Monday Mailbag – Trades, Contracts and Goalers

Hello Leafs Nation! It’s time for another (barely) Monday Mailbag. Thanks to all those who submitted by either tweeting me (@thejustinfisher) or The Leafs Nation (@TLNdc) or by using the hashtag #TLNMailbag. You’re all heroes in my eyes.

Vermette to Toronto?

No thanks. The Leafs should be looking to get rid of veterans, not bring on more. 

Plus, I doubt Vermette would come cheap in trade or in a new contract. I imagine that the Arizona Coyotes would want at least a pick and prospect for his services, and he’ll almost certainly earn a significant raise on the $3.75M he’s earning now when his contract expires in the summer. The Leafs shouldn’t be giving up those kinds of assets, nor do they have the cap space to spend on a player they don’t need.

The Lesser of Two (Very Expensive) Evils

Oh man, this is super easy. I’d much rather have Mike Richards signed to a long-term deal than David Clarkson, because Mike Richards deal is way easier and less painful to buy out that David Clarkson’s deal.

To be clear… I want neither of them actually playing ice hockey for my ice hockey team. At least not on those contracts.

Two Firsts and a Second

That’s tough. Do I think any team out there is willing to give up that many high picks? No, those kind of trades are few and far between, and tend to be made by the Leafs exclusively. 

That being said, there’s definitely a market out there for Phil Kessel. A good number of teams would line up for his services, and the return would be significant – Toronto would be allowed to pick from several packages that include at least a first round pick and a couple players. Think… a top prospect and a young NHL that projects to be a solid contributor.

To be honest, if I was dealing Kessel, I wouldn’t want three picks like Toronto sent to Boston. There are ways to rebuild without drafting the players yourself. It’s fine to trade for other young players or prospects – if anything, you probably have more of an understanding of what kind of assets you’re getting in return. 

For example, Nashville hit a home run in picking up Filip Forsberg from Washington. I imagine they could have easily gotten a pick instead of a prospect for Martin Erat, but had enough of a file on Forsberg that they knew what they were getting.

So, again, you need to get a first round pick coming back in any deal that involves Kessel, but you don’t necessarily need a collection of picks to make up for the ones you traded to Boston in 2009.

The Leafs’ Goaltending Depth

I’m super bummed to tell you, but, uh… none of them. Not that any one of Garret Sparks or Christopher Gibson or Antoine Bibeau are bad goaltending prospects, but they are so insanely inexperienced that I wouldn’t want to put any of them in that situation. 

Being a backup goaltender in the NHL isn’t just about playing once every eight games. It’s about being ready to become a starting goaltender at any moment in case of injury.

And dare I say, the Leafs do not have goaltending depth. After Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer, nobody is even close to NHL ready. Spot start? Sure. Closing out the last fifteen games of a season? Not a chance.

But if you’re going to force me to pick one goaltender, I guess I’m calling up Gibson. Of the Leafs’ three young goaltenders, he is the oldest. Gibson has also played the most AHL games of the group, and done pretty ok. 

That being said, I might be acting a little too diplomatic in this case. I have half a mind to bring Sparks straight up from the ECHL and drop him right into the NHL – I still think he might be the most advanced goaltender of the group (Bibeau is having a great first year, but still so young). I’m not sure why Sparks is currently stuck in Florida.

    • Any deal that involves moving Phaneuf would probably mean bringing back a bad contract + an asset.

      For example, Friedman noted that a Phaneuf for Richards and Pearson/Toffoli deal was on the table, but LA backed out.

      That’s the kind of deal you’re looking at because of Phaneuf’s contract. Something bad and something good, simply to make the dollars work.

  • Jeremy Ian

    Hi Justin:

    This quote from you is diagnostic.

    “To be honest, if I was dealing Kessel, I wouldn’t want three picks like Toronto sent to Boston. There are ways to rebuild without drafting the players yourself. It’s fine to trade for other young players or prospects – if anything, you probably have more of an understanding of what kind of assets you’re getting in return.

    For example, Nashville hit a home run in picking up Filip Forsberg from Washington. I imagine they could have easily gotten a pick instead of a prospect for Martin Erat, but had enough of a file on Forsberg that they knew what they were getting.”

    1. I really worry about Leafs’ scouting — both the amateur and pro. You’d really want good intelligence to pull the trigger on a deal like this. Do you have a sense of what’s going on behind the scenes in Leafs scouting?

    2. The opportunity costs on Kessel are huge. Huge. Nashville won more than Washington lost, in a sense. If you compare Kessel and Erat, the calculus suggests that the Leafs need to be super risk-averse. Losing Kessel compared to losing Erat means that the loser of any Kessel trade loses big, big time.

    This is all about perception. If you are in the domain of losses, which is how this crisis is being framed, then you tend to take risks and become insensitive to the prospect of big losses. This can lead to terrible decisions.

    This is NOT the time to take a big risk even if we feel we are in a losing vortex.

    Please, let’s be strategic in our decision making. Ugh. I do not trust Nonis, who’s going to be very motivated to save his reputation with some splashy deal…

    • I don’t have anything against the current pro or amateur scouting staff. There’s been some bad moves, but there have been good ones too. Plus, they now answer to Mark Hunter, who’s never given me any reason to not believe he’s a good evaluator of talent.

      As for losing big on a Kessel deal, well… Yeah. If you want to completely rebuild though, he’s one of the guys that helps you do so quickly. If you want to keep him and retool/shuffle everyone around him, it could be a long process.

  • CMpuck

    If the Leafs were to trade James Reimer, that would be one sign that they are giving up on a playoff spot and are looking to improve their standing in the draft. The same applies to Cody Franson and Joffrey Lupul.
    If they go that route, I really hope they bring prospects up from the Marlies to look at them at the next level.
    The next couple of weeks should be very interesting for Leaf fans.