There’s been a lot of talk about the Leafs’ ability to take a big swing at fixing their defence corps this offseason, usually in the form of a run at Alex Pietrangelo in free agency or moving a substantial name up front to get help elsewhere. Then beyond that, the sort of B-squad gets a lot of play – stop gap options like Radko Gudas, Dylan Demelo, and so on.
Jammed right in the middle of those two groups, I’d argue, is T.J. Brodie, set to hit the market if the Flames fail to re-up the blue-liner this week. And we don’t have to look too hard to link him up with the Leafs. Just last summer, when Toronto decided to move on from Nazem Kadri, it was widely known that the first deal on the table would send him to Calgary for a package centered around Brodie, before Kadri ultimately squashed it.
So Dubas knows this player. Well enough, in fact, that he was looking to to bring him aboard in one of his most substantial trades of his tenure. The research on his play had obviously largely been done, and Brodie was a hair away from coming to Toronto.
…asked if it feels strange to think about potentially hitting the ice next season in another uniform.
“A little bit,” Brodie replied. “But at the same time, last year I was almost wearing a Leafs jersey. So I look at it like that — who knows how many times throughout my career so far there was a chance of me putting on a different jersey? This time, it could be on my own terms.”
Fast-forward a year and you could argue the timing for Brodie to join the Leafs couldn’t be better, for either side. Brodie himself has had a bit of a dip in his offensive game the last couple seasons, but he’s only just turned 30-years-old and should have plenty left in the tank. A move to the Leafs, known for wanting to keep the offensive tempo up, could get him back in the scoring column a little more and provide a type of game more tailored to his style. For the Leafs, now might be the ideal time to get this player in on the (relative) cheap. With Brodie’s offensive numbers muted a little recently and him looking to bounce back off a year that saw him have a health scare, it isn’t like his contract leverage is what we thought it might look like a couple years ago.
So what kind of money are we talking about here? And what could Brodie’s role be with the Leafs?
Contract-wise, while Brodie likely outplayed his previous contract at the front end, it’s unlikely he’ll get much of a raise on the $4.6 million AAV he’s coming away from. Also given his age and what looks like a weird last couple seasons, teams might not be lining up to give him a lot of term. Evolving Hockey has him penciled for around 3 years and $4.9 million AAV, which to me seems a little on the high end, and as my colleague Jon Steitzer mentioned, could come down a bit if Dubas ponies up with signing bonuses.
As for where Brodie fits, the answer is pretty much anywhere in the top four. Brodie is left-handed but is totally comfortable playing either side, and the Leafs will likely want him to bolster the right unless they have something else substantial on the docket. Either way, he can skate, move the puck, and shuffle around the top four in almost any manner, which has to be extremely appealing to the Leafs in particular.
For all those reasons, it’s likely the Leafs get tire-kicking on Brodie this weekend. He might not be a huge land like Pietrangelo or (via trade) Letang or whoever, but he provides a real improvement on the back end that someone like Radko Gudas doesn’t. He isn’t a band-aid. I wouldn’t be surprised in the least to see him ink with Toronto in the opening days of free agency during the coming weekend.