Deadline Rental Players Off to a Slow Start

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Roman Polak, James Reimer, Brad Boyes, Mark Arcobello, P.A.
Parenteau, Nick Spaling, Michael Grabner, Richard Panik, T.J. Brennan, and
Shawn Matthias, these are the players many of us assumed would supply the Leafs
with enough draft picks to make sure the only person making selections in the
mid rounds of the 2016 draft would be Tim Hunter.

It’s still a very early seven games into the 2015-16, and it’s
safe to say that none of these players are exactly making a case for joining a
contending team by March 2nd, and what once looked like a promising
stockpile of 2nd-4th round picks, are beginning to look
like potentially late round picks to at least make sure at least some return is acquired
for these players.

The Leafs are only just over a 10th of the way to the trade
deadline, which is probably the most important calendar date in the regular
season for the Leafs. A lot can change, and a lot has to.

Last trade deadline
and even up into the summer
there was supposedly a market for Roman
Polak
, a defenseman that was apparently worth keeping around because
potentially his biggest return would come as deadline rental heading into free
agency.

The talk that he was potentially going to bring a return of
a high 2nd round pick is probably just a wonderful dream we had it’s
difficult to envision that happening this season now that Polak possesses a
44.09 CF% and he’s being sheltered with 69.23% Offensive Zone Starts, which is
absolutely insane for a defenseman who is considered a shutdown guy. Polak is
seeing over three minutes less of ice time a night and has already been
scratched twice. None of this looks like something the a team is willing to add
at the deadline along with a $2.75M cap hit.

Michael Grabner
was acquired in what was essentially a move to free up player contracts for the
Leafs to use. A handful of “prospects” destined for AHL careers given up for a
salary that the Islanders were more than happy to see off their books.

Grabner was a player that certainly looked like he just
needed an opportunity to see more ice time and he’d potentially play himself
into being an asset for the Leafs by March. So far he’s actually seeing less
ice time in the five games he’s played than he did with the Islanders last
season. While no one was expecting a return to his 30 goal form, it’s looking
like it may be a challenge to see Michael hit his 15 goal form. His -2.43 CF%
Rel is not what you want from a player of Grabner’s talents, especially when he’s
getting protected offensive zone starts. Like Polak, Grabner’s salary and cap
hit are too high for a team to consider him an option at the trade deadline,
unless we see some improvement, and with a career shooting percentage over 12%,
it’s entirely possible we’ll get a nice rebound at some point.

To put Mark Arcobello’s
situation nicely, he looks like a player that was repeatedly on waivers last
season and dressed for four teams. It would be nice to see a continuation of
what Arcobello had with the Coyotes or even what he achieved as an Oiler, but
the Leafs shortage of talent is a definite hindrance on Arcobello’s ability to
produce. At this point it’s hard to imagine he wouldn’t be waived well in
advance of the trade deadline.

Shawn Matthias
was supposed to be a part of the proud tradition of reclaiming Canucks wingers,
but so far the results are not exactly on par with Mike Santorelli or Mason
Raymond. With one assist in his six games played so far it’s looking like it
was the Canucks who benefited from an anomaly season out of Matthias last year.
Considering Matthias has never cracked 30 points, and only has the one season
over 15 goals, it should have been less surprising that Spaling has been relied
on much more heavily than Matthias.

James Reimer has
two games starts to his name this season, and as the anointed backup goaltender
it will be a while before we know how to gauge his value by the deadline. What
we know is that Reimer’s career says he’s better than his two starts this year,
but with an always small market for goaltenders, the biggest selling point on
Reimer may in fact be his playoff experience, and he may be worthwhile depth
for a team with question marks in net later this season.

Shifting gears to the slightly more positive performances,
we have Brad Boyes. Boyes is still
goalless through his first seven games, and three assists isn’t by any means
amazing, but at $700k, a veteran winger will still attract some interest. How
much interest largely depends on whether Boyes can get on the positive side of
the team’s CF% Rel, as he currently sits at -3.88. If Boyes repeats his 9.3%
shooting percentage that he had last season, at his current rate of shots he
should be around 10 goals by the trade deadline, and definitely will find a new
home as a depth scorer. Given the returns for players like Tlusty and Stempniak
last season, the Leafs could expect a third round pick in exchange.

 Nick Spaling’s 35.29% Offensive Zone starts give you a pretty good
reason why he has the worst CF% of any forward on the Leafs at 46.3%. The fact
that alongside Daniel Winnik, he’s become the player that Mike Babcock relies
on to shutdown top opposition will carry more weight for some GMs than possession
metrics, but at the beginning of March when the Leafs have one of the worst
CA/60 and goals against in the league, will teams be looking to the Leafs for
shutdown players?

The fact that P.A.
Parenteau
is somehow managing a PDO below 90 is impressively bad and
somewhat encouraging. It’s great news that he’ll likely move beyond the 2 point
in 7 game pace. It’s great that while he’s been one of the most average Leafs,
there’s apparently improvement you can expect to take place. And as one of the
cheaper Leaf free agents it’s entirely likely that the fate of Parenteau will
be similar to that of Brad Boyes and we can count on there being somewhat of a
market for him, although the return isn’t likely to be a windfall.

Brennan and Panik
have found their way back to the Marlies, so for now we’ll also assume that
their potential return is pretty close to nil, although a moderately successful
recall of Brennan could change a lot as there is always a deficit of puck moving
defensemen. Panik hasn’t been particularly successful as a Marlie, so we’re
probably just seeing him run out the clock on the season before moving on. His
greatest benefit could be as a recall post deadline to fill the gaps with an
experienced NHL player.

With the Leafs pending free agents off to such a lackluster
start it will be interesting to see what steps the team takes.

Will they potentially go out of their way to put these
players in greater positions to produce? Do Grabner, and Matthias see more time
with Kadri and JVR?

Do the Leafs move on to selling the players still under
contract that have value, as Komarov, Hunwick, and Winnik all seem like they
could potentially be appealing options for teams looking to load up down the
stretch?

Or was this the plan all along, and nothing was truly
expected of these players? Are they just stop gaps to keep prospects off of the
Leafs and given a chance to develop and any potential return for the veterans
in March was just gravy?

Right now, it’s really too early to jump to any conclusion,
and the last thing the Leafs should be doing is waiving underperformers and
giving their jobs to the kids, but with the number of significant injuries
around the league growing every day it would be nice to have a few of the Leafs
rentals stand out as options worth acting on.

Stats used sourced from war-on-ice.com
and hockey-reference.com

  • Gary Empey

    If we start winning some of these close games it should improve the market value of all the Leafs. If not, it is hard to see other teams looking very closely at are line up for help.

  • Gary Empey

    First, we have to remember what happened last year, when the second coach implemented the same system as Babcock is using now, as far as forwards playing 200 feet games, and also Babcock’s high-tempo, high effort system is additionally exhausting. You have to expect a period of adjustment for some, if ever for others. Expect the Leafs to outplay and outshoot, but don’t expect great offensive plays/finish or defensive plays at the end of a shift.

    Second, previous planned rentals were like Matthias, as in they chose UFA to test the market (Winnick, Santorelli, Franson), whereas Parenteau was bought out, and Arcabello and Boyes went unsigned. Grabner appears to be damaged goods who should still be on IR.

    And I was just looking at the Canucks’ roster; what a disaster. If I was them, I would send the Kid Line back, after the nine games, and trade for Panick, Holland, Bozak, Loov, Percy, Riemer, for Markstrom, Cassels and a couple of picks.