It’s perhaps a little early to begin breaking down potential roster moves the Leafs could explore this offseason, but with so much on tap in the next eight weeks, including the playoffs, expansion draft, prospect draft, and even the NHL awards (which Toronto will finally be a part of), we want to get to this stuff as any kind of tidbits start to become available. And with the locker cleanout happening yesterday, along with a few quotes from management and the players, that created a jump-off point for a few topics, most notably the market for defencemen – something that remains a concern for probably a third of the teams in the league, including the Leafs.
TSN’s Pierre Lebrun provided a radio spot for 1050 in Toronto earlier this afternoon, and quickly touched on how the Leafs might examine that sort of move in the not-so-distant future:
I thought (Lou) said something telling yesterday when I asked about the defensive trade market…and his answer was “Don’t underestimate the impact of the Expansion Draft on potentially unearthing players that you didn’t think could be available”…I think there could be a lot moving in the month of June.
Regarding June 17 as the date for protected lists to be submitted by the other 30 teams:
Anaheim and Minnesota are two teams to really watch around those dates because they’re not just going to let Vegas take a really good defenceman for nothing – just not going to happen. So they’re either going to trade with Vegas directly, or they’re going to trade with a team like Buffalo, Toronto, or the thirteen other teams that are looking for defencemen.
Each of these clubs has a relative wealth of defencemen in their prime years, which we’ve discussed a number of times here at this site. But if we want to zoom in, the two most likely targets for a team like Toronto would be Josh Manson of the Ducks and Jonas Brodin of the Wild. Why is that? Well, essentially the no-movement clauses handed out to Jason Pominville and Kevin Bieksa have put these two teams in a tough situation in terms of protections with the Vegas draft approaching, and they’ll likely have to make some difficult blue-line decisions. The potential exposure of Manson and Brodin will very much be a part of that, but like Lebrun alluded to, they’re more likely to trade their way out of losing them for nothing.
In terms of the players themselves, both these guys are strong at even-strength, and should still have plenty of their best years in them. Brodin is just 23, while Manson will turn 26 next season. Brodin has more in terms of offensive upside, while Manson appears to be much more of a true shutdown defender, and that bears out in their numbers.
Keep in mind these are 5v5 figures, and Brodin gets powerplay minutes while Manson doesn’t at all. The latter is stronger in the run of play at evens though, even on a Randy Carlyle coached team, and has that right shot that so many coaches are in search of these days. Both seem to be totally worthwhile as potential targets for the Leafs, at least in my eyes.
|Josh Manson||25||$0.825M to 2018 (RFA)|
|Jonas Brodin||23||$4.17M to 2021 (UFA)|
In terms of cost control, these both present appealing options. Manson’s a late bloomer, and still on an absurdly cheap deal until he becomes a restricted free agent next summer. Brodin, on the other hand, is into his first UFA deal but at a totally manageable dollar amount for a top four. Considering he’ll be only 27 when it expires, there isn’t much to worry about there in terms of decline or lost value – it’s all prime age seasons. In that respect, both players should be examples of ‘what you see is what you’re getting’.
Now, of course, this is all speculation and a little bit of wishful thinking, but unless Lou comes out of left field with a blockbuster this summer, this could be the sort of deal we see come to fruition. And no doubt the usual suspects like Van Riemsdyk and some prospects will have their names get some play in terms of rumoured returns. That talk will only get louder in June as the Vegas draft and prospect draft happen just days apart from each other (the 21st and 23rd, respectively). Might as well get a head start on that now.