So, uhh… one point away from last. How about that. The Leafs are still rocking the “good job, good effort” performances on the ice, but the hope from more optimistic fans that this team could climb their way out of the standings ditch has to be all but gone at this rate, no?
Thankfully, most have already started looking to the deadline, draft, and free agency, which feature heavily in this week’s mailbag. Let’s dive in!
@laurkelly24 asked: Who is the bigger Leafs signing priority, Kadri or Rielly? No one talks about 44’s contract being up, everyone is focused on Kadri.
Kadri remains the bigger focus due to the nature of his contact status. As a 25-year-old in the midst of his sixth year of his contract, he remains a restricted free agent but treads the line on unrestricted status.
If Kadri wanted to move on, he could accept Toronto’s qualifying offer or force the Leafs into arbitration, leading him to a one-year deal and unrestricted status the following summer. A short term deal brings him ever closer to having free choice, as his first UFA year comes in 2018. It is crucial for the Leafs to buy up UFA years, meaning that they need to negotiate a deal with term this year.
Rielly is much younger and finishing up his entry-level deal. As such, the Leafs can take their time with him and be flexible with the length of the deal if need be. There are likely talks in place, but there’s no reason for urgency.
@LeafsHockyFan31 asked: Are there any goalies leafs should target in the draft?
Many will make the argument that no team should be targetting goalies, at least in the early rounds. So much of making a viable goaltending prospect comes after the draft, with professional instruction, constant education, proper conditioning, and increased workload. I do think it makes sense for the Leafs to draft a goaltender this year with Garret Sparks and Antoine Bibeau growing out “junior age”, but that’s more of a “if a decent option is available late” scenario than it is a target early one.
@Beleafer73 asked: Will guys like Winnik, Polak, and Parenteau be recycled for picks?
With the Leafs as far down in the standings as they are, it’s very likely that they’ll be shopping their upcoming free agents at the trade deadline. Roman Polak has already been asked about by other teams, and the Leafs appear interested in trading him as long as they can get a fair price for him. Parenteau should be similar, given that he’s been producing very efficiently for his price this year.
Winnik like anybody who is protected beyond this year is likely far from untouchable, but the team will be in less of a rush to move them. There’s no point in asset management if the asset isn’t sold at the appropriate value.
@JLaszlo asked: Should the Leafs look to trade expiring deals for some not so great ones w/ 1yr remaining + pick? More players to flip next year
If the incentive is significant (aka, bringing a 3rd round pick to a 1st round pick, or leading to the addition of a major prospect), then yes, you absolutely look into it. But it’s easier to flip an expiring good contract than an expiring bad one.
@babkos2016 asked: Should the leafs continue to draft the most “skilled” player for the ’16 draft, or go after a specific position?
Always go for the best player available. Even if the better player turns out to be redundant, he becomes a more valuable asset that can be moved for a player that is in a position of need. You sell yourself short by acquiring the weaker player for positional depth, NHL readiness, or any excuse that lowers your chance at an elite talent; there’s no reason to do it.
Besides, it’s not like the Leafs have an individual position that they can’t improve right now. There are some great prospects throughout the organization, but nowhere to be 100% confident in, to the point of rejection.
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