We haven’t even reached November, and already the Toronto Maple Leafs are appearing in the trade rumour mills. It was expected all along that the Leafs would once again flip any and all of their veterans for assets, but I don’t think we were expecting anything to heat up quite so quickly.
On tonight’s segment of TSN’s Insider Trading, Bob McKenzie explained how there’s currently a low rumble on the trade market, with several teams looking to upgrade their blueline and shake up their roster before they slip too far back of the pack to recover. When speaking of players who could be on the move, one Leaf defender was named in particular…
“There’s certainly lots of talk out there, if not action at this point in time. Most of the teams are looking for defencemen – that seems to be the priority – and there are some defencemen that are available. Philadelphia’s Luke Schenn, for example, is somebody who appears to be eminently available. Depending on who you talk to, veteran defenceman Roman Polak with Toronto Maple Leafs could be had for the right price. You got some other guys – Matt Carle in Tampa Bay, Dennis Wideman with the Calgary Flames – but some of these guys come with contractual baggage.”
It makes perfect sense, really. The 29-year old Polak has suited up in six of Toronto’s eight games so far this season and has contributed with a single assist. His average 17:25 in ice time per game makes Polak the Leafs’ fifth defenceman, ahead of Scott Harrington and Martin Marincin. Toronto wouldn’t be worse off with either of those players (or the soon-to-be-returning Frank Corrado) getting some more minutes.
In fact, a seven-man blue line consisting of Dion Phaneuf, Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner, Matt Hunwick, Harrington, Marincin and Corrado is a fine group for a team with aspirations like the Leafs (low ones).
Better yet, Polak figures to be one of the better options on the trade market right now – it’s not as if he’s any better than the other players McKenzie mentioned, but he’s certainly the cheapest option. Polak is in the final year of his current contract with a cap hit of $2.75M. Schenn is also in his last year but carries a more burdensome $3.6M cap hit, while Carle is owed $5.5M for this season and two more after, and Wideman comes in at $5.25M this year and next.
A team like the Columbus Blue Jackets, for example, could fit Polak in under their salary cap with little issue, but would struggle to even handle Schenn’s contract let alone the other two. Funny enough, I wrote about Polak-to-the-Jackets just last week.
In return, you can’t expect much for a player like Roman Polak. If someone is insane, they’ll send you a third round pick or a decent prospect, but I wouldn’t count on it. Then again, the types of teams that are looking to make a deal at this point are of the desperate variety. Crazier things have happened.
Perhaps just as valuable to the Leafs would be the extra cap space and roster room (and contract slot, if another SPC isn’t coming back). That way, guys like Harrington, Marincin and Corrado can get more playing time and the Leafs won’t have to feel bad about signing the Rich Clunes of the world to NHL deals.