The Leafs are presumably looking to turn over as much of the roster as possible this offseason. If this is still going to be a reset with a lot of “pain” on the way, as Mike Babcock alluded to, it’s likely that dismantling this current group and trying to bring in new picks, prospects, and players on entry-level contracts will be a priority. It just so happens that Columbus appears to be shopping a player who could fit that plan.
It’s been reported a number of times over the last week or so that the Jackets are seeking help on the blue line, and they’re dangling prospect Kerby Rychel to a growing pool of interested teams.
“I reported last week about Kerby Rychel potentially being available for Columbus. I’m hearing the market on him is pretty hot, that a lot of teams are calling. They’re looking for a defenseman in exchange, whether it’s straight up for him or it’s part of a package. I think there’s a lot of interest in that guy.”
Rychel was taken by the Jackets with the 19th overall pick in the 2013 draft, just two picks before the Leafs selected Gauthier. In his draft season he racked up 87 points in 67 games for the Spitfires of the OHL, and has since taken a step forward into the AHL where he had 33 points in 51 appearances for the Jackets’ affiliate, the Springfield Falcons, this past year.
Andrew Berkshire of Habs Eyes on the Prize has also looked into Rychel, and his jump to the pros, since the Canadiens have been a team loosely linked to him:
Through dealing with concussion issues this season, he had a mildly disappointing professional debut for the Springfield Falcons in the AHL, scoring just 12 goals in 51 AHL games. However the leading scorer on Springfield scored just 17, and Rychel did finish second on the team in points per game played with 0.647, ahead of Marko Dano.
At a quick glance of Rychel’s work from junior, his point totals are impressive, especially given that while he was on the older end of his draft group (October birthday), his draft-minus-one season was nearly as impressive as the following campaign. The kid can put the puck in the net, and has done it for a while.
Of course the biggest question for the Leafs is what they might be able to put together in a trade scenario. They have a mixed bag of defencemen throughout the organization, but there might be someone they can create a package around. And much of this depends on what the Jackets are looking to accept in salary; they’re not in particularly good shape cap-wise.
It’s unclear, or at least hasn’t been reported yet, if the Jackets are looking for short-term help in the form of a veteran or trying to take on a younger player. Toronto’s blue line is almost entirely expendable save for Morgan Rielly, which means they could part with roster players like Phaneuf, Polak, or even Gardiner, but the packages around each of those guys would vary quite substantially, and it would be insanely tough to make the money work. For those reasons, it’s difficult to imagine the Leafs hammering something out.
But for all we know, the Jackets could be looking to add help in form of a prospect for prospect deal, so maybe a player like Percy or Loov makes sense as part of an offer.
There’s also a draft factor here as well, since if the Leafs select Noah Hanifin with their fourth pick in June, they could make a much simpler argument for moving out a young defenceman. We’ll see if these sweepstakes make it that far, but in the meantime it wouldn’t be too surprising if the Leafs at least pop up in the Rychel rumor mill, since they’ve made it clear their intentions to put people on planes this summer.