Photo Credit: Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports
There probably isn’t enough Splenda in the nation’s capital to induce the Toronto Maple Leafs to take on Colin Greening’s contract. Now maybe if the Ottawa Senators offered the Maple Leafs some (Colin) White sugar, that would move the needle, but let’s be realistic.
Greening, 29, isn’t a bad player. He’s big, and he’s a more than capable fourth liner. I once watched him eat two slices of pizza at once, sandwich style, as team doctors removed fibreglass from his cheek following a double overtime winner back in the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs. It was bad ass, and probably unduly colours my opinion of him.
The useful, Newfoundland-born left wing has been on the trade block forever, mostly because he’s unlikely to ever produce enough offense to warrant the big ticket he carries. Now it is being reported that the always budget-conscious Senators are willing to throw a prospect into a Greening deal, just in order to free themselves of the remaining two years carried by Greening’s contract, at a $2.65 million cap hit.
Storied rivalry and the ghost of Gary Roberts aside, for a team with an unlimited budget, lots of salary cap space, and a strong willingness and desire to accumulate talent – the Maple Leafs make sense as a Senators trade partner here, right? Wrong. And here’s why:
Let’s start by breaking down the latest on Greening’s situation, which TSN’s Darren Dreger reported during an Insider Trading segment on TSN on Tuesday night:
They’ll sweeten (a potential deal in order to move Collin Greening), including throwing a prospect from the Ottawa Senators organization into the mix. Now (Senators GM) Bryan Murray has been trying to move Collin Greening for quite some time. This isn’t a new development here, and the reason he hasn’t been traded primarily is because of his contract. He is a 2.6 million dollar cap-hit this year, has another year remaining, but if the prospect is worthwhile he might draw some interest finally.
A $2.65 million cap hit for this year and next is tough enough to swallow for a physical forward with limited offensive value, but the contract is actually worse than that. In terms of his actual salary, Greening is due $2.75 million this year and $3.25 million in 2016-17. He also has a modified no-trade clause.
I rate Greening’s two-way game as legitimately NHL quality, but there’s no way around the fact that his is a gruesome ticket.
On a superficial level, the Maple Leafs make some sense as a Senators trade partner here. We’ve seen the Brendan Shanahan regime willingly leverage the club’s deep pockets to maximize their return in deals (like when they made the Pittsburgh Penguins’ acquisition of Daniel Winnik completely cap neutral), and obviously the Maple Leafs remain in accumulation mode.
Toronto also has a good deal of cap space, and could easily stomach the $2.65 million hit that Greening comes attached to (or the $1.7 million hit the club would maintain on the roster if they elected to send Greening in an Uber Black down to Ricoh Coliseum).
If you’re a big budget team like the Maple Leafs, you should always be looking to find ways to legally ‘purchase’ players from the NHL’s financial small fries. This would seem to be one such opportunity.
Now before I talk myself into this, why shouldn’t the Maple Leafs get involved?
In explaining why I’d be gobsmacked if the Maple Leafs were to get involved – and this is based on no inside information, just reading between the lines of how the Shanahan regime has conducted business – it all goes back to the Michael Grabner deal. Remember when the Maple Leafs traded five fringe prospects for a middle-six forward? It was a remarkably telling deal, as we wrote at the time:
This is the most radical expression yet of their increasingly obvious plan to leverage their incomparable budget to supplement a program of short-term trade market speculation, using veteran assets. In addition to Grabner – who as previously mentioned, fits the bill – the club now has additional standard player contract (SPC) slots with which to sign one of Brad Boyes or tanking talisman Curtis Glencross.
It comes down, likely, to an organizational judgement concerning how to most efficiently use their 50 SPC slots. And the club has now indicated clearly – and very radically, considering the way we’re used to seeing NHL teams operate – that they’d rather use those slots on potentially useful veteran pieces that can be swapped for additional futures when the price of short-term help gets bloated at the trade deadline, as opposed to saving those slots for fringe prospects who may (or more likely will not) develop into NHL players.
The Maple Leafs have already made it plain that they don’t value middling prospects highly enough to warrant the use of one of their 50 contract slots. The club’s strange decision to sign Rich Clune aside, it sure seems like this organization would rather have a veteran piece that they might flip at the deadline than a 20-year-old like Nick Paul.
Now, perhaps Mark Hunter and company are high enough on a piece like 2015 second-round pick Filip Chlapik – despite his disappointing start to the QMJHL season – to warrant this sort of move. And Toronto could always use Greening to bolster the Marlies’ Calder Cup chances this season, then install him on the fourth-line next year in the hopes of dealing him to a contender in a retained salary transaction prior to the 2016 NHL trade deadline.
It could make sense, particularly if the Senators were to take back an equal number of standard player contracts. I’m highly skeptical that the prospect on offer from the Senators organization would be attractive enough to the Maple Leafs to warrant this sort of commitment in financial and managerial resources though.
Short of the aforementioned White, who is lighting up the NCAA as a freshman and is absolutely not available, it’s hard to see how the juice would be worth the squeeze for the Maple Leafs in this instance.