Monday Mailbag: July 22nd


I’ve been messing with the idea of a mailbag on my personal blog for the past week or two, and it’s gone pretty well. But I started to notice that the bulk of the questions, perhaps unsurprisingly, were about the Leafs. So, with that considered, I’m bringing that component here! At least for now. Depending on feedback, this will become a weekly thing.

Given our loss of depth forwards (MacArthur, Frattin, Komarov), do you think injuries will be a big concern next season? Who are our primary call ups at each position?

This is a solid question. The reality is, the Leafs put themselves in a very questionable salary cap situation with the moves that they’ve made to start July, especially if RFA contract negotiations go as expected. Going in with the assumption of no trades offloading salary (and yes, even more "depth"), any call ups would have to be able to fill the role, have a low NHL cap hit, and be waiver exempt / unlikely to be claimed so they could be sent back down when the player they’re replacing returns from injury.

Down the middle, your first move isn’t to call anybody up. Joe Colborne has proven himself capable of playing in the NHL (admittedly with room to grow), makes only $600,000, and due to his age and experience can’t be sent down without waivers (where he would be claimed). This means he’ll start the season with the Leafs, and while he isn’t likely to play centre with all of Bozak, Kadri, Bolland, and McClement in the lineup, he’ll shift over if any of them get injured.

On the wing, Jerry D’Amigo ($1.1M) has one more season left of waiver exemption and would be my leading candidate, if only for his versatility and ability to play in all situations. Spencer Abbott also has a year (or 48 NHL games) of exemption, as does Carter Ashton. On defence, Jesse Blacker has a year left, and while Korbinian Holzer doesn’t, I wouldn’t be surprised if he slips through a waiver wire if he doesn’t have a performance that keeps him on the team. The same goes for Kevin Marshall and TJ Brennan.

This of course ignores bubble veterans, which the Leafs haven’t really gotten around to signing yet. Trevor Smith fits the description and may get some time if the Leafs need a winger, but I wouldn’t consider Troy Bodie much of anything unless he breaks out.

Do you think the Leafs will try to make the Marlies play more similar to their system? Is that an achievable goal? Does Steve Spott fit into that system?

Dallas Eakins used to state that the Marlies do exactly this. While elements of his own coaching style were always taken into consideration, the team would employ strategies and styles from Ron Wilson, and later on, Randy Carlyle. It’s not a stretch at all to assume that Steve Spott will do the same thing, especially since both Carlyle and Spott value aggressive players and a defensive play style. Whether either of them execute this properly omake the right decisions on who to place where in a lineup is a discussion for another day, but both teams will definitely play like each other.

How much do you think kessel will make in his next contract?

One has to imagine that he makes at least $7 Million, and probably approaches if not slightly exceeds the $8 Million mark. While there seems to be a lot of unfounded criticism of him at all levels of the hockey world, he’s still one of the most statistically productive players in the NHL over the past couple of years. The Leafs will likely try to use Alexander Semin’s contract (5Y @ 7M per) as their benchmark, while Kessel’s camp will argue with Corey Perry’s (8Y @ 8.625M per). 

Do you think kadri can become a first liner for us ? Do you think he can become over a point a game player ?

I think that his production this year was an abnormality in this development curve. His minutes were sheltered, opposing coaches and players were unprepared for him, and he had the physical head start of playing in the AHL (with an entire fan/media base yelling at him to get in shape based on a cherry-picked quote, no less). To expect him to keep up his 93 points per 1640 (82GP*20Mins) pace (which was 105 at the 39 game mark) would be crazy.
With that said, even if he were to drop to 55-60 points, that’s still higher than any other centre on the Leafs roster by a solid chunk. He could be a lower-tier first liner right now, and getting those minutes while being surrounded by other top line talent (not being occasionally played with Colton Orr) will grow him into an independantly great centre.
My expectation for him would be for him to follow in to Mike Ribeiro’s mold, Ribeiro hit point-per-game production with Dallas at Age 27, peaking with 83 points in 1400 minutes, and has been a 72pts/1640 player over the course of his career. That’s not an unrealistic goal for Kadri. He has similar playmaking skills, better speed, and is equally brilliant at diving drawing penalties. 

What kind of Money will Kadri get? And for how many years?

I expect a 2 or 3 year contract for about 3.5 million per year. Matt Duchene recieved that amount over three years after putting up 55, 67, and 28 point seasons at the ages of 19, 20, and 21. This all totals up to lower average production than Kadri this year, but one has to consider cap inflation, and that Duchene played three (well, 2 2/3) full seasons where as Kadri’s sample size of excellence is from half a year. This contract will definitely be a bridge deal to lead the team to a long term extension before he hits free agency. They don’t really have much of a choice anyway; there simply isn’t the cap room to lock him up long term. 

Rikard Wallin or Jonas Höglund?

The battle of the bad? Interesting, but the answer is Wallin. Though he was a worse hockey player (just 9 points in 60 games and none of the penalty kill ability that people were expecting), Wallin was a bad player in an era of bad. Him being a really good 4th liner like people wanted would have had next to no significant difference on a bototm feeder Leafs roster, and he was gone almost as soon as he came. Hoglund, on the other hand, was the definition of Mats Sundin’s eternal struggle to have a real linemate, and confirmed it to us with failed overtime breakaways, whiffs on one timers, and general disappointment for four whole years. Having a good first line winger in his place could be the difference between consistant contender and a team that gets a Stanley Cup in that time, especially when you consider his disappearing acts in the playoffs.
Rikard Wallin was the icing on a bad tasting cake. Jonas Hoglund was the one slice of a good cake that was poisoned.  

If Colborne plays in the top 9, Leafs 4th line next year will be Orr-McClemment-McClaren. What free agents/Marlies do you think could challenge Orr and McClaren for final 2 spots on roster? Would be nice to have 12 forwards who could actually play whole game, including late in 3rd and OT.

I think there’s over a half dozen guys that could beat Orr and McLaren out for a roster spot based on play. Or at least one of them. Who do I think will actually challenge them? Lets be realistic, in a Carlyle-based team, probably nobody. Their spots are secure. Add the fact that this team is going to be down to the wire in cap space and won’t rid themselves of either of these guys, and you’re going to have an enforcer line for a while yet.

Tyler Bozak is at your front door Jeff!

I know. He’s been there for three days. He refuses to knock until Phil Kessel shows up to help him out. 
If you’d like to submit a question for next Monday, you can leave it as a comment on here, on Reddit, by tweeting me with the hashtag #MM, or by emailing me.