I generally try to avoid these types of posts, but it seems like a lot of the hockey world is talking about the amount of movement that should start tomorrow if the Chicago Blackhawks are able to close out the Stanley Cup Final with a win tonight.
Dave Nonis said yesterday that he expects to make more moves prior to free agency opening on July 5. As long as Nonis is looking to add his pieces via trades rather than free agency, he’s on the right path. There are a couple of good buys in the UFA and RFA markets, but adding your best pieces in free agency is one of the best ways to get hamstrung with a bad salary cap situation. Given how many teams have to work to get under the cap, there are going to be lots of players available on the trade market and in buyouts, and the Leafs are in a decent cap position, even with $3.425M going to Colton Orr, Darcy Tucker, Colby Armstrong and the salaries of Ben Scrivens and Matt Frattin, so they can buy during this window.
I disagree fundamentally with the traits in hockey players that Nonis values, but at least he’s looking to add to his team during the right window. There’s that? Apparently, Dion Phaneuf is in play.
I hear Phaneuf is in play, that if there’s a chance, he’s got another year on his deal, I don’t want to Twitter world to get it started and accuse me of starting something…
All right, Mr. Kypreos, we won’t accuse you. Frankly, it’s a good thing that you were able to shout down Doug MacLean from saying something potentially harmful about the “Tyler Bozak problem”. The “Tyler Bozak problem” relates to “The Bonnie Situation” from Pulp Fiction in a way. There is a corpse on the Leafs’ first line, and Toronto need to clean it out before Quentin Tarantino’s wife gets home from the hospital after an overnight shift.
Or maybe it doesn’t. Point being, the logic for trading Dion Phaneuf is that he’s a year left on a deal and there are some “win now” teams with space that could use him. I can see it. I don’t think that Toronto is going to make the playoffs this season with this current roster and although re-signing Phaneuf is preferable to trading him, Phaneuf will have more value on the trade market before the season starts than at the trading deadline.
I obviously like Phaneuf, and the Leafs like him too. The Score reprinted a post I wrote from May that talked about how Phaneuf was a heavy minutes leader in the NHL. He had awful possession stats this season but spent the season against the best competition opponents could offer and with Korbinian Holzer and an injured Carl Gunnarsson. That said, him and Gunnarsson while healthy, in a role that was more consistent with other top pairings in the league, have been successful in the past in keeping play out of the Leafs’ end.
On Sunday afternoon, Rimer tweeted out: ”Hearing Leafs have had discussions with Oilers about Sam Gagner. Leafs are looking for a young centre and he certainly fits the bill. … I do see the Leafs adding one of Gagner, Stastny or Stephen Weiss. … Vancouver has also has discussions about Gagner as Sam’s dad Dave is part of Canucks MGMT.”
A few hours later, Terry Jones of the Sun said on Twitter: “Edmonton Oiler GM Craig MacTavish to meet with media Tuesday. Let the speculation begin. Horcoff deal done? Hemsky? Draft update?”
Gagner is a Restricted Free Agent. He’s a good young player, with the makings of a solid attacking forward for the next half-dozen years. He had an up and down season and had real trouble at times in his own zone, but perhaps a coach like Dallas Eakins could help him with that, either by better schooling him at centre or by moving him to a less onerous position on the wing.
It would make sense that other teams, such as Toronto, would be keenly interested in acquiring a player like Gagner. In that sense, what Rimmer says isn’t news at all. Of course the Leafs would be asking about Gagner.
It’s troubling. I think we can all agree that the Leafs need another piece on the back end, but I can’t find a recent quote from Nonis that discusses the importance of it. In Vancouver he built from the net out, adding Roberto Luongo and Willie Mitchell in his first summer gutting the team.
The Leafs have some good pieces on defence including Cody Franson and Jake Gardiner, but there are questions that remain. Will the team buy out John-Michael Liles? If yes, who replaces him? If not, who is the extra right-handed shot the Leafs are going to bring in? Will Mark Fraser and Mike Kostka be given the same roles? Are the Leafs going to do *any*thing to improve at that position?
Some rumors today about Dion Phaneuf possibly being on the trade block. If the Avs got him, they’d almost certainly have to deal Paul Stastny to get him – in large part just to make the math work on the salary cap. Phaneuf’s cap hit is $6.5 million, just under Stastny’s $6.6 million. Like Stastny, Phaneuf can be an unrestricted free agent after this season.
Would I make that trade if I’m GM of the Avs? Sure I would. Especially if I knew I was getting MacKinnon in another seven days. Assuming the Avs don’t take Jones, they’ll need to add more on defense and Phaneuf would be a nice get for Stastny I think. Yeah, they might lose him for nothing after one year, but that might have happened with Stastny too. I’m not aware of any actual talks so far between the Avs and Leafs on this though. But let’s see how the week plays out. It’s going to be interesting I have a feeling.
It makes for interesting discussion. Would Nonis prioritize a No. 1 centre over a No. 1 defenceman? This isn’t about what the average commenter thinks about Phaneuf and his leadership or whatever, but multiple coaches in the organization now have counted on Phaneuf the most.
Previously, it was François Beauchemin, and the Leafs possession numbers took a turn for the worse when he left, so how could the team handle losing yet another quality defenceman without replacing him with immediate help?
I’d agree that Phaneuf is coming off of a down year, but he had an excellent 2011-2012 and that season was more consistently in line with who he is as a player. If you dispatch him, you’d better make sure you have a Plan A, because the lack of immediacy in replacing Beauchemin continues to haunt the Leafs’ defence to this day.