Monday Mailbag: Postman Justin

Mailbag

Jeffler is a very busy boy. He is in the holiday spirit and is at the local mall buying lots of gifts for his family and friends and Twitter followers. If you do not receive one, I’d ask him “What’s up? Do you not like me?”

As he’s very busy, I have taken over the Monday Mailbag and have also trashed the truck and lit it on fire.

To submit your Leafs & Marlies questions, leave a comment on this post. Alternatively, send a tweet to us (@tlndc) or myself (@thejustinfisher). 

Jonathan Bernier’s Next Contract

I believe that Jonathan Bernier is a good number one goaltender, and I believe that the Toronto Maple Leafs have every intention of keeping him around and playing him like a good number one goaltender. The not-so-nice part about that is that the Leafs will also have to pay him like a good number one goaltender.

There are a lot of goalies who have followed a similar trajectory as Bernier. First, they play through their entry-level contract, get their feet wet in the NHL on consecutive one, two or three year deals, then get a hefty raise and sign longterm. Jimmy Howard and Cory Schneider both followed this kind of path, and currently make (or are just about to make) $5M to $6M a season.

What makes Bernier a unique case is that at the end of this season, he’ll be a restricted free agent. 

This gives the Leafs a considerable amount of negotiating power, though I don’t think they’ll be too eager to play hardball with their prized netminder.

I think you’re likely going to see Bernier’s new contract come in at somewhere between $4.5M and $5M a season, for two or three years. This way, Bernier makes some pretty good coin in the short term, and sets himself up for a big payday just as he enters his late 20’s. 

It’s not dissimilar to a bridge deal, which is pretty ok for goaltenders in my opinion. I don’t think you can use that same long-term, low dollar strategy that you can use on skaters, and who actually wants to be tied to any goalie for six or seven-plus years? Not this guy.

Splitting Up The Top Line

That’s a very tough question. 

If we’re just talking about fixing the top line, then yes, I’d be pulling Tyler Bozak out and letting Nazem Kadri play between James van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel. I think Kadri’s been pretty fantastic lately, and I think he’s earned the opportunity to get an extended look (say, five games?) with the team’s top wingers.

That being said, the Leafs have been winning a lot of games lately because of their second and third and fourth lines. At the same time, they have not been losing games because of their first line. Whoa, right?

If you take Nazem Kadri and use him to amp up your top line, does Bozak cause problems between Daniel Winnik and Mike Santorelli? Or does he break up a pretty effective Joffrey Lupul-Peter Holland-David Clarkson line?

Splitting up (an ideally improving) the top line is easy enough to do by promoting Kadri, but if it causes negative repercussions throughout the rest of your lineup then it probably isn’t worth doing.

There’s also the fact that the Leafs are winning games and racking up points right now. It might be unsustainable and come down like a house of cards, but I wouldn’t do anything to the lineup as it stands until we do see things go a little sideways. 

Kadri should be playing with van Riemsdyk and Kessel, but making that change should probably wait until the Leafs’ next two-game losing streak.

Trade Rumours Got You Down?

Probably because it drives fans up the wall, and in turn makes them talk about it, and obsess about it, and visit and revisit Sprotsnet Dot Com over and over again to find out if it anything has actually happened.

There’s also something sexy about trading away young stars. Look at Edmonton right now with Taylor Hall – people are eating that story up. I know I am.

To be honest though, I haven’t heard anyone seriously talking about trading Jake Gardiner or Kadri in a while.

Let the sports media outlets say what they want, but I think most Leafs fans, despite some apprehensions, now trust the front office enough to not to ship out young talent for the sake of shipping out young talent. I mean, I think people were pretty impressed when sure-to-be-traded Jake Gardiner became signed-for-five-years Jake Gardiner. I don’t think the same group that made that call (Brendan Shanahan and Kyle Dubas, probably) would turn around and deal Kadri. At least not for a fair return.

If your real question is why aren’t we talking more about trading Bozak? Well, we probably should be. I’m not going to slag on his underlying numbers because I find that boring, but yes, we should be talking about trading him.

Bozak is having a good year, at least according to the boxscores. Say what you will about his Corsi but he’s also got 25 points in 30 games and I’m sorry but that’s pretty good. If there ever was a time where another team would say “hey, that Bozak guy could be a solid contributor for us”, it’s probably now. And they’d probably be wrong about it, which is good for the Leafs.

But I don’t know. I just can’t see it. Unless this team completely crashes and burns (again) then I don’t see how anyone in the front office will justify moving Bozak while the Leafs are in the hunt. And if this team does crash and burn (again) then it will be far more than Bozak being moved out.

Sorry, but I think you’re probably going to have to deal with Bozak until at least the offseason, if not longer. The only way I see him not playing out his contract for Toronto is if Bozak is part of a package that brings in a true number one centre.

And who’s that? What, Eric Staal? Man, that’s a whole other question for a whole ‘nother mailbag.

And Lastly…

God, if I only knew…

  • Letters

    There are so many answers that could be right
    to the question -“to trade or not to trade”

    Mr Dangles says we’re on a roll “don’t change a thing”
    or the conventional wisdom of the stock market says
    “sell high”

    Wait 300 games on defenseman says Carlyle so by that wisdom we should keep Gardiner and be patient with
    his mistakes.

    On the Leafs seniority counts….this is an observable fact. And Nonis is reluctant to make any deals or we have been saved by circumstances otr else we would have G Gorges instead of Franson, Bolland instead of one or more of Booth Santo or Winnik.

    But any players the Leafs potentially might trade
    mostly have potential upsides to them and bringing in a new player might disrupt the good chemistry the Leafs have .

    And which players to target ??
    off which teams ??
    Would you want any player from Edmonton who has been used to losing every night?
    To me the only players worth trading for Edmonton
    would not wish to part with unless we are getting draft picks back. Yakupov is a project and a defensive liability. Schultz now has seen too much too soon and is over his head and might never achieve his up side like Schenn or Aulie.
    Is N.-Hopkins an upgrade on Bozak – I think not .

    Eric Staal has been bantered about but unless we are sending Clarkson back (both player which have no trade contracts) this is unlikely as the Leafs
    have no cap space and need more next year.

    The last couple of years we have lost out on dumping contracts for draft picks at the dead line
    for a chance to make the playoffs .

    Are the Leafs really that far off from being contenders?
    Well with the first line being such a defensive liability -IMO only Bozak has any business being out on the ice 2mins or less to go in any defensive zone faceoff.

    But the fact is we need to shed at least one or two players or risk losing players on waivers.

    Who to trade? Lupil makes the most sense as he will command a reasonable return, Gardiner could be packaged with Clarkson for a player with a high salary coming back. Robidas contract is too long at three years. There is little market for Booth or Ashton as the weak teams dont really want to weaken their position in the draft.

    Play Kadri on the first line trade Bozak and Komorov slots in 2 or 3rd line center.

    No at the end of the day Carlyle will send ashton to the marlies on waviers, Smith Kozun will be a scratch or they will try to get a draft pick for one or the other-
    and they will rotate the defenseman in case of injury.

  • Jeremy Ian

    The Leafs are a decent team. Coaching should focus on tweaking, even if it’s sometimes imperceptible. The problem with a lot of fans is that if it’s not some big splashy change (a trade, a line change, benchings), they get all upset; they feel nothing’s happening. But good coaching relies on more subtle tools. If you go the drama route it’s a sign of problems. Avoid it.

    Enough with the trade rumours. Bozak has a no-trade clause, so he’s not going anywhere unless the team tanks before the trade deadline and he can’t stand Toronto anymore; besides, he’s super cap friendly, and points-per-dollar I will take Bozak happily for my team. People get into this stuff in the same way they become addicted to internet porn. (It’s a habit that moulds your cortex to go looking for more…). Basta.

    On Line 1. Why focus on moving pieces around? Steve’s right: let the lines play. Line 1 takes a lot of the heavy match ups, which allows 2-4 lines fire away.

    Can Line 1 play better? Sure. These are guys who play to score, and are more unhappy than anyone with the recent 5×5 results. Let them sort it out with some good coaching. Dissect the D-Zone problems and focus on exit strategies that improve the chances of keeping possession (this is where they are getting killed). This is a lot easier to experiment with than scrambling the lines.

    • Jeremy Ian

      Quote
      On Line 1. Why focus on moving pieces around? Line 1 takes a lot of the heavy match ups, which allows 2-4 lines fire away.

      Line 1 has a major problem
      they are the worst first line in hockey 5 on 5.

      (though they are 2nd or 1st best on the PP)

      this is why this line should be broken up 5 on 5 ,
      and especially not given assignments in critical defensive zone faceoffs.

      They have been together for 3 years +, and this problem is beyond tweaking. -They need at least one player on the line that is willing to physically separate the opposition from the puck.
      Clarkson is a below average passer so he doesn’t fit.
      And Kadri is not a consistently physical player-he tends to be patient and set up
      a big hit for maximum effect.

      IMO Komorov is the player that should be substituted 5 on 5, then the unit could be reunited
      during the pp or when the Leafs are behind and need a goal.

      Big problem #2
      santo ,Kadri & Winnik line is Toronto’s best lately but
      I think it is no coincidence that all three are
      in contract years, so this is fine for this year but I would think long and hard before signing any of them to long term contracts…..

      there has been a lot of talk about the core of the Leafs is flawed
      so really you need to consider
      what trades will get the Leafs to the next level and that is legitimate contenders.
      most likely no major trades will happen before the off season-but there is a chance if the Leafs are in good position at the trading deadline that at least a minor deal will take place.