It’s taken me well into my thirties for me to realize it’s possible that the Leafs can look at Tyler Bozak as an asset around the trade deadline. Reality has set in for me now that Bozak has demonstrated some offensive production away from Phil Kessel and he presently is on pace for his first 50 point season.
There are shortcomings in Bozak’s game, but rather than continue to bring those up, (we’ve been told they may have been covered on this site previously) let’s talk about what Bozak is.
- Bozak is has proven to be someone who can produce solid, but not remarkable offensive totals with top six ice time
- Bozak is considered an accomplished shootout and faceoff specialist
- Bozak’s cap hit of $4.2M for this season and the following two seasons have him ranked 47th highest among centers for cap hit in the league. So not particularly a bargain, but arguably, decent value.
Tyler Bozak has the ability to provide the Leafs with a list of 12 teams that he can be traded to. So the options may be a little limited for Tyler. The fact that Kessel has been dealt may have created some wiggle room in where he’d be willing to go, but that probably still means the focus of destinations should be on the top third of the league.
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
The New Jersey Devils are a cap conscience team that is managing to hang on to a spot around the playoff bubble. They’re getting offense from their top line, which has been playing far beyond their abilities, but are heavily reliant on Cory Schneider to get them into the playoffs single handedly.
The Devils could definitely use an additional forward, to round out their second line or help them create a third line option for sheltered scoring.
Despite the fact that they’ve got the cap space to take on Bozak, it’s unlikely the Devils would acquire him without sending some money back the other way and they’ve got options for that in the form of Ruutu, or in LTIR players like Clowe or Elias.
I can’t imagine the Devils giving up a ton for Bozak, they do have middle of the round options in the form of a full complement of draft picks, goaltending prospects (Appleby, Wedgewood, Blackwood). If we’re being pie in the sky about this, I’d look at John Quenneville, but that probably involves taking Clowe’s contract back to make it happen.
Potential Trade Pieces: C John Quenneville; G Ken Appleby; G Scott Wedgewood; G Mackenzie Blackwood; D Eric Gelinas; 2nd Round Draft Pick
Potential Salary Dumps: F Ryane Clowe (LTIR 3yr, 4.85M); F Tuomo Ruutu (1 yr, 3.8M); Patrik Elias (LTIR 1 yr, 5.5M)
The Ducks are in the need of a reload on offensive fire power this season, as their PDO goodwill has waved goodbye to them this year. Perry and Getzlaf are another year older, and the Ducks don’t have enough talent elsewhere to make it is they aren’t always facing a top pairing.
Anaheim is also another team that has the money to spend, but it’s a question if they are willing to. A deal can be done easily, but it’s still likely going to require a little financial assistance on behalf of the Leafs.
While it’s more likely that the Ducks will be focusing on building up their blueline, they can’t fully neglect their underperforming offense, and although there are holes across the roster, the Pacific Division playoff spots are far from locked in, and it’s entirely possible the Ducks want at least one or two more shots at playoff runs before Getzlaf, Perry, and Kesler’s primes are but a distant memory.
Since the Ducks periodically come up in Phaneuf rumours, we’re pretty familiar with what they’ve had to offer, it’s just Bozak isn’t high end enough to chase after Nick Ritchie or Shea Theodore, and the drop off to Stefan Noesen might not make this deal worthwhile for the Leafs. If a multiplayer deal were to occur, I’d imagine these teams could find some common ground with the Ducks addressing a couple of their needs, and the Leafs receiving a higher end reward.
Potential Trade Pieces: G Frederik Andersen; F Julius Nattinen; F Ondrej Kase; D Shea Theodore
Potential Salary Dumps: G Anton Khudobin (1yr, 2.25M); W Chris Stewart (1yr, 1.7M); C Shawn Horcoff (1yr, 1.75M)
This one might be a little too on the nose. Kessel’s not clicking with Crosby, Kessel’s not clicking with Malkin, who does Kessel click with?
This would potentially give the Penguins a chance to be three lines deep again, like in the glory of days of Jordan Staal, but you have to wonder about the cost associated with this move and whether it’s a good idea for the Penguins to go all in on their forwards and ignore their defense (it isn’t)
The cap situation for the Penguins is also very different than what has been mentioned for the other teams so far. They’ve got some space, but a three year commitment of a cap hit is a little much for them. They’re absolutely going to need to make room, and that’s probably in the form of Chris Kunitz.
Now it’s a matter of finding what to get to Pittsburgh for Bozak. A flappable Chris Kunitz is a start, but the Penguins are best known from having their system drained by the Leafs in acquiring Kessel. Maybe the starting point of the deal is removing the conditions of the Kessel 1st, and going after the 2017 2nd, if that doesn’t work, there certainly are a couple of goaltender options worth exploring here.
Potential Trade Pieces: G Tristan Jarry; G Matt Murray; 2017 Draft Picks
Potential Salary Dumps: W Chris Kunitz (2yr. 3.8M); W Eric Fehr (3yr, 2M); Pascal Dupuis (LTIR 2yr, 3.75M)
Right now Bozak’s French Canadian doppelganger, Antoine Vermette is struggling. After being a commodity for the Coyotes last season, he’s returned to the desert and been underwhelming to say the least. Coming into this season it wouldn’t have been an issue for Arizona, as they expected to very much be in the race for local boy Auston Matthews. Instead, because they’ve done too good a job of acquiring young talent in previous years, they’ve found themselves fighting for the last playoff spot in the Pacific.
It’s hard to find a team in the league with worse center depth than the Coyotes, and with Nic Grossman, Boyd Gordon, and Shane Doan about to go to Free Agency (or retire), it’s not the worst idea to consider bringing in someone to fill a need now, who will also help the Coyotes reach the cap floor next season.
From an asset standpoint, there’s no team I’d rather be dealing with than the Coyotes. Their top end prospects like Strome are obviously off limits, but from Christian Dvorak to Michael Bunting to Henrik Samuelsson and Ryan MacInnis, there’s no shortage of options. They also hold a second first round pick, which probably isn’t in play here, but may make their 2nd round pick very accessible.
Potential Trade Pieces: Too Many to list, but I’ll suggest Conor Garland (F) and Christian Dvorak (F) solely for upsetting Cat Silverman.
Potential Salary Dumps: C Antoine Vermette (2yr, 3.75M); C Boyd Gordon (1yr, 3M); Nic Grossman (1yr, 3M); F Steve Downie (1yr, 1.75M)
Leaf reclamation projects are working well for the Canes. Kris Versteeg is near the top of the team in scoring, John-Michael Liles no longer looks like a terrible defenseman, and Jay McClement is still in the NHL. Clearly this is a team that finds value in Leafs players, and with one of the worst offenses in the league, maybe they can find room for a player on pace for 50 points.
The issue with Bozak is that it’s not entirely certain how he fits in with this team that is very much at a crossroads. On one hand, they absolutely should be pushing for a playoff spot, on the other hand, if they think a rebuild is in their best interest, flooding the market with Eric Staal, Kris Versteeg, and potentially Jeff Skinner may make more sense, though I’m never sure why the Canes are always rumoured to be trading Jeff Skinner.
No matter what happens with Staal, the Canes have a lot of money coming off their cap with Cam Ward and John-Michael Liles reaching free agency. Even if both of those players return, it won’t be with a $10M price tag. Bozak gives the Canes some depth that can help them in a push now, and give them a decent option for the future.
When we play the “what’s in it for us?” game with Carolina, we find a few prospects that make sense for the Leafs, although Fleury and Nedeljkovic are going to be off limits.
Potential Trade Pieces: D Trevor Carrick; F Lucas Wallmark; D Roland McKeown; D Keegan Lowe; 2nd Round Pick
Potential Salary Dumps: G Cam Ward (1yr, 6.3M); James Wisniewski (2yr, 5.5M); Nathan Gerbe (1yr, 1.75M)