We’re a week away from the 2013 trade deadline and the Leafs are in the un-enviable position of having to choose between “buy” and “sell” mode. Whether you watch this team live or through spreadsheet goggles, the problems the team faces are pretty clear. They give up too many shots, their first line can’t generate any pressure and the productive players are the ones who seem to be playing with the young Nazem Kadri.
Our pals around the Nations Network have offered their own individual takes for what their teams should do going into the deadline. The Leafs haven’t been in a position to buy “or” sell at the deadline in recent years, although they did negotiate a good return for François Beauchemin and Tomas Kaberle in the 2011 season. Thanks to Brian Burke’s efforts those years, the Leafs have pieces like Joffrey Lupul, Jake Gardiner and Joe Colborne plus a glut of conditional picks that have yet to become NHLers, but maybe they will some day.
Last season was a little toned down, however. The team re-signed Mikhail Grabovski and John-Michael Liles long-term. Burke traded Keith Aulie for Carter Ashton and Dale Mitchell for Mark Fraser. There weren’t a lot of trade chips last season.
This year though, the Leafs have some interesting trade bait, and it will be interesting to see what Dave Nonis does to both maximize his team’s shot at a playoff run this season.
The Leafs have five upcoming unrestricted free agents, two of which are likely to command a lot of interest and the most obvious one is Tyler Bozak. He has improved every year since coming into the NHL, with 18 goals and 47 points last season, and is on pace for a 22-goal season over 82 games after scoring 9 in his first 33 this year.
Bozak is also a capable face-off man, 25th in the league with a 53.0% rate this season, ahead of notable centremen like Paul Stastny, Bryan Little and David Legwand.
At least, that’s the sales pitch. Bozak is set to make a hefty penny this summer due to the lack of talent up the middle in the free agency department. While Bozak centering the first line in the past was the natural midpoint of the human stopgap and the Leafs rebuild, the fact that he’s still there despite Toronto having three capable centres in Nazem Kadri, Mikhail Grabovski and Jay McClement seems absurd.
There’s a lot of work done into what Bozak brings to the Leafs and what he doesn’t, and rather than re-hash that I’ll just quote a section from this David Johnson piece: “Tyler Bozak doesn’t shoot much, isn’t a great playmaker, isn’t good defensively and yet coaches seem to insist on using him as a first line center. His main contribution to a team is winning face offs and going to the opposing teams net waiting for the puck to come to him so he can pot an easy close in goal.”
It’s an apt summary, and shocked as we were over at the Nations to find that Tyler Bozak does have trade value, the fact nobody claimed Jussi Jokinen on waivers is a good thing, since no team satisfied its need for a plug-in centreman before the deadline.
This is an old tweet from Dreger as to whether Toronto would move him:
Leafs not in a rush to sign or trade Bozak. Need him for playoff push. Unlikely to get 1st line money out of Tor. Likely ufa in July. #TSN
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) March 15, 2013
The San Jose Sharks got two picks in return for an immobile defenceman in Douglas Murray and a good prospect in return for Brenden Morrow, a guy who has played mostly third line minutes in Dallas this season. The market has been set plenty high by the Pittsburgh Penguins. The problem is that when you sell guys like Bozak and Douglas Murray, it’s like selling a used car. Thankfully, Bozak having played the last three seasons with one of the best wingers in hockey is analogus to rolling back the miles on the odometer.
Another impending UFA, and a versatile winger who has played the right wing on lines centred by Bozak, Kadri and Grabovski this season, mostly effectively. He’s out with an upper-body injury right now, and I think the original preference was “trade Lupul, re-sign MacArthur” but that may flip the other way round.
@draglikepull wrote a post comparing MacArthur favourably to Brenden Morrow and Jarome Iginla. The difference is that people expect a lot more out of Morrow, but MacArthur has been a pleasant surprise in Toronto, signed to a cheap one-year deal in his first UFA season and scoring his first two 20-goal seasons in his first two seasons with Toronto.
Given his decent point production capability and his exceptional play driving skills I think MacArthur’s value should be well above Morrow’s and probably pretty comparable to Iginla’s. Some of that may depend on what exactly a team is looking for, as MacArthur is the least talented goal scorer of the group. But as an all-around 2-way player, MacArthur seems to provide at least as much value as Jarome Iginla does at this stage in his career. Would any GM be willing to offer the kind of package for Clarke MacArthur that they would for Jarome Iginla? Not a chance. But if they’re judging these players based on their actual contributions to winning hockey games rather than their reputations, they might want to think about it.
MacArthur’s a good player, and at age 28 still has a couple of seasons left in his physical peak. Maybe he isn’t a 20-goal scorer anymore, but he will still be able to drive play forward and the best solution would be for Toronto to re-sign him for another couple of seasons.
That said, if re-signing him isn’t in the clubs plans before the deadline, and why would it be with so many games bunched this tightly together before April 3, he may be worth moving if the return is going to be similar to what Dallas got for Morrow. Unfortunately, National Hockey League general managers have a different perception of value as statistical bloggers.
If MacArthur walks from the Leafs as a UFA, then we’ll know a mistake has been made. Even if he isn’t traded, there’s still a chance he could re-sign between now and July 1.
Kulemin’s a very interesting case. He scored 15 goals, 16 goals, 30 goals, then 7. Now he’s on pace for 12, which is closer to his overall value considering he plays limited powerplay time. I wrote in the summer two posts during the RFA re-signing phase, the first focusing on offence and the second focusing on defence, and the conclusion is that Kulemin is a below-average scoring winger with above-average defensive talents. IE: he’s somebody that any general manager should be happy to plug in on his right or left wing on the second and third line. Kulemin has played both wings over the three seasons I’ve been analyzing the Leafs.
He still has a year left on his deal at $2.8-million, a fairly cheap one and if the Leafs were to move him, I doubt they’d be able to replace him with a better or brighter talent for the same price next season. Unlike MacArthur, the Leafs shouldn’t be feeling pressure to move him, which means Dave Nonis could command a higher price for the Russian.
I only brought up Kulemin here because Nick Kypreos and Doug MacLean keep bringing his name up during intermission panels. He’s on my early roster for the 2014 Toronto Maple Leafs, thanks in large part due to his versatility. At least one Winnipeg Jets blogger wants him.
Naturally these aren’t the only names floating around, but I suspect that the Leafs are most likely to move these three players out of anybody on the roster. Colton Orr, Mike Kostka and Ryan Hamilton are both UFAs this offseason, but I doubt either commands much value on the trade market.
Part of the problem with a team like Toronto is that with new management and teetering on the “rebuild or not rebuild” plank, they’re an extremely volatile organization that’s tough to get a grasp on what they’re trying to do this season. The Leafs will be 75% of the way through the season, with 12 games to go on the calendar, by the time the deadline rolls around.
Anyway, tomorrow we’ll have a post up on some names that the Leafs might target, and which positions they should specifically attack. They have three interesting names to sell, should it come to that, all of which could command a good return of picks or young roster players to bolster the Leafs into the future.
I can tell you from observing Nonis in the past that he isn’t willing to pull off big mid-season deals. Our pal The Stanchion has a list of Canucks deadline moves up today, and Nonis was at the helm of that franchise in 2006, 2007 and 2008.