With now just a little over a week to the deadline, we’re right in the middle of the busiest time of the NHL season speculation-wise, and with that comes Scout Watch – where tracking team representatives attending specific games is almost a nightly occurrence.
Now, we never put too much stock into scouts attending games because, well, that’s what pro scouts do all year every year. But sometimes there’s a bit of a pattern to be found, and it can give us clues as to which teams might be in substantial trade talks.
And while most of the time it isn’t notable to point out which teams have representatives at a certain game on a certain night, looking at who they send could raise some ears.
Last week the Leafs played the Flames in Calgary on Tuesday, but when the team went on to Edmonton for their game Thursday, assistant general manager Kyle Dubas flew to San Jose for the Sharks’ tilt against the Flames. There’s obviously a chance he was there to talk with Sharks management instead of chasing Calgary (Polak perhaps?), but either way that isn’t a common thing. As one of the key architects of this team, he was obviously there for an important purpose.
Montreal been scouting #SJSharks a lot lately – two scouts listed for tonight, as is Maple Leafs AGM Kyle Dubas
— Kevin Kurz (@KKurzCSN) February 12, 2016
If you go back a little further, last month the Leafs had Mark Hunter in Calgary to see the Flames and Yotes. Again, Hunter isn’t just some scout who’s making rounds, he’s the team’s director of player personnel, and likely has about as much say in transactions decisions as Dubas.
Then, to jump forward again, last night for the Flames game against Minnesota, Toronto had Dave Morrisson in attendance. Morrisson likely hops around the map all season taking in games, but again his name is notable since he is high up the Leafs’ organizational chart as their director of pro scouting.
It’s certainly possible I’m misreading this situation and the Leafs’ link with Calgary isn’t as strong as it looks. Like we mentioned, there could be reps from up to twelve teams at a game on any given night at this time of year. But I think this is at least worth keeping an eye on based on the titles of the guys we’ve talked about above, and the fact that both teams, as basement-dwellers, are likely looking to re-shape their franchises.
At first glance the Leafs and Flames probably don’t make a whole lot of sense as trade partners, since we’re operating under the assumption that Toronto can only link up with contenders who want to take on expiring rentals, mainly forwards. But a move for James Reimer would make plenty of sense for the Flames if they feel they can re-sign him, as their goaltending is about as uncertain as any team’s league-wide. Or they could take a flyer on Bernier’s final year of his contract.
Leafs obvious fit with Flames would be moving a goalie there. One of few teams in need at position.
— James Mirtle (@mirtle) February 18, 2016
Outside of all that, we know both front offices aren’t afraid to make headlines, completing arguably the two biggest trades of the last calendar year with the Hamilton and Phaneuf deals. So perhaps there’s potential for something bigger here, and that’s why the Leafs are sending in the top guns. It’s also worth pointing out that the Flames have some hefty contracts they could look to get out from under, like Wideman, Engelland, and others, and that’s something Toronto could help out with…at a price.
This is obviously all just speculation, but with the deadline approaching and Toronto doing such a great job of keeping things under wraps since Lou entered the fold, we’ll have to take what we can get. Look into this what you will.