TLN Roundtable: Summer School Grades


The offseason isn’t over yet, but it’s most crucial and active month has passed. Since many outlets have begun to give out their grades to various teams across the NHL, we’ve decided to throw our hats into the mix by grading the Toronto Maple Leafs. Here’s what we’ve come up with:

Ryan Fancey: B-

If I had to just strictly grade based on what the Leafs have added, they’d get an A+ because they’ve brought in the best long-term option available this summer in Auston Matthews. But I’m looking at this from a management performance angle, and at most they’ve achieved a B-minus.

Folks seem pretty torn on the draft, but I think the Leafs did fine there, even outside of the Matthews pick. However, they did strike out hard on Stamkos, which has to factor in here slightly, and the rest of free agency has been cause for some concern. Obviously there’s still a ways to go before the season gets going, but as it stands, the Leafs have simply won the lottery and taken the consensus number one guy (which anyone can do), traded for a goalie and handed him too much money and term based on his limited track record, and then signed two players in free agency that have zero upside for another combined 5-million dollars in cap space. The Rychel trade was a nice bright spot, but it’s a minor deal, and otherwise this group hasn’t done great work that would warrant an “A” grade this offseason.

Keegan Tremblay: B+

Outside of drafting Auston Matthews, I believe management has had a quieter off-season than many fans expected and that’s fine by me. I don’t see missing out on Stamkos as a knock against Lou and company. Stamkos went back to a very talented team in Tampa Bay, the team he’s played for his entire career, a team that just went to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals after playing in the Stanley Cup Finals the year prior. It’s not as if he signed with Montreal to play with P.K. Subban

Adding Andersen is a great move in my books but if we’re going to include Bernier in that trade, then I would have liked the price for Andersen to be a little lower because I think Bernier’s value could have been revived as a back-up. The additions of Martin, Polak and Rychel are solid “B” moves that I think will serve a useful purpose. The reason I’m giving management a “B+” is because they’ve kept their word. All of our prized prospects are still in the system. That fact may not be new but it’s still exciting to see.

Ryan Hobart: A-

I thought the Leafs had a decent draft, getting Matthews, Grundstrom, Woll and other interesting prospects. They signed Kadri and Rielly to long term extensions, which I thought was great. I’m incredibly excited for KHL defenseman Nikita Zaitsev. The trade for Kerby Rychel was great. The combined Bernier and Andersen deals I’m “meh” on really. I think they paid more than they should have, but it was an area of need. I feel the same about the Matt Martin signing. Good depth is nice but the contract term is definitely too long.

The biggest negatives for me was missing out on Steven Stamkos, and the rumored pursuit of Kris Russell. Other smaller negatives were the Roman Polak deal and drafting construction pylon Keaton Middleton.

Overall, despite a lot of the complaints I have about the small negatives, I’m very excited for the team going into next year so it’d be hard for me to say the offseason was bad.

Jeff Veillette: B-

Giving the Leafs a rating is something I struggle a bit with. As Ryan Fancey pointed out, it’s hard to give them a plus for Matthews given that that was a gimmie instigated by a random draft lottery with odds created from regular season play. Unlike Ryan Hobart, I also don’t think it’s fair to include Nikita Zaitsev, as their deal with him has been set in stone for nearly a year and signing it now was mostly logistics.

This leaves you with..

  • The Kadri and Rielly extensions (both brilliant, especially Kadri’s)
  • The rest of the draft (debated but with a general vibe of positivity, though not to last year’s extent)
  • The Andersen trade and extension (a very good acquisition, but with a steep cost)
  • The Rychel trade (a runaway work of brilliance)
  • The Stamkos situation (a superstar fell into their lap and they whiffed along the way)
  • The qualifying offers (everything went as expected)
  • The signing of Justin Holl (he impressed with the Marlies and it’s a low-risk deal)
  • The free agent signings (Martin is good if overpaid. Would’ve preferred other RHD to Polak)
  • The Bernier trade (Not overly shocking, smart use of bonus payment to avoid retention)
  • and other RFA and organizational moves (Sparks was a good re-up, Marlies are replenishing well)

Overall, the Leafs had a few areas where they appear to have goofed up, or at the very least, don’t appear to have undercut the market in the way that many believed they did a year prior. But nothing here is overly catastrophic; just not the expected slam dunk, and even those moves generally lie somewhere between indifference to decent. The Leafs have had an above average offseason compared to their competition so far, but at the end of the day, you’d also like to do better than good enough. Whatever the case, though, development and even a bit of better luck should lead to a much-improved team in 2016/17.

Have Your Say

What would your grade be? Let us know in the comments below!

  • Harte of a Lion

    Ryan, rather than strike out on Stamkos, I believe they sat him down and were 100% honest in their presentation. Stamkos was overwhelmed with what waited for him on every Toronto corner plus… his best chance to win a cup is with Tampa…Now and the next few years.

    Stamkos is a great player, leader, character, star, and yes he is only 26, BUT… Can you imagine if he signed a 10M+ contract with the Leafs and his performance slipped by 20%?? or…30%??? he would be crucified.

    Better to draft high and develop our own stars who can handle the “Toronto” market. I’m not going to debate every move the team has made however IMO Management deserves an A

    • Gary Empey

      Stamkos was never overwhelmed by the Toronto media. He grew up here. He seen it every time he came to town.

      Toronto gave him a low-ball offer with a special deal to endorse Canadian Tire gear. That’s when Steve immediately stopped the free agency bus and got off. It is doubtful he left any Leaf money on the table. He may have left some Canadian Tire Money. He never bothered to even listen to what the other teams had to say. It was between Toronto and Tampa.

      Winning the draft lottery changed the whole rebuild. The Leafs made the right move in not selling the farm at this point in time.

  • Martin TO

    Yeah I don’t really think management “struck out” with Stamkos as much as he just didn’t want to leave Tampa. Its obvious he left money on the table and I would like to assume our management gave him their most reasonable offer and he didn’t take it. Not signing him is way better than throwing him a max 11+ mil. contract IMO.

    Also how is “rumored pursuit of Kris Russel” a major negative? It was confirmed by his agent that we didn’t give him an offer and with the way management is keeping leaks on the down-low I don’t see that rumor has any merit.

  • Hockey Hoser

    regarding Zaitsev: it was all speculation until confirmed. come on management deserve the gimme here!

    overall fair grades. can’t complain. A+ for not signing another Clarkson.

  • Trevor5555

    I give the off-season an A.
    Draft —————————A
    Reilly, Kadri and other RFAs —-A+
    UFA market ———————-A-
    Andersen / Bernier trades ——-A

    The team is loaded with AHL players ready to challenge for NHL spots. The vets who are being challenged have only 1-2 contract years left making the transition much easier. The Leafs have quite a few expendable players who have some trade value maybe allowing them to add draft picks, prospects or trade for an upgrade to their defence.

    I think the Leafs may make another trade to add a top 4 d-man. They may trade a vetran forward or two to create space for prospects. If that gets done its an A++ offseason.

    I think that the addition of Matthews, Nylander, Marner, Martin, Rychel, Zaitsev, Carrick and Andersen along with the growth of our prospects will result in a much better team next year. With the influx of skill throughout the lineup, top 6, bottom 6, defence and goalies, we could see a positive swing in goal differential of about +55. Say Andersen and co allow 30 fewer goals and our forwards score 25 more goals.

    Very possible to see this kind of improvement considering how bad the Leafs were last year. Biggest improvement is our goaltending. The forward group adds a lot of skill but inexperiance will make for only modest gains in the rookie season of our top prospects.

    Big question is who takes the early lead in the Calder Trophy race? Matthews, Nylander, Marner or Zaitsev? Or is there a sleeper candidate in the mix?

  • Gary Empey

    I would agree it is unfair to add/subtract based on “could have or should have”. Grading should be based on what was accomplished – this is basic elementary marking principles.

  • Gary Empey

    Overall I give the RoundTable a: C- minus –

    The fact they mostly think the two defensive free agent signing have zero upside – The fact they think Lamoreillo (who knows good goalies when he sees them) made a mistake signing Anderson. Lou’s choice was to sign him or go to arbitration. – The fact that most completely missed the signing of Nikita Zaitsev. They fact the Leafs avoided overpaying, and signing 7 years deals like most of the other Canadian teams did, they were given no credit for. Instead they complained about overpaying two role players and Anderson. Saying drafting Matthews was a no brainer was wrong. Laine’s development and MVP performance in the last six months gave the Leafs something to consider. Choosing Matthews for the Leafs was the right choice. The fact we didn’t have, hard to move Bernier, as our number one next season.

    The fact no one mentioned our playoff chances.

  • CMpuck

    Pretty hard to screw up an off season where you had the 1st OA pick, I’d say it’d be interesting conversation had we picked 4th but honestly we’d be over the moon we landed Puljujarvi. How would you rate CBJ’s off season? Yikes.

    Matthews aside, Rielly’s extension was the only beyond criticism accomplishment. Jury should be split on Kadri and Andersen, Polak meh, Martin gross, the rest of the draft? Not holding my breath for any of those prospects and honestly neither is anyone else.

  • Trevor5555

    Looking at the last 18-20 month Shanahan and co made a lot of progress replacing the aging/underperforming players and bolstering the prospect pool and now they brought in a few vetrans to fill specific roles with Martin, Polak, Andersen, Cliche, Clune.

    These signings just have physicality that Toronto lacked. Thats a skill you have to pay for as not a lot of guys can or like to play overly physical. More and more the NHL is a finesse league but most teams lay the body and fight occasionally so you need that type of guy and it cost a premium if said gritty guy can play pretty well too. ala Matt Martin

    I figure Martin is a poor mans Clarkson at 1/2 price. Not a bad price for 10 goals, 365 hits, 10 fights on 10 minutes of ice time. Hes a great bottom 6 energy guy. Nothing more nothing less. I dont get people ripping on Martin. His 2.5 Million doesnt prevent anyone from signing here and he gives us a great checkhing line guy who hits everything, fights, scores 10 goals and is good defensively. I like the signing.

    Polak was Torontos only defender with a positive +/-. Polak +8, Reilly -27. I know Reilly had tougher minutes but Polak is a good stay at home d-man. Nothing special, just a simple safe physical defender to add depth.

    Andersen is the move that could mean we have playoff hopes. If he is as good as he was in Anaheim we have playoff hopes. We just need a bit more scoring to support him.

  • CMpuck

    As far as Stamkos I honestly think the rumors to Toronto was all negotiation with Yzerman and TB. He never wanted to leave Tampa but his agent was trying to squeeze some more $ out of them by waiting until the last minute. Good on Stevie Y for calling Stammer’s bluff.

  • Muskoka's Own

    I’ll give them an incomplete, with potential to score well. Rielly, Kadri, Zaitsev and to a lesser extent Rychel are all great moves. Andersen is a good get, although price was/is a little steep.

    Martin is a little too expensive and Polak is decent insurance, but I have no strong feelings about the moves one way or another.

    Not signing Matthews yet and not clearing out some roster space to make room for some young guys yet are why they get an incomplete.

  • Jeremy Ian

    I am with the crowd that criticizes the round table for deflating the grades on the Stamkos deal. It was always a long shot, and the price for getting him very high. In five years’ time, the Leafs will be a powerhouse team; there’s going to be more pain coming in the next few. Stamkos’ realistic assessment, and the Leafs realistic pricing, means I’d give both sides A for effort and clear-headedness in a season of crazy decisions; though a B for outcome.

    Otherwise, Martin got a couple of years too much on his contract and a few of the draft picks were curious.

    But on all the major issues, solid pass to A+s.

    The team is well managed. Finally.