As you probably have already read, Nick Kypreos is saying words about the Toronto Maple Leafs again. The word from him is that the Leafs are going “all in” on the trade market, and by that, I mean approximately 80 to 90% in on the trade market, leaving just four players on the roster that aren’t actively being shopped. But should it be this way? Yeah, probably.
Phil Kessel is indisputably the best player in the organization. Like, it’s not even close. A top three player in his position on the planet, the centrepiece of the current team “build”, and locked up for another eight years, while still at prime age? The only time that players like this have offers on them “entertained” is when they’re definitely on the way out of town. So much as offering up Kessel once, even for Sidney Crosby, is a massive statement made by the management that the team has given up, and as such, no surprise he’s sticking around.
Speaking of direction-driven scenarios, the Leafs have tied themselves into a position where they can’t have the same goaltender song and dance happen with Jonathan Bernier as they have with James Reimer. After hyping him up as the “2.0” to the solution between the pipes, giving any sort of indication that you don’t have 100% trust in the guy as the value of your Plan B rapidly diminishes would be crazy.
Besides, it’s going to be very, very hard to find somebody with the same or better combination of ability, pedigree, and salary on the market. The only way to shop Bernier would be in search of an upgrade, and I don’t think there’s a sensible one out there at the moment.
There are two situations where you shop your top prospect. Either you’re certain that a marquee player is the missing piece that will bring you a Stanley Cup immediately, or you’re expressing skepticism that the prospect’s projected development path will be seen through the way you’d like it to.
Morgan Rielly hasn’t given any reason for the Leafs to believe that he’s not the real deal. If anything, his performance this year shows him to be a bit of schedule. On the same note, this team is not even close to being a serious Stanley Cup competitor, and as such, its not surprise they’re not actively shopping him.
This is the one where I’m sure a lot of you are expecting me to go “DAVE NONIS, ARE YOU CRAZY? I WILL SMITE YOU. I WILL SMITE THE HECK OUT OF YOU!”. That reaction, at the surface, would make a lot of sense. He still isn’t putting up legitimate top line centre numbers despite top line centre minutes, despite the career year. That career year is driven by Xbox-esque individual shooting percentage numbers and one of the highest on-ice shooting percentages in the National Hockey League, two things that have a history of unsustainability.
But you know what? If you’re looking to move Tyler Bozak, he’s the type of asset that you let teams come to you on. Shopping him gives the idea that you don’t believe in the advertised “character dynamic” he brings. Shopping him means you have a skepticism towards the five year deal you just signed him to. Shopping him without having already acquired a significant name at centre means that you don’t actually believe him to be a necessity on your team.
No matter what you think of him, the reality is that he’s a guy that you want teams to think is going to be hard to get from you. “Not quite” guys lose more value than anybody else by the mere mention of their availability. If the Leafs won’t listen to offers for him, that’s a problem, but at this time, I don’t know if I shop him.
Shopping The Others?
Why not? I feel like with the exception of James van Riemsdyk (who, thanks to having one of the best contracts in hockey, will not be given up for less than three arms and six legs), every single other player in the organization is
- Already rampantly named in rumours and speculation (the Kadri, Franson, Gardiner, Phaneuf, Reimer types)
- A negative asset (the Clarkson types)
- A impending free agent (Bolland, Raymond, Kulemin’s rights)
- An interchangable asset, where if you can find a peak value for them, one doesn’t lose sleep departing from.