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TLN Monday Mailbag: June 12th

…so this is the offseason, eh? Feels weird. Real weird. Hopefully, we get a trade or two soon, I could use some continued chaos in my hockey life and I’m sure you all feel similar. For now, though, we’ll stick with this week’s mailbag.

I’d have to say Thornton would be the most impactful option of the bunch. I’d love to find a way to get Kovalchuk too, but his impact would come in an area that Toronto is already elite in (offensive generation and special teams). Thornton, who doesn’t get enough credit as a two-way player, would add significantly more to the table defensively while still being able to keep up and encourage opportunities to score. That’s the type of defensive upgrade you want; one who supplements your offence rather than pulls it back for the sake of balance.

Hossa would provide the same qualities, but still has four years left on a rough contract. Thornton, should he hit free agency, will likely be looking for one or two years.

I think it’s a viable emergency measure but not a plan I’d lead in with. While he’s capable of playing centre, it’s not his primary focus by any means, and if the goal is to get a targeted 4C, a smart team can usually pick up a guy on a “prove it” contract in September that can hold his own.

In short: I’d look around for other options, but if it came down to Leo or Ben Smith, I’m going to take our favourite pest.

Brown is probably the tier of player that I’d use in such a trade, rather than reaching towards the big three. There are probably other avenues that can be pursued before making that move, but if we’re talking a mostly straight up deal for a legitimate (in all facets, not just by average time on ice) second pair defenceman on a decent deal, I’d go for it.

Kapanen might not be able to replace his production in the first year, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he were a similar net-sum player.

The safest route to take is to not take the safe route. Toronto doesn’t need to prioritize “making it” over upside, or any particular position. No team really does. The goal of the draft isn’t to develop a player that you can get at the end of every summer for cheap; it’s to attempt to find the next stars that rarely hit the market. I’d be shocked if they used high picks on a base single again (to their credit, it’s been nearly four years since they last did it); you have to swing for the home run.

I don’t know a ton of people who will use Goals-For Percentage as any form of gospel. I certainly don’t agree with those who do so; it doesn’t tell you a heck of a lot, given how random goals can be and how inconsistent most players are in the stat game to game, month to month, year to year, etc.

Goals For Percentage is technically better than plus/minus if you want to use a goal differential-like metric, though. Plus/Minus includes empty net goals and shorthanded goals, so it’s not a straight up 5v5 goal differential like it appears to be, making a sketchy statistic even sketchier. For example, a penalty kill specialist might look better at even strength as a result of plus-minus. Josh Manson, a defenceman that many traditionalists want the Leafs to pursue, was a +14 this year, but +7 of that actually came on the penalty kill. This wouldn’t be a big deal if powerplay goals counted as minuses, but they don’t.

So I’d definitely pick GF% between the two. I just don’t know if there’s much else I’d do with it beyond that.

  • RCrooks

    Jeff….with all the cash the Leafs have wouldn’t it make sense for them front end a contract on any free agents so they would be easy to trade after a couple of years if they don’t work out? As example…..Shattenkirk….1st year- 14M…..2nd-14M….3rd….9M…..4 thru 7….. 3 million per….would have a cap hit of 7 million but after year 3 if we don’t like him or need the cap space we could easily trade him to a low budget team….they would owe him 3 million but with a cap of 7 would help them hit the minimum…..these are big numbers but on any free agent couldn’t we do similar??

    • Bob Canuck

      Front-loading a contract has some merits but the current CBA would not permit a contract structured in the way you propose. See an explanation of the relevant CBA section in the article linked-to below.

      https://slappersandstats.com/tag/nhl-cba/

      I think the best one could do for a 7-year contract with an AAV of $7 million is as follows: Yr 1 – $10.3 million; Years 2 to 6 – $6.7 million per year; Year 7 – $5.2 million. After Year 3, the remaining cap hit would be $28 million and the cash cost would be $25.3 million.