It’s Tuesday morning and getting through the work week seems
next to impossible. That’s when Elliotte Friedman drops his 30
Thoughts and changes everything and suddenly we have a brief moment of
bliss that should hopefully tide us over until lunch.
After a few weeks of being light on the Leafs, there wasn’t
any shortage of Leafs content this week.
Remember in the summer when the Leafs were chasing down this
highly touted Russian defenseman? We’ll he’s off to a great start in the KHL,
and Friedman had this to say about his situation.
right-shot defenceman is a free agent, scheduled to come to North America next
season. At one point, it was thought he would sign last summer, but decided to
stay one more year. Philadelphia and Toronto were hot-and-heavy for his
services with Calgary, Los Angeles and Vancouver lurking nearby.
He is eligible to sign
as of March 1, when his KHL contract is up, although that could be delayed if
he chooses to play in the World Championships. By CBA rules, Zaitsev would sign
a one-year entry-level contract. After that, he would become a restricted free
Friedman has a lot more on Zaitsev as he’s the meat of the
post before getting into the 30 thoughts, but sufficed to say the Leafs will
have heavy competition in attempting to bring him into the fold. The fact that
he is only subjected to one year as a RFA means he’s likely to want to land on
a team that will toss foolish money at him as soon as his contract expires.
That might not be the Leafs any more, though their deep pockets may give
Zaitsev the impression that they will.
The fact that Zaitsev is a right handed shot addresses what
we already know is a bit of a deficit on the Leafs, since Polak will not be a
Leaf next season and it remains to be seen what Toronto has in Frank Corrado. At
6’2, size isn’t an issue, and with 13 points in 22 games this season in the
KHL, he’ll have no problem with contributing offense as well.
8. James Reimer beat back Dallas
after an injury cost Jonathan Bernier the start, but word is Toronto is
checking out goalie options. Tough to tell exactly what they are looking for —
something short to get some wins or a more long-term solution.
The Maple Leafs have
to be careful with this. You want to reward players for competing hard, but the
goal is also to re-stock the system. They weren’t getting John Tavares in 2009,
but Martin Gerber’s strong finish after arriving on waivers hurt their draft
position. Then again, Lou Lamoriello and Mike Babcock might not care.
I get it. Reimer had a big game last night, and neither of
the Leafs goaltenders are as bad as their unfancy stats show. The reality of
the situation is that Reimer’s been through so much with this organization it’s
very likely that he’s not going to be re-signing when he hits unrestricted free
agency this summer, and Bernier’s not establishing himself as anything more
than league average. The idea that the Leafs would pursue younger options from
teams with depth of goaltending prospects seems reasonable. Trying to bring in
an established NHL goaltender to help them through the season makes
significantly less sense right now.
As an afterthought on the goaltending point, Friedman
included this about Polak…
There were also some
rumblings about Roman Polak talks with Los Angeles, but those were shot down.
The fact that there’s potentially any interest in Roman
Polak is a great sign. If there was an offer made, I can’t imagine why you
wouldn’t leap at it, even if it’s undervalued. Right now getting rid of Polak
isn’t just about trading an asset, but it’s about giving Corrado and Harrington
increased time in the Leafs lineup, and it’s removing someone who absolutely is
out of place in Babcock’s defensive system.
14. If there’s one thing Mike Babcock
needs to fix with Dion Phaneuf’s game, it’s penalties.
As of Tuesday morning,
Phaneuf is tied with Dustin Byfuglien for the NHL lead in minors, with nine.
Last season, he was fifth with 39. (Byfuglien led all defencemen with 42.) In
2013-14, his 47 led everyone, two more than David Perron.
One scout said last
weekend that his organization declined to pursue a trade for Phaneuf for this
very reason. Lowering that total would increase his value, probably to Toronto
as much as anyone else.
Let’s all be wise asses about how there’s a lot more that’s
underwhelming about Phaneuf’s game. Got it out of your system? Good.
This is a very reasonable place to start with Phaneuf who
has surprisingly little self control when it comes to taking dumb retaliatory penalties
and that’s absolutely where you need to start with him. There are other aspects
like the fact that he isn’t great positionally and his speed putting him behind
opponents that are harder to fix, but ultimately remove other penalties, but
for now the let’s start with the easy to fix ones.
Finally, Friedman had this on Rich Clune:
26. As Rich Clune returned to the NHL, his
proud father, Tom, told a great story about his son’s first professional
Dallas, which drafted
him, put him in the AHL, “but they had about 30 guys there.” So Clune was sent
to the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads. “He called an told me he didn’t want to go. He
had this old truck and didn’t think it would make it. The coach told him, ‘I
know a mechanic in Idaho. He’ll fix it when you get there.’”
Clune’s had a hard
battle over the past few years. Good luck to him.
We can all appreciate Rich Clune, the feel good story, but
from what we’ve seen in his couple of games with the Leafs it’s hard to
appreciate Rich Clune, the NHL hockey player.