Say no to big personalities, goalie swap ideas, and Flyers schadenfreude : Leaflets

Photo credit:Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
1 month ago
It has been an interesting week for the Leafs. California has been good to the Leafs but the Islanders brought a dose of reality that the Pacific Division just can’t bring, and that is the Leafs still should be concerned with their goaltending and defence. And when I say defence, I do want to emphasis it’s the team defence and not just the position. Oddly enough I think you can point to some real wins on Toronto’s blueline this year with Morgan Rielly playing like playoff Morgan Rielly in the regular season, Simon Benoit erasing the need for the human eraser Luke Schenn, and Timothy Liljegren is as steady as they come. If Toronto can right size Jake McCabe in the lineup instead of asking too much of him and finding a better fit for TJ Brodie as it seems the top pairing isn’t the place for him any longer, the blueline looks decent. Toronto’s defensive contributions from their forwards is the uphill battle. That’s likely a post for another day and instead we’ll focus on what I can keep to short Leaflet length topics.

The Leafs locker room can’t handle another big personality

With a lot of talk about Corey Perry only looking for the league minimum to join a cup contender, he seems like a pretty low risk option. Assuming what happened in Chicago is taken at face value and is the Blackhawk organization going to great length to make sure they have veterans who role model off ice best practices to their young core as well. Giving them that benefit of doubt is asking a lot and there is a lot of grey area on what Corey Perry may have done, but let’s focus solely on who he is as a player.
Corey Perry is a dick. In this sense I actually mean it as a compliment as we’ve seen how his dickish behaviour has impacted the Leafs over the years. There is still an impact player there and while he is clearly in the bottom of the roster stages of his career, he has shown the ability to flash back to his better days at important moments. I can really see the appeal in Perry as a buy low option.
The problem with the Leafs bringing in Perry is that he represents another attempt to fix the Leafs lack of identity with another big personality. Marner, Matthews, and Nylander are all big personalities. Throw in Bertuzzi, Domi, and Reaves and you’ve just added three more big personalities. You’ve got big time leaders in Rielly, Tavares, and Giordano. And then you want to add Corey Perry to the group that overlaps personality and leadership and has a very defined role that he is meant to play. That seems like trouble before you even get to the side show of the Leafs media vs. Corey Perry and the early season kerfuffle between Perry and Reaves.
No, Perry is a bit too much and the same is probably true of a lot of big personality options who might be available at the trade deadline as well.
The Leafs are likely better off infusing their roster with some worker bees. Players who have a reputation for showing up, doing what is asked of them by the coach, and are happy to fit into the lineup where they are needed. The Leafs have blueprints of these players. Calle Jarnkrok is a prime example of a forward like that. Jake Muzzin is still most ideal example of a Leafs defensive acquisition, and while neither panned out as well as Jarnkrok or Muzzin, Lafferty and McCabe are good examples of the Leafs trying to identify hard working players that will do what is asked of them during the last trade deadline.
I feel like I’m talking myself into Chris Tanev as an option here as he checks a lot of boxes but while Perry in isolation looks low risk, there needs to be some consideration for what his presence does to this team that already seems to be pulling in a few different directions.

A pair of Samsonov swap ideas

I am a person who bemoans trade proposals and armchair GMing, but I confess I am probably as guilty as anyone else for having my mind drift in that direction. What makes sense to me while sitting on the toilet and scrolling through a trade rumours article likely translates into nonsense for 99.9% of the audience and I look like an idiot.
That being said, I’m going to share a couple of my Samsonov related trade proposals anyway. The reality is that Samsonov could probably use a fresh start in a new market. Whether his team supports him or not, the reality is that his decline was too significant to win back the majority of the Leafs fanbase and that will be a tough audience to let in goals in front of. He needs a fresh start.
At the same time the Leafs absolutely need a Plan C in net. Jones has been good but the game against the Islanders was a reminder that he didn’t suddenly become super human. Woll is still who you want to give every opportunity to but goaltender injuries are tricky and Woll gets a lot of them. Jones has already proven the value of the Leafs having a sound third option, so the Leafs should look at who that can be while either creating some cap room or bringing in a goaltender who looks like they can be an option beyond this season.
My first proposal is a simple one and one exclusively based in clearing cap space. It’s Samsonov to Buffalo for Eric Comrie. Comrie has already cleared waivers and is in Rochester. He’s also a pending UFA and given that the Leafs can work with him in the AHL before eventually looking to see what he can do in the NHL again seems worthwhile. Comrie looked good in Winnipeg when he was playing behind a better team and Buffalo might simply have been too much for him to handle.
From Buffalo’s perspective they could use someone who can give their two young goaltenders a chance to develop and has the upside that was seen in Samsonov in the last season. He’s an interesting try before you buy option this year for the Sabres who should be pretty close to writing off any shot at a wild card spot.
The other proposal is a deal with Columbus for Elvis Merzlikins. Merzlikins seems to be getting pushed out in Columbus as they are exploring what they can get out of Daniil Tarasov. At a .907 save percentage on a bad team, Merzlikins would be a significant upgrade for the Leafs and worked with Ian Clark, the goaltending coach that Curtis Sanford worked under in Vancouver. The fact that there is common ground there seems beneficial and might make him a more attractive target than other netminders.
Going after Merzlikins obviously means adding to the deal and I’m not going to go full trade proposal and guess at what is needed by Columbus to get them to pull the trigger. I’m assuming it’s futures based.
Nevertheless, a decent goaltender who is under contract at a fair price is something the Leafs should be looking at, but the Comrie deal seems far more realistic.

The Cutter Gauthier situation

I must confess that as far as NHL drama this season goes, the Cutter Gauthier situation has been the highlight for me. For one I am generally a fan of players using any leverage they can to go to a place they want to play, especially since NHL contracts lock young players into that location for the better part of a decade once signed.
The real highlight though has been watching the city of Philadelphia lose its collective mind over the fact that someone wouldn’t want to play there or treat it as the greatest honour to ever be bestowed upon a person. On behalf of fans of every Canadian team I feel like this is a moment we’ve earned and deserve to enjoy, even if I’m positive that the reason the Flyers only talked to 20 teams about trades for Gauthier is because he ruled out all seven Canadian teams as a big chunk of that.
The story definitely had an unfortunate twist as Kevin Hayes got caught in the crossfire of the Philadelphia overreaction and no matter what you think of John Tortorella, his calling out of reporter who made the wild accusation as well as his discussion about his relationship with Kevin Hayes shows that Tortorella is a very principled person, even if you find yourself frequently disagreeing with his coaching philosophy amongst other things.
The lesson that should be taken away from this that is somewhat universal and would absolutely apply to the Leafs is that the way that prospects are being coached by their agents is different now. If you don’t want to play for the team that drafted you, there are steps that can be taken and teams need to think about whether they take the best player that wants to play for them or if they take the most valuable asset at the draft knowing they might need to flip that player.
It will also be interesting to see if Canadian teams start becoming overly cautious about drafting top American prospects that might be adamant about playing in the United States. The interview process is an important one and while we don’t know exactly where things went wrong with the Flyers and Cutter Gauthier, as it might be a post draft issue, getting top prospects under contract as soon as possible might be another trend we start seeing and the NCAA might get watered down in the process.
Lastly, as far as returns go, I think the Flyers did pretty well with the Drysdale and a 2nd pick up for Gauthier and it sure was nice to see the NHL be this interesting.

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