Leafs trade John-Michael Liles for Tim Gleason

Dave Nonis just made the first trade of the New Year! It’s neither a Big Blockbuster nor a Big Disaster, so no problem on this being made right in the middle of the Winter Classic. Toronto sent John-Michael Liles and prospect defenceman Dennis Robertson to the Carolina Hurricanes for Tim Gleason.

Gleason is a 31-year-old, left-shot defenceman, listed at 6’0″ 217 pounds. Despite being a reliable shutdown man for the Hurricanes during his mid-to-late-20s, injuries have caught up with him and his mobility has been lacking. So far this season he’s missed 22 games with various injuries.

It’s a sideways move, aimed at getting two struggling defencemen a change of scenery. I’m not too upset.

A quick look at Tim Gleason’s Behind the Net page tells us we had a defenceman that formerly played big minutes against top competition and did routinely well against them, but he had a very tough year a season ago with a -11.5 Relative Corsi. In just 15 games this season, he’s shown no signs of improvement and has been taking penalties at twice a higher rate than when he was in his prime.

His contract is also not ideal. He still makes $4-million a season through 2016, and he’ll only be worth that if he can turn his 2013 struggles into the kind of player he was before all of his injuries. Still, he makes just a little bit more than Liles, so the salary cap hit is kind of a wash in this trade.

I don’t think we need to scour through data to know that Liles is struggling. He’s been to the minors and a healthy scratch for most of the season. I thought he should have got a fairer shake this year (could he really be any worse than Mark Fraser or Paul Ranger?) but I’m not too upset to see him gone and get a chance somewhere else, in a system where speed is a little more rewarded. Carolina has a decent-looking top four, so perhaps he’ll get a sheltered role there?

It isn’t hard to see why Carolina made the deal either. Liles’ deal was a little more front-loaded, and a little smaller, so it should save the Hurricanes a couple of million bucks. They’re not a cap team and probably won’t be the next few years. The advantage for Toronto is that if they were to do a buyout on either Gleason or Liles, it will be slightly cheaper to buyout Gleason:

  Liles Buyout Gleason Buyout
2014-2015 $791,666.67 $833,333.33
2015-2016 $2,291,666.67 $1,833,333.33
2016-2017 $1,166,666.67 $1,333,333.33
2017-2018 $1,166,666.67 $1,333,333.33

Hopefully I figured out that properly. The differences in Years, 1, 3 and 4 of the buyout are just marginal differences, but, if it came to a buyout, that extra ~$400K in Year 2 is usable. (Figures updated. I did something wrong with the Liles contract initially. Thanks to @Mirtle for the correction.)

As usual, I think the way to react to this deal is “it’s not my money”. Gleason isn’t worth his contract, but has been in the past. A bit of a wash, and maybe Gleason is the kind of player that the Maple Leafs want on their team. They’ve tooled around that bottom pairing a bunch this season and perhaps they figured if they’d be spending money on a player, spend money on a player that they’d play above Paul Ranger on the depth chart. As with the Ryan O’Byrne trade a year ago, this isn’t a problem unless he makes the lineup ahead of Jake Gardiner or Morgan Rielly.

But perhaps Gleason also fills in on the top pairing alongside Dion Phaneuf for some shutdown shifts. At the very least, it gives Toronto another body that they’ll conceivably use in the lineup. The price is a few dollars against the cap and Dennis Robertson. I don’t know much about him, but here’s Pension Plan Puppets’ write-up about him. As long as they aren’t giving up on forward prospects.

Here’s Canes blogger Shutdown Line on the deal:

All figures via Capgeek

  • STAN

    I thought in the few games he played with the Leafs, Liles was much better than Fraser/Ranger. Also feel bad he got traded the day of the Winter Classic.

    On a side-note, how many ex-Leafs do the Canes have now?

  • STAN

    This is a head-scratcher.

    As NHL defences become more and more mobile (see Karlsson & Subban), we have Nonis’n’Co opting for another injury-prone slug (see Fraser)… and they’ll pay him more than JM Liles.

    But then, this is a management team that chose Clarkson over MacArthur, Frattin and Grabovski.

    Go figure.

  • STAN

    So a guy who couldn’t play for one of the worst defensive teams is somehow going to go to probably the worst defensive team and somehow make a difference. Interesting logic that.

  • STAN

    How do ya figur they choose clarkson over MacArthur grabovski and frattin if that’s ur logic call it what it is they choose clarkson bernier and bolland over those three

  • STAN

    Gleason is the perfect prototype of Phaneuf in a couple years when Phaneuf is 31. Phaneuf’s style and heavy workload against the big forwards will catch up to him just like they caught up with Gleason