A couple weeks ago, I threw myself into the fire by saying that the Leafs and John Tavares, despite the fact that it seems like destiny, simply aren’t a match. I got sewered online for it, then asked good twitter dude Totally Offside! to consolidate how wrong I was into an article so everybody could laugh at me.
Jokes aside, I was really into his big-picture theory of how it could possibly go down. He did a great job putting together a scenario in which the Leafs could afford Tavares and did a great job explaining why the Leafs could use Tavares. I agree, I definitely overlooked in my original article how great Tavares on the Leafs would actually be. That said, I’m still skeptical that this is actually going to happen.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d be thrilled to be incorrect here. I’m not a Leafs fan, but a Leafs observer and I genuinely enjoy this team. I enjoy watching the team almost as much I would enjoy watching everybody absolutely melt down over Tavares becoming a Leaf. The team finally fulfilling the Bring A Good Toronto Boy Home destiny after missing out on Steven Stamkos and others before him would be incredible because that narrative makes every single other fan in the league physically sick to their stomach.
Anyways, as good as the Tavares coming home storyline is, there’s another one that I figure will not only make you feel incredibly warm and fuzzy inside, but is more realistic in the real world.
Joe Thornton. A good London, Ontario boy. He comes home. He re-joins his close pal Patrick Marleau. The two grizzled veterans help lead the youngsters to the Stanley Cup. After a long half-century of not really coming close, the Maple Leafs finally win. After long careers of coming up short, Thornton and Marleau hoist the Cup together. Everyone wins. Give me that. Inject it into my veins.
I wasn’t sure if I was going to write about this or not, but after seeing Marleau play a key role in helping the Leafs win Monday night’s game against Boston, I can’t help myself. I’m so All In on Thornton and Marleau on the Leafs I woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat wondering if I should pre-order a Thornton Leafs jersey.
Not actually, but you get the point. This makes a lot of sense, probably a bit more sense than Tavares does.
Thornton inked a one-year deal to stick around in San Jose last summer worth $8,000,000. As a result, he’ll be a free agent again this summer. The Leafs currently have about $50,000,000 invested in next year’s team, giving them $30,000,000 to fool around with. James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, and Leo Komarov are all free agents, and it seems possible that all three will be moving on as the team looks to expand the roles of young players like Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, etc.
Nylander needs a new deal this summer and will likely become the first of the Big Three Large Adult Sons to get a long-term deal. Marner and Matthews will be next up come July 2019. We talk often about this Matthews ELC Window in which the team, like the Blackhawks did with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, should try to win before their stars get expensive.
That’s what makes Thornton such a good fit. He can still play, as he put up 36 points in 47 games on a defensively-oriented Sharks team this year. The main worry with Thornton, who’s set to turn 39 this summer, is that his legs could give out on him at any moment, but in a decreased role behind Matthews and Kadri, Thornton would be an excellent depth producer and mentor on this young Leafs squad. And, the best part, of course, is that it wouldn’t take a long-term deal to get him here. He, like Marleau, can come in and do his thing, and then ride off into the sunset before the Big Three make things difficult on the cap.