We're excited to bring you a new recurring feature - the TLN Roundtable. Every week, we'll pose a Leafs-related question to our writers, gather the various opinions, post the answers, and create internal tension and hatred amongst us. Then you, the reader, get to tell us how wrong we all are in the comments!
This week's question...
The Leafs are seriously thin down the middle... Should Toronto make a trade for another centre or stand pat and ride it out?
The Leafs should stand pat for a similar reason for why they stayed with Tyler Bozak - who's available? The reason it's hard to get a good centre is because there aren't many out there, and the teams that have them don't want to give them up. The ones that are free agents? Usually too bloody expensive. Remember when the Leafs didged the Brad Richards bullet but still ended up settling for "the second-best centre available" in Tim Connolly?
One name I saw get brought up on Twitter a few times in the last week or two was Florida Panthers centre Marcel Goc. For some reason it feels like he's been in the league forever, but he's only 30. He's not Sidney Crosby but for the $1.7 million price tag attached to him he's a decent bargain, plus he's a UFA at the end of the season.
Here's a thought: I wonder if the Panthers would be enticed by one of the Leafs' depth defencemen on the Marlies? Korbinian Holzer hasn't played especially well, but he has NHL experience. Perhaps a package of him and a middle to late round pick like a 4th or 5th for Marcel Goc? What about straight up for Jesse Blacker? We here at the Nations have Blacker in the top ten Leafs prospects
, but he's only played five games so far in a 2013-14 Marlies campaign where he's been a healthy scratch almost all the time. If the Panthers don't want to give up on Goc, then another name I've seen suggested is Mr. "I was once traded for Todd Bertuzzi" Shawn Matthias. He makes $1.75 million against the cap this year and next, and he's a BIG GOOD OL' CANADIAN KED AND EVRYTHINK LIKE TAT! *thumbs up*
Seriously though, Kadri is only gone for three games, and two of them are against the Sabres. Bozak will be back in a week or so. Unless the Leafs completely start to suck and fall to under .500 before Christmas, I say just stand pat for now.
The injury to Bolland has really emphasized the Leafs' lack of depth at centre this time around, but they've been weak there for half a decade anyway. I've wanted them to make a big trade in that area for a while, and I still feel the same way. And by the way, I truly believe the Leafs are a stronger team without Bozak in the lineup, due to the coaching staff's insistence on him being on the top line. People think I say that just to troll on Twitter, but I'm dead serious.
Up until the injury, Bolland played extremely well, and is no doubt versatile, but there's no guarantee that he'll be back after this season. Nonis should be looking for centre help in a big way. It isn't easy to pull off a deal for a guy that can play on the top two lines, but a shakeup like that could do wonders in helping the Leafs with their defensive game and keep things in the opposition's end, even if it means stripping depth from from the wing or unloading one of their prospect blue liners.
Of course the alternative to making a big move is to ride it out, but I'm not sure what the Leafs would be riding to. As it stands right now they have Kadri and Bozak beyond this year, and both Bolland and McClement on expiring deals. Unless there's some substantial movement to clean up that situation and get another good name in there with an ounce of skill, the Leafs might continue to scrape by, but they won't win anything.
Stand pat - for now. Unless we're talking about a major, major trade that would bring a young, top flight centre to the Leafs, it's probably not worth it. I imagine at this point in the season the price for a capable 2nd or 3rd line pivot will be too high. Should the Leafs really entertain the idea of trading one of their assets - a Jake Gardiner, perhaps - to plug injury holes? No, those assets should be packaged to improve a team, not keep them afloat.
The Leafs are 11-6-1 on the season, and their next four games are against Buffalo, Buffalo again, the Islanders, and Nashville. Despite injuries, those are all winnable games. If the Leafs can pocket some points in the upcoming stretch, then it's best to ride it out. Going with Bozak, Kadri, McClement and Smithson/Smith down the middle is far from ideal, but I'm not convinced it's enough to sink the team if the wings stay healthy and the goaltending remains out-of-its-mind good. Furthermore, how does the cap situation work out when the aforementioned injured do return? Making a trade today is a knee-jerk reaction - it's probably another week or two until I'd make a move.
But hey, if someone wants to give Toronto a perfectly elite centre for a middling prospect and a Bon Jovi banner, be my guest.