Talk Or Walk: The 11th Hour

Unrestricted free agents officially hit the market in 23 hours. They’ve been able to speak to other teams for the past few days, but players can officially skip out of their respective towns faster than you can say Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond (who coincidentally, is not a UFA). The Leafs could be walking away from a pile of players tomorrow. But should they be trying to make some last second pushes?

Dave Bolland

The word on the street (aka, what Darren Dreger said today), is that the Toronto Maple Leafs are preparing to make one more strong push to keep the Mimico native on the roster. The stipulation, of course, is that they’re not willing to go any higher than 5 years at $5 million per year. Wait, they’re offering how much?

Key things to remember about David Bolland:

  • Was the worst or second worst possession forward in all three long cup runs the Chicago Blackhawks had with him on the roster. In fact, the highest he’s ever been was 8th of 12 in relative shot attempts in his sophomore season. Until he went hot for 15 games here, of course. He’s not as defensively capable as advertised.
  • Put up 1.63 even strength points per 60 minutes over his tenure in Chicago. That’s slightly better than what Boyd Devereaux did in Toronto. Include his time in Toronto and he’s at 1.61 per 60 in his career. For reference, guys like Ryane Clowe, Jason Chimera, Jannik Hansen, and Colby Armstrong have averaged better rates of production in the same time span. He’s not as offensively capable as advertised.
  • Is lucky to hit 45% on faceoffs in a given year. I’m not huge on using draws as a metric for ability, but it was key in Tyler Bozak’s negotiations, and even he ended up getting less.
  • Was put on a line with Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane in 2012/13. In fact, 92% of his even strength minutes were with Kane. Despite clearly elite wingers, he put up 7 goals and 14 points in 35 games. 
  • Is riding a 24.2% shooting percentage that is by far the highest in his career and unlikely to sustain itself.

This is without mentioning the fact that he’s was taken out of Chicago and Toronto’s lineup six times in 14 months, which goes hand in hand with eleven other injuries in his seven year career. This is without mentioning the fact that the most recent injury is one that almost nobody who gets it ever recovers from, and very clearly hampered him when he tried to play on it late in the year.

This is without mentioning that before this severe, career altering injury, the Chicago Blackhawks decided that 3.375 million was too much for him and dumped him a week after scoring the Stanley Cup winning goal.

The Leafs should be running away from this faster than Usain Bolt on a sugar rush. He’s not worth the money, and his body is too beat up and fragile for the term. David Bolland is almost guaranteed to be the worst signing any team will make this offseason.

Nikolai Kulemin

The Leafs appear to be parting ways with Kulemin, but does it make sense? I’m not convinced that it makes the team better, or gives them the wiggle room to improve themselves. Kulemin isn’t the 30/30 player that he used to be, but he’s been a relatively good possession player for most of his career, as long as he hasn’t been completely burned by offensive zone starts. Not to mention the fact that he’s the longest serving player on the roster, and the only player to play for the Leafs before Nonis was hired as an assistant GM.

I’d like the Leafs to retain him, and personally, I would have been putting efforts into negotiating a short term extension with him. If the Leafs could work something out, I’d be more than happy with him coming back next year. I don’t see this as likely, though, with Pittsburgh and “wherever Grabovski goes” being the favourites to land him.

Jay McClement

I would be walking away from McClement right now. Odds are, he and his agent will be pointing to his anchor role on Toronto’s top-notch 2012/13 penalty killing unit as the basis for a raise above his current $1,500,000 salary, but his expertise at dumping the puck doesn’t really work at even strength, where it just leads to icing calls. It’s probably easier to make a sound two-way even strength player into a good penalty killer than the other way around, and it makes a difference for more minutes played.

Besides, if the Leafs are looking for unproductive defensive centres, there will be plenty on the market for $1.5 and below. Especially if you wait a few weeks. Or you just give Peter Holland some more minutes. Pass.

Mason Raymond

The reality with Raymond is simple; there is no way in hell he’s signing a contract like the one the Leafs had him on last year this time around. Taking a chance on a reclamation project was a smart, if not desperate idea by management, and this isn’t even the first time its worked. Mason Raymond was essentially this year’s Clarke MacArthur; but now it sounds like he’s expecting similar money.

On one hand, I’d like them to stick with him. He’s a devilishly fun player to watch, and the Leafs are kind of short on winger depth right now. A guy who can contribute offensively, rush the puck into the preferred zone, and play both wings if needed is definitely an asset you’d like to keep. On the other hand, somebody like Radim Vrbata may be a solid step up without a massive premium in cost, barring a bidding war.

I’d at least kick tires on retaining Raymond for the rest of the day. If you can get him to stick around for a year or two in the 2.5 to 3 million dollar range, that’s probably a move that works out for you.

Troy Bodie

I’m quite surprised that they’re walking away from Bodie, to be honest. Not even for the fact that he’s the CEO’s son-in-law, but more for the fact that he’s an upgrade on Colton Orr and Frazer McClaren. If you’re a “toughness is key” person, he’s the guy you want. The Leafs don’t necessarily have to break bones when they win fights, they just have to show that they aren’t going to be pushed around. Bodie is willing to fight, and when he’s not doing that, he contributes to the play better than any of Toronto’s enforcers.

You’d have to imagine he’d come quite cheap as well. The only reason I could see for them walking away is if they’re going to ditch the fighter model entirely and allow more of the younger kids to play.

Paul Ranger

Ranger has a very unique situation attached to him, wherein he very much prefers to play as close to his home in Whitby as possible. It’s not inconceivable that the Leafs would be the only NHL option he’d consider, so they can probably treat him more like an RFA.

As for whether he’s worth keeping? I mean, if you can get him for a million or less again, I don’t see the harm. Ranger’s numbers weren’t very good last year, but improved as the season progressed as did the “eyeball” perception of him. Going from not playing at all to playing in a slower league to playing in the NHL is a very rapid leap for a guy, especially one who doesn’t have a lot of foot speed. I’d at least keep in touch, but wouldn’t lose sleep if he decided to go back to living the pro life full on again.

Drew MacIntyre

I’m genuinely curious to see what happens with MacIntyre. I had him pegged as the Leafs’ backup for next year, but this was before the Leafs had issues trading James Reimer, and before they were reported to be interested in Martin Brodeur’s ashes. I’d imagine that MacIntyre will be looking for a team that will let him play a handful of NHL games, but if he can’t find it, I think it’d be in Toronto’s interest to at least see if he’ll take on his role with the Marlies again next year. Sparks and Gibson are progressing nicely, but keeping that team competitive is key to the development of all of their youth.

TJ Brennan

I don’t forsee any situation where the Leafs are able to keep him. It’s a shame, because he put up video game-like numbers with the Marlies this season and will almost assuredly sign somewhere on the cheap, but his expectation is probably a near-guaranteed roster spot and the Leafs have too many guys to come close to offering that to him. There’s a very real chance that he’ll succeed elsewhere, but this is a situation where the Leafs will have to pass.

Trevor Smith

I’d give him another deal. I don’t think he was particularly impressive on the Leafs, but he was very helpful with the Marlies when he was in their lineup. They need a full-time captain and I’d assume he’d be less likely to get a call up this following year than last time around. Jerry D’Amigo is probably going to be a near full time Leaf, otherwise I’d say hand the letter over to him, but retaining Smith would give the Marlies a veteran centre throughout the year who can contribute on both sides of the ice. As for salary, the Leafs can throw around their “real dollars” and offer him a 1 way deal to entice him to stay in the role he has, and it would probably work.

I don’t think they’re in a huge rush though, just because he’s a lower priority guy in the UFA chart and there will be many to choose from, meaning a possible upgrade or at least a potential few days to focus on bigger needs before getting around to him.

Jerred Smithson

Completely ineffective with the Leafs, only occasionally effective with the Marlies. Too old to take up a roster spot. It was worth a shot last year, but there’s no point in offering him anything.

Brad Staubitz

Have to imagine he’ll try to find an NHL enforcer role this offseason. Not so sure he gets it, but he’s not needed on the Marlies with Broll and Devane already there. Wouldn’t even bother.

Ryan Lasch

I forgot he was still in the organization. I bet Nonis did too. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if Lasch has. He’s gone.