The Toronto Maple Leafs are poised to become the next Chicago Blackhawks. We talked about this the other day; they fit the model of prospect hoarding followed by a sudden thrust of blue chip player deployment and rapid talent acquisition that dominates the cap era. The logical course of action for this summer is to make big-swing additions while they can afford it, and we could be in for some really interesting moves in the next few weeks. Coincidentally, I’d stay far away from the gossip surrounding those Chicago Blackhawks.
Twitter was set ablaze by this tweet from 670 The Score radio host and hockey writer Jay Zawaski last night:
Lots of smoke around the Hawks tonight. Texts w several sources have me in "hold on to your butt" mode. Good chance core guy is moved soon.
— Jay Zawaski (@JayZawaski670) June 10, 2017
Zawaski made a few other observations surrounding this nugget of information, which include:
- The core player is not captain Jonathan Toews
- The move is expected to weaken the team in the short term, either to dump salary or to amass future assets
- The trade is not “within the hours” imminent just yet
- Marcus Kruger isn’t the player in question, but he is also on the move.
This leaves us with Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Corey Crawford as options here. Most seem to think that Seabrook is the most obvious player to go, and thanks to the abundance of immediate salary, the Leafs’ need for a defenceman, and a relationship with Mike Babcock on the Canadian National Team, many seem to be connecting the two together.
Personally, I’d lean towards extreme caution when it comes to the 32-year-old Seabrook.
The weird thing too is that he largely fits the mould of player that I want the Leafs to add to their blue line. I’m not huge on the idea of slowing a team this fast down by adding “shutdown” defencemen; I want skaters who can move the puck up as fast as can and keep this team on the attack, even if it comes with a risk when they’re unable to do that. Seabrook fits that description.
However, the net result has only led to him driving possession above the team average once in the past five years, and that year (+1.99%) was his only notably above average season (>1%) in that regard over the past decade. That wouldn’t be a huge deal if he rode the average, scored points and played the toughest minutes, but he’s become increasingly sheltered over the years and has been worse than -2% relative in three of the last five seasons. I’m all for creating differential through offence, but what Seabrook is doing isn’t quite at the creating differential stage.
More importantly, he costs an absolute boatload of money. If you’re skeptical of signing Kevin Shattenkirk to a $7 million or so contract in July, you should have no interest in Seabrook; he has seven years left at a $6.875 million cap hit, bringing him to Age 39.
The “sweetener” on a trade like this would have to be so good that it wouldn’t be worth it to Chicago, who would be moving Seabrook to get back under the cap (the Hawks start the offseason $4.52M over the ceiling). We’d probably be talking about a trade along the lines of Seabrook and multiple picks and prospects for an inconsequential defenceman, which wouldn’t be of any interest to Chicago. I’d avoid the discussion at all costs, but wonder if others within the Leafs organization feel the same way.
As for the other options, I don’t know if there’s a fit there either. The internal fan voice inside of me would love to see Marian Hossa wrap up his career here, but you’d need the full 50% salary retention there for it to make any sense. Toronto would have no need for Crawford, nor do I think the Hawks would move him. Panarin’s contract is too good for Chicago to walk away from now, and the amount of money the team plans on investing in its current forward core and their strive for good people in the locker room, I can’t imagine they’d try very hard to win a Kane bidding war (which we would’ve heard about by now if it were him). Keith would be fun to have, but Chicago isn’t in a position where that contract needs to be parachuted out of yet either. Lastly, Hjalmarsson is incredible value, and that combined with the fact that moving him for nothing would still have the Hawks over the cap probably means he’ll stick around too.
It’ll be fun to see where this all ends up, if there’s any real smoke to the rumour at all. But I can’t see a fit with the Leafs. Which I suppose doesn’t really rule them out, but I’m not holding my breath either way.