangs them up. Another player… or goalie I should say who has never even hit the free agent market is Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils. Next year at 40 years of age, and a decreasing level of play may mark the end for his tenure as well. Lastly Shane Doan of the Phoenix Coyotes and soon to be something else may also decide to move on from the team that has nurtured him for so long. Doan will be 35, so I still see some more time left in his career, meaning teams looking for leadership and a great veteran presence will be lining up at the doorstep for his services come July 1, 2012. Sticking with the veterans, next year’s market will also see some key players who may be looking to move on for one more contract. They include: Brian Rolston, Daymond Langkow, Milan Hejduk, Saku Koivu, Sami Salo, and Ryan Smyth.
As well as a solid group of veterans set to hit the free agent market next season, there also lies a core group of young UFA’s at only 26 years of age who will surely garner much attention if still available on July 1, 2012. The likes of allstar defencemen Brent Burns and Ryan Suter lead the pack. Both are yet to hit their prime and will definitely rake in some big money on the open market. After these 2 come a 2nd tier class which include: Matt Carle, Matt Hunwick, Andrei Kostitsyn, Torey Mitchell, Brayden Coburn, and Toronto’s own Jonas Gustavsson, all of whom are solid players and would definitely make an impact on any team’s roster.
With a balance of both youth and experience present in 2012′s free agent class, there is an abundance of talent that will please teams on either side of the spectrum looking to pick up players from either one of these categories.
Now to the exciting part… I am going to rank the top 30 free agents available regardless of age or team loyalty, or anything of that nature which may impact where they sign prior or post July 1, 2012.
1. Alexander Semin
2. Patrick Sharp
3. Pekka Rinne
4. Ales Hemsky
5. Nicklas Lidstrom
6. Ryan Suter
7. Brent Burns
8. Dustin Penner
9. Mikhail Grabovski
10. Nicklas Kronwall
11. Shane Doan
12. Kristian Huselius
13. Brad Boyes
14. John-Michael Liles
15. RJ Umberger
16. Chris Kunitz
17. Jiri Hudler
18. Andrei Kostitsyn
19. Milan Hejduk
20. Johnny Oduya
21. Dennis Wideman
22. Francois Beauchemin
23. Olli Jokinen
24. Tuomo Ruutu
25. Ray Whitney
26. Michal Rozsival
27. Richard Peverley
28. Matt Carle
29. Tomas Holmstrom
30. Brayden Coburn
So that is my top 30 2012 UFA list as it stands today. As you can see there is tons of talent set to be available, with all of these 30 players being large impact players who would definitely be an asset to any team going forward.
Personally I do not like talking much about RFA’s because 95% of them will resign with their current team before they are set to be free agents. However, with that said I must make note that 2012 will see many key RFA’s contracts expire. If you do the math correctly, yes that means 5% of these RFA’s will likely switch teams via trade or the ever so rare “offer sheet”. Some huge names already established in the NHL who are set to become RFA’s include: John Tavares, Carey Price, Mike Green, David Krejci, Victor Hedman, Erik Johnson, David Perron, Sam Gagner, James Van Riemsdyk, Tyler Myers, and Toronto’s own Nikolai Kulemin.
As noted before, many of the unrestricted and restricted free agents listed above will resign with their current team before next year’s free agent frenzy. However, it is always fun to speculate and analyze who may become available. In my personal opinion the names on this years top 30 list blow this current year’s (2011) list out of the water. If over half of these UFA names are still on the list come July 1 2012, I can confirm that we are surely in for an exciting frenzy! Much to look forward to over the next year; and as a fan of player movement around the NHL, let us hope these names stay on the board when the market opens and have new teams by this time next year.