Reading the Tea Leafs: Something brewing between Toronto and Calgary?

With now just a little over a week to the deadline, we’re right in the middle of the busiest time of the NHL season speculation-wise, and with that comes Scout Watch – where tracking team representatives attending specific games is almost a nightly occurrence. 

Now, we never put too much stock into scouts attending games because, well, that’s what pro scouts do all year every year. But sometimes there’s a bit of a pattern to be found, and it can give us clues as to which teams might be in substantial trade talks.

And while most of the time it isn’t notable to point out which teams have representatives at a certain game on a certain night, looking at who they send could raise some ears. 

Last week the Leafs played the Flames in Calgary on Tuesday, but when the team went on to Edmonton for their game Thursday, assistant general manager Kyle Dubas flew to San Jose for the Sharks’ tilt against the Flames. There’s obviously a chance he was there to talk with Sharks management instead of chasing Calgary (Polak perhaps?), but either way that isn’t a common thing. As one of the key architects of this team, he was obviously there for an important purpose.

If you go back a little further, last month the Leafs had Mark Hunter in Calgary to see the Flames and Yotes. Again, Hunter isn’t just some scout who’s making rounds, he’s the team’s director of player personnel, and likely has about as much say in transactions decisions as Dubas.

Then, to jump forward again, last night for the Flames game against Minnesota, Toronto had Dave Morrisson in attendance. Morrisson likely hops around the map all season taking in games, but again his name is notable since he is high up the Leafs’ organizational chart as their director of pro scouting.

It’s certainly possible I’m misreading this situation and the Leafs’ link with Calgary isn’t as strong as it looks. Like we mentioned, there could be reps from up to twelve teams at a game on any given night at this time of year. But I think this is at least worth keeping an eye on based on the titles of the guys we’ve talked about above, and the fact that both teams, as basement-dwellers, are likely looking to re-shape their franchises.

At first glance the Leafs and Flames probably don’t make a whole lot of sense as trade partners, since we’re operating under the assumption that Toronto can only link up with contenders who want to take on expiring rentals, mainly forwards. But a move for James Reimer would make plenty of sense for the Flames if they feel they can re-sign him, as their goaltending is about as uncertain as any team’s league-wide. Or they could take a flyer on Bernier’s final year of his contract.

Outside of all that, we know both front offices aren’t afraid to make headlines, completing arguably the two biggest trades of the last calendar year with the Hamilton and Phaneuf deals. So perhaps there’s potential for something bigger here, and that’s why the Leafs are sending in the top guns. It’s also worth pointing out that the Flames have some hefty contracts they could look to get out from under, like Wideman, Engelland, and others, and that’s something Toronto could help out with…at a price.

This is obviously all just speculation, but with the deadline approaching and Toronto doing such a great job of keeping things under wraps since Lou entered the fold, we’ll have to take what we can get. Look into this what you will.

  • @ShawnMacLean

    @KNam… be realistic here. This isn’t NHL 16.

    If Flames are in the market for a goalie, now would be the time to do it. Karri Ramo just ended his season and he is a UFA.

    Leafs could move Bernier for Ramo (eat the remaining $1mil+ if his actual salary) with him on LTIR it wouldn’t touch their cap either). Then let him walk on July 1st.

    If they are watching the main Flames roster, it should be obvious they aren’t going to give up young talent and the Leafs likely wouldn’t be taking on expiring contracts (Hiller, Ramo) unless it is to make the money meet up. Possible salary dumps for next season (Bollig 1.25mil until 2017, Smid 3.5mil until 2017, Raymond 3.15 until 2017) are also an option.

    Only person entering “prime” years who can play any semblance of hockey who is under contract that the Leafs might want is 25 year old Bouma (2.2mil until 2019).

    There isn’t a great prospect pool in the Flames organization either. Leafs were high on Oliver Kylington so he might be a target. Another right handed D that they sorely need could be found in Rasmus Andersson as well who is playing for the Barrie Colts.

    Those are the likely trade targets the Leafs would have and the players Calgary might be eager to move.

    The Leafs have players like Bernier and Lupul that the Flames might be interested in. Grabner, Arcobello or Boyes may also be of interest if they want to make a cheap push for the playoffs.

    Leafs would probably want to move some guys like Knodel and Herzog to lose some contracts.

    They make interesting trade partners for sure. I could definitely see something go down between these two teams by the deadline.

    • Gary Empey

      Seems like a reasonable trade. Two things that might hold it up. Calgary is likely to miss the playoffs so do they really want Komarov for next year. The other thing is because of the salary cap teams are not inclined to trade their firsts any more. Real contenders for the cup would be different.

    • BRstreetlaw

      …did the Leafs really need to send three different guys to scout MayRay2016 when we had him last year?

      If this is happening, it is for Flames roster players with whom the Leafs brass aren’t familiar.

  • Gary Empey

    Imo….trading Komarov or Parenteau to the Kings would be a good idea if the Kings would deal.

    Not necessarily that suspended Russian 😉

    Surely they must have some up and coming recent picks.