June 29 2013 12:52PM
There are an awful lot of trade rumours out there and few have any substance behind them. We'll concentrate instead on stuff that is likely to come out to be true or false in the coming days.
Earlier, the Leafs gave qualifying offers to all of the players on the team's NHL roster, meaning that they'll all keep their restricted free agent status when their contracts expire. QOs are generally one-year, small raises on the previous deal and are rejected by most key NHL players, allowing the team and the player to work on something more substantial.
But here's a fun nugget from Aaron Ward:
Told Mark Fraser got QO from the Toronto Maple Leafs on a 2 way Qualifier and will not accept #TSN— Aaron Ward (@aaronward_nhl) June 29, 2013
This is good news.
The first reason this is good news is that the Maple Leafs didn't look at Fraser's gawdy +/- total from last season and decide all of a sudden to give a number 7 defenceman an NHL deal. Now, a two-way contract wouldn't mean Fraser would be able to go down to the minors without clearing waivers, but it would save the organization some money if he were sent down.
I don't particularly care about MLSE's bottom line, and saving them $500K here and there doesn't make a big difference, but Dave Nonis does, and Dave Nonis has envisioned a scenario where Fraser doesn't make the team, and Nonis will save his bosses some cash.
Why that's good news? Because it means that the Leafs are going to be looking to upgrade the defence for once. The team has not acquired a Top 4 defenceman since the trading of François Beauchemin. Jake Gardiner and Cody Franson are close, but the Leafs could sure use some insurance. With the "loss" of Ryan O'Byrne and Mike Kostka's NHL future uncertain because he struggled in his first year of competition, the team doesn't have a right shot on the third pairing. Factor in the uncertainty surrounding John-Michael Liles, and Gardiner-Franson are playing on the second pairing out of default.
Fraser is a good depth player, but Nonis needs to realize that he needs at least one or two bodies on the depth chart that can land ahead of Fraser. Giving him a two-way contract to start, even if Fraser eventually signs a one-way, at least means that the process is there and Nonis recognizes the problem.
(It doesn't take a genius to realize the Leafs need an upgrade on D, or any sort of statistics. You can watch this game and know that the Leafs were out of their element 66% of the time last year.)
Fraser is a good 7 guy who can both play a regular shift and fight. While I'm not keen on the idea of fighters, if the scraps on your team are limited to players like Fraser that aren't chasing around goons every second time on the ice, and are playing 14-15 replacement-level minutes a night, then I'm on board with toughness. Fraser's the prototypical 7th defenceman, but that doesn't mean he's worth anything more than his qualifying offer.
Per Capgeek, the Leafs other RFAs are Nazem Kadri, Joe Colborne, Frazer McLaren, Carl Gunnarsson, Cody Franson and Jonathan Bernier. Leo Komarov is also listed on the club's official roster as of June 29, but he appears to have signed in Russia. Hopefully during media availability this week, somebody can ask Nonis whether Komarov received a QO from the Leafs, or if he's done.