TLN Monday Mailbag: November 28th


This stretch of so few games is good for the sake of the team getting rest, but boring as heck for the sake of watching the most entertaining and actually good hockey team alive (TM). While we wait for Tuesday, I reached into the mailbag and grabbed some questions to respond to.

Term will almost definitely have to be multi-year, if only to buy as many UFA years as possible. The salary is a good question, and honestly, one that we don’t have a ton of comparables for. Players jumping across the pond at 24 aren’t exactly common, and ones who make immediate impacts even less so. Given Rielly and Gardiner’s deals in the same room, though, I can’t imagine you’re looking at more than $4-5 million unless he absolutely dominates down the stretch.

The thing about Matt Martin is that he isn’t actually terrible. In a no-cap league, he’d be pretty low on the list of concerns. I didn’t like that he was causing more trouble than he was defending earlier in the season, but beyond that, he’s a pretty par for the course depth forward who is relentless on the forecheck and can drop the mitts when needed.

The greater issue is that players can do similar, if not add greater impact, for less money and/or shorter term. But that’s not on him, and that doesn’t make him a bad hockey player. There are higher immediate priorities on the team as far as improvement than his 4LW spot; though obviously, should an opportunity arise, you go for it.

It’s great to see Naz get the credit he’s deserved for a long time as a higher-end two-way forward. Everybody is yelling “surprise!”, but I’m not surprised; perception, opportunity, and description go a long way.

In regards to Kapanen, I’d say next year out of training camp is the earliest you see him join the roster regularly. He’s been lights out with the Marlies, one of the best players in the AHL, but having a year to dominate and really build up offensive confidence would do him a world of good, and arguably already has.

I don’t think you even have to call anybody up from the Marlies in this scenario. Toronto is already at a “full 23 man roster”, aka 23 and a curiously hurt Josh Leivo. Putting Peter Holland into Smith’s spot and, as much as he’s struggled a bit this year, Marincin back in the 3LD spot is probably the best course of action; there isn’t a Marlies centre who I’m 100% more confident in to take the role yet and throwing a Valiev, Dermott, or Nielsen into the defensive fire seems like an unnecessary rush. Shift the scratches, don’t look below.

Sign James van Riemsdyk. Not until the end of time, but a short-mid term extension that gives them a chance to move on once the younger core’s dollars pile up. Trade Bozak while his value is at its highest. Leo can ride off into the sunset while Brendan Leipsic shows up and does the same thing but with more points and fewer spoken languages.

  • leafdreamer

    Funny how you’ve been calling for Bozak to be traded ‘while his value is the highest’ for years now. This only speaks to your bias against him and his consistent good performance. A few more years of ‘trade him while his value is at it’s highest’ and, when he retires or ends up on Robidas Island many years from now you’all be able to say – ‘we should’ve traded him when his value was the highest – now we get nothing for him and he’s just eating up cap-space.’

    • LukeDaDrifter

      Saying “trade him while his value is high” is far too simplistic.
      You could trade any player in the league when their value is high. It will definitely leave a hole in your lineup.

      Let’s evaluate that deal, trading Phaneuf when he was at a high value. Unfortunately we now desperately need a top four defenceman and none of the players we received in return look to be in the NHL anytime soon. We would have saved a lot of money if we had only waived him.

      How about our trading Kessel when his value was high. In return for him only Kapanen is left, who Jeff just said may make the team next year at the earliest.

      I am only being sarcastic here. We certainly have made some good trades and now have a great prospect pool with a bright future. I do think sometimes we are way to quick to call for trades without any real plan for their replacement. After 21 games this year we finally have some goal scoring.(66). Our 66 goals are good but the Rangers have 85 so far this year. So why are so many looking to trade JVR, our top point producer? Oh now I remember, because we traded Phaneuf and now need a defender.

  • Armkey

    Does anyone not noticing that Kadri lost the puck a lot, and he’s very reluctant to pass the puck to line mates. Be interested to see his give away/take away ratio.

    • LukeDaDrifter

      Ya, unfortunately Kadri doesn’t have that quick, see all the ice, peripheral vision like Marner has. Very few players do, It is likely the reason he often hangs on to the puck too long and gets checked. It is one of the reasons top junior guys hit the wall at the AHL level. Not only is the skating faster in the NHL but offensively and defensively the plays develop much quicker. Kadri is good player though. He makes more good plays than bad ones. Babcock seen his assets and has been developing them steady since he got here. Kadri himself looks like he is happier trusting Babcock’s guidance.

      PS. I think almost all the players Babcock has coached since he has been here have improved their overall game. I think as a player this is one of the things you appreciate in a coach. Not someone to yell and scream at you. Not someone whose system is so complicated one forgets most of it as soon as the puck drops. But a coach who notices things you can do to become a better player and takes the time and effort to teach you. It benefits the player, the team, and even the coach may end up making $7 million a year.

      • leafdreamer

        Not saying Babs isn’t a good coach but a lot of that can be explained simply by players maturing. Kadri was simply too young when Carlyle and Wilson were here. Same goes for Gardiner.

        • LukeDaDrifter

          Some of it can be explained by maturity. When Babcock first arrived he immediately went to work on Rielly’s and Gardiner’s defensive game. I am sure he saw the offensive potential that got them into the NHL but was likely amazed how little they knew how to play NHL defensive. Now both of them are developing into great two way defenders. Sure I miss those Bobby Orr style rushes Gardiner and sometimes Rielly used to do.

          Babcock has been turning Kadri into a solid two way center. Better at faceoffs, so much stronger, better at all aspects of the game. All Kadri’s life through junior and the Marlies, he has been the top center and not asked to play much of a defensive game, just score goals.Coming up next game the Oilers coach will be doing all he can to keep Kadri away from McDavid. Last time they met not only did Kadri shut McDavid down he out scored him. To me that is not just maturity. It is a new role Babcock visualized for Kadri.

          JVR broke his foot last year blocking a shot. I don’t remember JVR blocking shots before Babcock arrived.

          . Seeing Holland’s play the other night I am certain Babcock has been working hard on his game. Same for Corrado in the one game I have seen him play. Both looked stronger and not too much out of place.

          Finally I remember reading a comment one the players from this years World Cup saying. It is great playing for Babcock. He teaches you things you never thought of, that you can use right away in the next game. If I have a point here, it is even great players love to get better. All they need is someone who really cares and can really show them the way.

  • Stan Smith

    Do you really think that if you are JVR you would be willing to sign a short term deal? He will be 29 when his present contract expires, and seeing as he could get a 7 year deal for big bucks from someone else, why sign a short term deal with the Leafs, and take the chance of getting injured, or see his game taper off? If you think now is the best time to deal Bozak than you have to think exactly the same thing with JVR.

    • LukeDaDrifter

      That is a scenario all GM’s must face with a good player hitting free agency in their late twenties. People often only look at what would be a good deal for the Leafs, forgetting a contract is negotiated, agreed, and signed by both parties in their mutual best interest. Lou seems inclined to offer fair contracts with fair term, not likely to overpay by much. As the Leafs may very well be a contender when JVR’s present contract expires It remains to be seen how it will play-out. Certainly, like you said it will not be a short term deal. One would hope Lamoriello would touch base with his agent early next year to get a feel of their expectations. Perhaps he already has.

      I am sure JVR like most players would like a good chance to win a Stanley Cup with a team he has paid his dues with. Naturally that only goes so far when it may also be his best and last chance to make top dollar in his career. There likely will be other contenders that are willing to over pay for a player of JVR’s caliber.

      • Stan Smith

        I agree with you that there is a chance that JVR would take a discount to remain with the Leafs if he feels he likes the direction the team is going. I just can’t see it being a short term deal.