I went into this morning excited that the Leafs were already down Shawn Matthias. Waking up and immediately seeing Roman Polak and Nick Spaling make departures has essentially helped the trade deadline deliver on my expectations. Everything else that happens beyond now is just gravy, beautiful, delicious gravy.
This week the Power Rankings are going to focus on the keepers. It’s time to rank the Leafs top to bottom on how much we want to see the players sticking with the Leafs after the trade deadline. Take this with a bit of a grain of salt, since really after the top three it starts becoming more about this deadline not being the best time to maximize a return for that player.
1. Morgan Rielly
The combination of youth and talent easily makes Rielly the most untouchable Leaf. He may be struggling with the 1D role that has been forced on him, but that’s largely due to defensive partner Matt Hunwick, playing his wrong side, and the fact he’s still 21 years old. As the situation on the Leafs improves, it seems reasonable to expect Rielly to improve.
2. Nazem Kadri
Finding a top six center is just about as easy as finding a top pairing defender, so Kadri’s value is pretty much up there with Rielly. Nazem has rounded out his game nicely this season and he’s carved out a niche a guy who can be counted on to draw penalties. The Leafs still may struggle to capitalize on those chances, but at it’s a couple of minutes they aren’t being scored on
3. Jake Gardiner
If any player has thrived in the post Carlyle world, it’s Jake Gardiner. His offensive numbers still haven’t materialized, but his possession numbers support him being the Leafs top defender this season and one of the best for the foreseeable future.
4. Brendan Leipsic
Thank God that Leipsic got called up today so I could fill out this list with players I’d hope to see with the Leafs long term. Leipsic is of the same ilk as Komarov and Tucker, so we’ll all be prone to loving him too much. For now though, he’s cheap, has potential, and he’s new hotness, so it’s exciting to start seeing the future of this team unfold with players like him.
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) February 14, 2016
5. Colin Greening
Greening represents the transition from the players you truly want to keep to those you should probably keep in order to maximize the value on them. Greening hasn’t looked bad in his few games with the Leafs, and his possession numbers create hope that he can either be moved in the offseason or flipped at the next trade deadline.
6. Daniel Winnik
Similar to Greening, the value just isn’t there for Winnik this season. Winnik could be flipped, but not nearly at the return that you’d get if he had been healthy and not carrying another season cap hit at more than $2M.
7. Josh Leivo
In his limited bit of time with the Leafs before winding up on the injured reserve, Josh Leivo showed so signs that he might be able to fill a role in the NHL. While he’s far from spectacular, he seems capable of filling in, and offers a cheap forward option for next season, with a greater upside than you may receive with bringing in another UFA.
8. Peter Holland
Holland has been a very serviceable player for the Leafs this season, and he’s one that can potentially be brought back on the cheap. It’s hard to imagine that flipping him for a 3rd or later round pick would ever yield the Leafs a player as good as Holland, so might as well find out what they have in him.
9. James van Riemsdyk
JVR isn’t someone who the Leafs should be looking to keep long term, but he’s certainly not going to be at his peak value while he’s still on the injured reserve. The Leafs are probably better off to wait for his return, and then hope that he can establish a real value for himself by the summer.
10. Leo Komarov
As someone who has been pushing to sell Komarov for the better part of the season, I think I’m now ready to transition to holding onto him until around the draft. There very well could be a team looking to add this “All-Star” to their roster for their playoff push, and if they are willing to pay a premium, fantastic, but I think it’s much more likely that coming out of the playoffs where everyone has spent the entire playoff run falling in love with the heart and soul player of the Stanley Cup Champions, that’s when someone like Komarov is going to be truly seen as a commodity.
Everyone else with some term left on their contract has a bit of an honourable mention here. In a lot of cases it’s probably best to maximize the return or not rush into a deal just because you’re excited that someone showed some interest in Jonathan Bernier. Term players like Joffrey Lupul and Jared Cowen are the likely exceptions here, as buyout candidates anything and everything is value compared to them.