Leafs Push Hard For First Overall

It looks like the Toronto Maple Leafs are swinging for the fences this afternoon. According to Mike Kelly of the NHL Network, the Florida Panthers are considering an offer from Toronto for the first overall pick that includes Left Winger James Van Riemsdyk.

What’s Happening?

This seems like complete and utter crazy talk to me. The Leafs are a bit of a cap mess at the moment. They’re walking away from their longest serving player (Nikolai Kulemin) over restraints. They went over the cap last year due to rookie bonuses. They may not bring Leo Komarov back over cap issues, they may walk away from Mason Raymond over cap issues, they may trade Dion Phaneuf issues, and basically the only players who appear to be safe are David Clarkson (by force) and David Bolland (if he signs).

Meanwhile, James van Riemsdyk has a top 5 contract in the National Hockey League. He appears to be a legitimate 0.75+ point per game player that just turned 25 years old, and makes just 4.25 million dollars a season for four more years. Yet he’s the deal you move with no immediate replacement?

Also consider that the Leafs are likely to go with the consensus and pick Aaron Ekblad with the top selection. This is likely good for their defensive depth, but at the same time, leaves the Leafs with only Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul as legitimate top six wingers. Nazem Kadri could shift to left wing, but then the Leafs either do or don’t have a single top six centre, depending on your feelings about Tyler Bozak and Peter Holland.

Not to mention that he’s one of the pieces. Who else goes? This doesn’t make sense unless they’ve somehow convinced Dale Tallon to take on a cap dump in this deal as well.

Other Speculation

The Score had a report up yesterday about the Leafs being potentially interested in signing Milan Michalek. He could be the second line left winger that fills the gap, but at the same time, is likely a significant downgrade. Michalek put up 39 points in 82 games last year, and was a negative relative possession player for the Senators. One can argue that he had an unlucky year (0.890 goaltending behind you doesn’t help you get back into the offensive zone to produce), but I don’t think he’s potting 35 again any time soon. Not to mention that he’s four years older than JVR.

Also, in a presser where Dave Nonis basically said nothing, he did say one thing of importance – he’s not ruling out James Reimer coming back next year. I don’t find it particularly likely that he’ll stick around (I wouldn’t even be surprised if he was moved tonight), but at least faking interest publicly is the right thing to do. Making it look like you need to get rid of your asset is an easy way to diminish value.

Oh, and..

Enjoy the draft! We have a ton of content coming your way today; between Steve being in Philadelphia, Justin and Logan updating you on what the Leafs do with their (now up in the air) selections, and Cam being on-call to fill in with thoughts, it’s going to be an interesting one. Personally, I suck at projecting prospects because I haven’t seen them, so I won’t lie to you about my feelings and will just sit here hoping that the Leafs pick whoever has the coolest YouTube highlights.