One of Elliotte Friedman’s least favourite things is when people pay attention to what he says and find it interesting enough to write about. So I’ll apologize to him in advance because that’s exactly what we’re going to do here. Here is the full segment with Friedman (starts at the 31 minute mark and gets Leafs-centric at 43:40 so you can avoid the morning zoo style hosts)
@akaRCN has provided the Cliff Note version:
Let’s first make sure we acknowledge the “wonders”. This likely means that we are going on any insider information that Elliotte Friedman has heard from any team, league officials, or player agents. This is just a smart guy who spends his life in hockey sharing his interesting and informed opinion. However, “expects” is very different than wonders, so we’ll discuss that JVR piece through that lens.
Leivo or Soshnikov and the Oilers
Additional Friedman paraphrased thoughts: Leivo needs to get 39 games, Soshnikov wants to be in the NHL, and the Leafs don’t typically mismanage assets.
This isn’t the first time I’ve heard about Leivo and the Oilers, and that’s probably because this is a drum that Allan Mitchell (@Lowetide) has beaten fairly regularly since the start of the preseason. Ideally the wish is that Leivo would have been placed on waivers by the Leafs and the Oilers would be savvy enough to pick him up. The problem there is that there are probably a few other teams willing to give Leivo a shot before the Oilers, and the Leafs seem to know that they have something in Leivo that they aren’t willing to let go for nothing.
Leivo would certainly help address some of the offensive issues that the Oilers have been facing, at least in a bottom six/affordable capacity, and get why he’s appealing for them. Soshnikov is less of an offensive player, so he seems like he’d be less appealing in that regard, but he does add a bit of speed to their very slow (aside from McDavid) lineup and could play a role in their top nine because of his skating.
Bottom line, I don’t think Friedman is reaching here and I’m sure it’s possible that these teams have discussed these players.
What Would The Leafs Want?
This is the piece that Friedman didn’t mention at all, so now you’re stock with my spitballing. Jussi Jokinen, Anton Slepyshev, Jujhar Kharia, and Drake Caggiula seem to be the most expendable Oilers at this point. They are all expendable because they believe that guys like Soshnikov and Leivo would do better than them, and honestly, why would the Leafs want another winger?
The intriguing option on the Oilers (that I’m sure they don’t want to part with) is Matt Benning. Benning would offer the Leafs a chance to add some depth to the right side of their blueline and may be attainable thanks to his slow start to his sophomore season. He’s not an upgrade over Carrick or Zaitsev, he’d still easily be third on depth chart there, but he pushes Polak back and allows for entertaining the idea of moving Hainsey to left side at some point if there was ever an appetite to do so or belief that Zaitsev or Carrick could handle a top pairing situation.
Honestly, I couldn’t see the Oilers torching their blueline depth (even if Peter Chiarelli is their GM) so the most appealing offer for the Leafs might simply be draft picks.
JVR and/or Marner’s Future In Toronto
Additional Friedman paraphased thoughts: “I think they are going to try and sign him” (re: JVR), and that they’d look for a Oshie type situation. As for Marner, Friedman noted that he doesn’t appear to be a Babcock favourite.
Last season it was “Trade Nylander” this year it’s going to be “Trade Marner” and a decade from now, I hope that both of them are still Leafs. This is definitely a different look at the same situation as Leivo and Soshnikov, and it’s an attempt to free the Leafs from the burden of having too much depth on the wing. I’m not sure why the Leafs would be in a hurry to give up on a 20 year old, and they probably aren’t but let’s assume that Elliotte is implying that the Leafs see him as the most movable of their best assets. I don’t think that Friedman is saying the Leafs are shopping Marner, but might have concerns down the line if they are spending too much money on the wing.
Where the Marner piece is complicated is with the notion that he expects the Leafs to bring back James van Riemsdyk. I don’t think there’s much argument that both Lou Lamoriello and Mike Babcock like having veteran players around to compliment youth, and they did that well by bringing in Patrick Marleau and Ron Hainsey on somewhat reason terms. The problem with van Riemsdyk is that he’s going to have a lot more term and probably still cost around the same annually as Patrick Marleau. And he doesn’t have an option to be moved to center.
Thinking that JVR is good and wanting him back as a Leaf is understandable, but he has already moved into a more sheltered role due to the absence of his defensive game. His combination of offensive skill and size is something that is lacking in the Leafs forward group and the idea of losing that presence on the power play might be difficult for an organization, so as much as cap and age considerations for van Riemsdyk have me skeptical that this would be a good decision, I could talk myself into JVR returning, though I’d hope with a friendly term and cap hit than they’d likely receive on the open market.
Doubling back to Marner, I don’t get wanting to give up on high end young player. The Leafs may have roster holes, but do we want to go off and deal Marner in a Hall for Larsson type deal before the Leafs even know what they really have in Liljegren?
Do we want to panic about Marner’s next contract, when his goal drought might make him more affordable than we originally anticipated?
I don’t think Friedman or the Leafs are suggesting being stupid about anything. I think Friedman is just hinting at the organization valuing Nylander more than Marner at this point, but with the marginally more worrisome aspect of wanting to retain JVR’s skillset over Marner’s. To me this gets at the philosophy of coaches and GMs wanting a team that plays a certain way and they are willing to give up better players in order to find the player that fits what they are trying to do. They might not be wrong in doing that, but generally us on the outside see an incredibly talented player who the coach should be designing a style of play around their talents. Obviously you can only do that for so many players, and you need to think a player is special enough to be accommodated in that way. I’d argue that Marner is, but it’s entirely possible the organization does not agree.
What is any of this really?
This was a brief radio hit in Calgary and was Elliotte “wondering” and contemplating what could be something that happens. None of this was from his sources and is just an informed opinion. It’s something interesting to discuss and consider, but we don’t need to worry about Marner departing (at least not anytime soon.)