As the trade deadline nears and rumors circle around the likes of Cody Franson, Daniel Winnik, and Mike Santorelli, people have begun to ask what the Leafs might be able to expect in a return for those players. While it’s a bit of a guessing game, the reality is you’re looking at some combination of draft picks in the first three rounds and maybe some mid-level prospects. This is nothing new. We see it every year with pending unrestricted free agents being moved from a bad team to a good one.
Tyler Bozak, on the other hand, is a more curious case. His name is hopping around the rumor mill of late, with the likes of Darren Dreger and Damien Cox reporting he is very much available. There are a couple of factors at play that make predicting what the Leafs could get in a Bozak trade a bit more difficult. For one, Bozak has three years left on his deal. Another consideration is that while he plays on the Leafs top line, he’s more of a second or third line center. Pending unrestricted free agents are easy to gauge value for. Guys with term who have an undefined spot in the lineup can be trickier. So what exactly could the Leafs expect from trading Bozak?
Here are the closest examples I could find of NHL centers being traded that were established, middle-of-the-lineup, middle-aged, with term remaining on their contracts:
- In 2009, Antoine Vermette was traded from the Ottawa Senators to the Columbus Blue Jackets for goalie Pascal Leclaire and a 2nd round pick. In 2012, Vermette was traded from Columbus to the Phoenix Coyotes for goalie Curtis McElhinney, a 2nd round pick, and a 4th round pick.
- In 2011, Mike Fisher was traded from Ottawa to the Nashville Predators for a 1st round pick and a conditional draft pick.
- In 2011, Rich Peverley and Boris Valibik were traded from the Atlanta Thrashers to the Boston Bruins for Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart.
- In 2012, Derek Roy was traded from the Buffalo Sabres to the Dallas Stars for Steve Ott and Adam Pardy.
- In 2013, Dave Bolland was traded from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Leafs for a 2nd round pick and two 4th round picks.
- In 2014, Sam Gagner was traded from the Edmonton Oilers to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Teddy Purcell. Gagner was then traded to the Arizona Coyotes along with B.J. Crombeen for a 6th round pick.
There seem to be three different types of trade here: a trade centered around higher-round draft picks, a trade centered around a combination of higher-round draft picks and mid-level players, and a trade centered around a mid-level player.
Now that we know in vague terms what Tyler Bozak might be worth, who are the teams that might be interested?
Here are the teams that, given the current states of their franchise, could have interest in Tyler Bozak as a top-six forward:
- Washington Capitals (playoff-bound, weak down the middle after Nicklas Backstrom)
- Calgary Flames (currently in a playoff spot, weak at center)
- New Jersey Devils (in need of center help and unlikely to go into full rebuild mode)
The list gets bigger when you think of teams that could use Bozak as either a middle-six forward or third-line center:
- Nashville Predators (they could use a third center to compliment Mike Ribeiro and Mike Fisher)
- New York Rangers (weak down the middle after Derek Stepan and Derrick Brassard)
- Minnesota Wild (Mikael Granlund has been mediocre and Kyle Brodziak has struggled the last three seasons)
- Colorado Avalanche (if they move Ryan O’Reilly and/or Nathan MacKinnon stays on the wing)
- Philadelphia Flyers (a bit of a mixed bag with the likes of Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, Vincent Lecavelier, and Scott Laughton moving up and down the lineup and between center and the wing)
- Arizona Coyotes (they are rebuilding, but if/when they move Vermette they will need someone to play center)
- Buffalo Sabres (perhaps unlikely with Sam Reinhart and possibly Connor McDavid/Jack Eichel on the way, but Buffalo is very weak and very young at center)
WHAT THE LEAFS WOULD WANT
I’m a little skeptical that the Leafs would want to go for all futures with this trade. If they did, it would really be setting the foundation for a complete teardown. Not only would you be adding an extra pick or prospect or two for the immediate future, but you’d be putting the team in a position to fail next year too. I know Bozak isn’t a legitimate first-line center, but he is an established NHL forward. Without him, Nazem Kadri is really your only tried and tested center. Keep in mind too that the Leafs are already going to be accumulating futures in trades revolving around Franson, Winnik, and Santorelli.
If you trade for a roster player, who would you get? We don’t know enough to start naming names, but what position would you be looking for?
Probably not defense. Even without Franson, the Leafs have enough bodies to hold the fort for now.
Up front, do you want a winger? You already have a lot of those, including the likes of William Nylander, Josh Leivo, Andreas Johnson, and Connor Brown coming up through the pipeline. Granted the Leafs may trade a guy like Joffrey Lupul, but until that happens, how do you know what to look for?
So would you trade him for a center? If you did, it would probably have to involve someone young whose still a bit of a project. After all, two teams swapping established centers wouldn’t make sense.
A Tyler Bozak trade, especially midseason, seems to be a pretty tricky endeavor. Not only would the receiving team have to take on a contract with term (which is always difficult this time of year), but what exactly the Leafs could use coming back is equally unclear. There are so many moving parts right now. You’d have to imagine trading Franson, Winnik, and Santorelli is priority one. Once you move those guys, the bigger picture begins to become more clear. Even then though, it’s a murky image. Especially when you are on the fans’ side of things, not knowing quite what management is thinking or what direction they want to take the team in. This makes predicting the nature of a Tyler Bozak trade especially complicated. We have a better idea of what the Leafs might be able to get for him and what teams might be interested, but what the Leafs would want in return is one big question mark.