Toronto - June 5, 2014 - Rumours Swirling around Leafs and #1 Pick
Are Phaneuf and Kadri on the way out of T.O?
As the end of June and the NHL Entry Draft nears, the trade talk surrounding the top first round picks is beginning to heat up. After the disastrous collapse of the Leafs season in late March and April the team made sweeping changes letting go a number of assistant coaches and hiring Brendan Shanahan. It appears this trend will continue as rumours of trade possibilities are picking up, specifically the Leafs moving up potentially into the #1 spot. As Leaf fans have come to expect, Nazem Kadri’s name is being talked about a great deal in connection to a potential trade. As is Captain Dion Phaneuf after receiving a lot of criticism about his play during the season ending collapse and defenseman Jake Gardiner, which is something Leaf fans should be accustomed to.
Both the Florida Panthers at #1 overall and the New York Islanders at #5 overall have made it clear they would be willing to trade out of their respective spots for the right price. So is Kadri, Phaneuf or Gardiner likely to be part of a deal this June? The answer is maybe Kadri.
A trade for Kadri makes sense in a specific scenario. First off it has to be with Florida, for the #1 overall pick and you then have to then draft Sam Bennett. Kadri just completed his first full year in the NHL with 50 points and 20 goals. He was also ranked 5th on the team in terms of Corsi, a stat which the Leafs as a team finished dead last in. Kadri is a highly skilled player still in his development with a very high ceiling. It only makes sense to trade him if in return you are getting a player that has been compared at length to Jonathan Toews.
On top of that the Leafs would probably need to re-sign Dave Bolland who is asking for a contract comparable to David Clarkson. Big money, long term. After re-signing Bolland you would also have to re-sign RFA Peter Holland. The 23 year old centermen was acquired earlier this year and put up respectable numbers with the Leafs and Marlies. The Maple Leafs are already lacking depth in the middle of the ice and would need to solidify that if they were to make a move for Bennett.
In terms of dealing either Phaneuf or Gardiner it just doesn’t make sense given the draft class and the teams needs. The Leafs had the worst Corsi stats in the league and are in desperate need of help on their back end. Both players mentioned finished one and two in terms of average ice time on the team. Phaneuf averaging 23:24 and Gardiner averaging around 21 minutes, despite playing 23+ over the last stretch of the season. To trade either of your top 2 defensemen in a draft class with only 3 defensemen projected in top 20 is not a smart move. Especially with the talk that Ekblad may be overrated it would appear to be a reckless move by the team if they were to pull the trigger.
The Leafs have multiple players in the AHL who appear to be ready to make the jump to the pros this year. After poor cap management last season stifled the ability to use their AHL affiliate Marlies to their full potential, Leaf fans should expect a healthy dose of Carter Ashton, Petter Granberg and Peter Holland this season. Marlies coach Steve Spott has endorsed all 3 as “NHL players” and with only 5 forwards under contract at the time of writing this, I would expect all of them to get heavily looked at come training camp. Players that I would be less surprised to see shopped around besides Kadri would be; James Reimer, Joffrey Lupul and Cody Franson.
Goalie James Reimer regressed somewhat this year after losing the starting job to Jonathan Bernier. While his stock may have dropped, most believe this season was not reflective of his abilities as a goalie and his displeasure with the current situation in Toronto is well documented. It would appear a trade out of Toronto is inevitable for the Winnipeg born goalie.
Left winger Joffrey Lupul has been a fan favourite of Leaf fans since his arrival in 2011 he only managed 44 points last season. At 30 years old and a cap hit of 5.25 million dollars next year I would not be surprised if he were moved. He is talented and could very well continue to be a solid second or third liner in the league for years to come. However his production and age just aren’t worth the money he is being paid. If Kadri is not traded I would expect Lupul to be moved, especially in a draft where 5 left wingers are projected to go in the top 10.
Finally a name I feel worth mentioning is Cody Franson. After a season in which he simply did not look good on the ice, and failed to live up statistically to seasons past this is not a player I expect back. With potential free agents like Penguins Matt Niskanen, Bruin Andrej Meszaros and veterans like Andrei Markov and Kimmo Timonen it makes sense to pursue a defensemen elsewhere. 5 goals in 79 games is not a hard statistic to replace, and can be done for cheaper than Franson’s asking price.
I feel the most likely outcome if there is to be a trade is Kadri and perhaps one of the 3 players i mentioned earlier getting shipped to Florida. Could the Maple Leafs trade up into a top 5 spot on June 27th? Yes, easily in fact. Could they trade Phaneuf or Gardiner? This is the team that traded Tuukka Rask (yes that Tuukka Rask) for Andrew Raycroft. Nobody knows what this team may do in the days leading up to the draft. Kadri could very well be traded and it might not be a horrible idea. Apart from Kadri being traded to Florida though, I do not see Phaneuf or Gardiner being traded. Who knows though, this is the Toronto Maple Leafs we are talking about. All top 5 teams in the draft would appear to all be suitable trading partners for the Blue and White, the question is will a deal get done.
@RobMcPhee on twitter.