Photo Credit: Christian Bonin/TSGPhoto.com
The biggest sub-story of yesterday’s trade with the Ottawa Senators, no doubt, was the Toronto Maple Leafs moving on from their long-time captain Dion Phaneuf. At the same time, though, there are other ways that this trade impacts the team. For example, one can look at the roster shuffle it causes for the Toronto Marlies, and how it makes a great team somehow better.
Interestingly enough, the least productive player of the AHLers in the packages is the one heading up to his new big club. Colin Greening burst onto the NHL scene five years ago looking like a late bloomer, putting up a respectable 31 goals in his first 153 games without receiving any particularly favourable ice time. Looking to ensure that their asset was locked up in a cost-effective manner, the Sens signed him to an extension before he began the last year of his bargain-basement, $816,666 average contract.
He’s scored 18 points in 103 games since. In the past two calendar years, he has five NHL points. His last NHL goal was on December 29th, 2014. Needless to say, it’s been a while since he was held in favour. This year, he’s spent his time in Binghamton and hasn’t fared much better, scoring 7 goals and 6 assists in 41 games. He needs some work before he can help out a team in any degree. Maybe Mike Babcock is the guy who can make that repair. Certainly, that’s what the organization hopes.
Tobias Lindberg is a different story, though. As the best “prospect” in the trade, the 20-year-old comes with decent expectation attached to him. But beyond that, he probably makes the Marlies better in the present just as much as you’d hope he’ll make the Leafs better in the future. Lindberg leaves Binghamton as their fifth highest scorer, despite missing nearly 20 games, and was the team’s second-best under-23 point producer other than Matt Puempel.
Where he separates from Puempel, however, is how often he’s had a direct impact on goals scored; 86% of Lindberg’s 22 points are goals or primary assists, compared to 71% of Puempel’s 24. Only 18% of Lindberg’s points come on the powerplay, compared to 42% for Puempel.
Some have suggested too, that Lindberg is probably producing more efficiently as well, though I don’t know if I buy into that. The AHL time-on-ice that analytics sites feature is estimated based on how many goals (for or against) that a player is on the ice for, and with Lindberg’s +/- being abnormally high (+10 on a team with a -31 goal differential), it’s likely that a high on-ice save percentage is keeping off that part of the scoresheet, making him appear to have played fewer minutes. Regardless, he’s still a heck of a talent, especially at his age, which is why the Marlies have initially slotted him with William Nylander and Kasperi Kapanen.
— Todd Crocker (@HockeyCrock) February 10, 2016
Somehow, the Marlies will also keep Matt Frattin, despite his contract moving to the Senators on paper. Ottawa almost immediately loaned him back to the Marlies, presumably because they couldn’t justify paying his one-way contract and Binghamton are so far back in the standings that adding a soon-to-be Unrestricted Free Agent doesn’t help them much.
Though, if this video is any indication, Frattin thinks it’s because “they have f***ing Erik Condra”. Great answer, even if he’s actually part of the Lightning organization now.
While Frattin hasn’t exactly been on the scoring tear he went on with the Marlies last year, his role has changed as the youth have stepped up. He’s still averaging two shots on goal per game, but has seen his shooting percentage dip by 7% and his position in the lineup change to one of a grinder with the capacity to be in scoring position. For the Marlies, who have four players in league’s top-ten point leaders, that’s perfectly fine, and they’ll take the extra option if they can get it.
While the Marlies gain a player in Lindberg and retain one in Frattin, they also lose two. Ryan Rupert is probably the bigger loss of the bunch, in the sense that he’s a high-energy centre who crashes the net and annoys his opponents. Even if his upside isn’t particularly high, players like him are fun to watch and can change the course of games; you could argue that every team, at least at this level, needs a Ryan Rupert.
The Marlies, however, already had a slightly older, more effective Rupert in Sam Carrick. Carrick averages nearly double the shots-per-game of Rupert, causes just as much commotion, has been more effective at setting up his linemates, and tends to be a little better at winning the fights he starts. They’re both fun players, and I think Rupert could very well end up playing for Ottawa some day, but he wasn’t necessary.
As for Casey Bailey, the Leafs and Marlies wash their hands of arguably their only swing-and-miss of 2015. Bailey, who was considered by many to be one of the top college free agents when he was signed by the team in March, had just 18 points in 38 games. While his 6’3 frame was theoretically menacing, he didn’t throw it around as much as hoped, or use it to generate much on either side of the ice. At 24-years-old, I can’t see him getting significantly better moving forward. Moving on was in the best interest of the team.
While the biggest part of this trade was the long-term salary flexibility it gives the Maple Leafs, it appears to have made the Marlies a little bit better at the same time. Lindberg is the most skilled player in the deal, providing the most impactful results, and will be a noticeable upgrade over Bailey. Rupert’s absence will be negated as soon as Carrick returns from his injury, and while Matt Frattin replacing himself is a little goofy sounding, there’s a certain shrewdness to keeping a veteran presence while backing the club away from the 50-contract limit. It’s scary to think that an 0.800 team may have indirectly made itself better, but here we are.