It’s Mailbag time, and we got a lot of stuff to tackle this week. The 2016 NHL Entry Draft, Steven Stamkos, unrestricted free agency, William Nylander, Mitch Marner… Let’s just skip the formalities, yeah?
Pitter patter, let’s get at ‘er.
— Totally Offside (@Totally_Offside) February 15, 2016
Ouch. Losing the lottery is a tough way to kick off the Mailbag. A real kick in the pants, Totally_Offside.
Assuming that ‘the big three’ of Auston Matthews, Patrick Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi are drafted with the first three picks as expected, I currently lean towards Matthew Tkachuk for the Leafs at fourth overall. It’s no secret that the Leafs’ prospect pool lacks a stud blueliner, but I can’t bring myself to use Toronto’s top pick this year on a defenceman because I don’t believe either of the consensus best defenders, Jakob Chychrun and Olli Juolevi, are worthy of the fourth overall pick. Both of them seem like much better value somewhere in the latter half of the top ten. The Leafs should be looking for the defenceman with the second of their two first-round picks.
If anyone is going to come close to challenging Tkachuk for my pick, it’s one of the Mississauga kids – Alex Nylander or Michael McLeod. I give both of them a lot of credit for putting up strong offensive seasons without guys like Mitch Marner or Christian Dvorak to play alongside. If there’s one knock against Tkachuk, it’s that while there’s no denying his skill, he has some of the best linemates in the OHL. That certainly helps. And let’s just be honest… rolling out the Nylander Bros. for the next decade would be a pretty good time, am I right?
— Kelson™ (@kmcrobbie10) February 15, 2016
Jamie Benn is an unrestricted free agent in 2017. Just saying.
— Mœman (@MrMoeman2000HD) February 15, 2016
I believe that William Nylander and Mitch Marner will be Toronto Maple Leafs next season because there’s nowhere else it makes sense for them to play. Nylander is already good enough to be an NHL contributor and I can’t see why Marner would spend another season in London.
With Nylander, I don’t think 60 points is out of the question if he gets consistent minutes and some adequate linemates (such as James van Riemsdyk). For Marner, I think he’ll likely start off on the wing and might work well flanking Nazem Kadri, but I think he’s got a much larger transition to make than Nylander and is more likely to put up somewhere around 40 points.
For Kapanen, I honestly don’t see him spending much time next year with the Leafs. Being still so very young, I’d rather see him learn to dominate at the AHL level much like Nylander did this season. I fear that if Kapanen made the jump next season, he’d be used sparingly and on the lower lines, and likely wouldn’t crack 20 points.
— Goth Rocker (@jerryisthinking) February 15, 2016
There’s definitely going to be a few of those guys available, as this free agent class actually has a bunch of very interesting names throughout. One of the guys that jumps out at me would be Detroit’s Darren Helm. Obviously, Mike Babcock is very familiar with his work and he could be a very steady third-line guy for Toronto. That said, I’m not sure you can get Helm on a one-year deal, and I’m certainly not convinced Babcock would let him go once he got here.
Another name I might take a look at if the price is right (and that’s a big ‘if’) is Troy Brouwer. He’s not a perfect player and he’s on pace for his lowest goal total (15) since 2008, but he’s the kind of big-bodied winger that teams will clamour for at the trade deadline. The only issue is his contract demands. Again, I don’t see Brouwer being the kind of guy who would be too eager to sign a one-year deal with a team that has only mild playoff aspirations.
It actually gets me thinking… I wonder if, by this coming offseason, Toronto will be looking to move away from the sign-to-trade scheme? It made sense – a lot of sense – when the cupboards were bare, but that just isn’t the case anymore. Might we be getting to the point when the Leafs look for internal solutions? Is Toronto better off promoting players like Josh Leivo and Connor Brown as opposed to signing veteran free agents? I’m tempted to say they are. Maybe this offseason, Toronto should be looking at free agents who can actually help them longterm.
@thejustinfisher Justin where do think Stamkos lands this off season
— Frank Grisanzio (@F_Grisanzio) February 15, 2016