Photo Credit: Tom Szczerbowski / USA TODAY Sports

The Leafs should stay away from Chicago’s moving core

The Toronto Maple Leafs are poised to become the next Chicago Blackhawks. We talked about this the other day; they fit the model of prospect hoarding followed by a sudden thrust of blue chip player deployment and rapid talent acquisition that dominates the cap era. The logical course of action for this summer is to make big-swing additions while they can afford it, and we could be in for some really interesting moves in the next few weeks. Coincidentally, I’d stay far away from the gossip surrounding those Chicago Blackhawks.

Twitter was set ablaze by this tweet from 670 The Score radio host and hockey writer Jay Zawaski last night:

Zawaski made a few other observations surrounding this nugget of information, which include:

  • The core player is not captain Jonathan Toews
  • The move is expected to weaken the team in the short term, either to dump salary or to amass future assets
  • The trade is not “within the hours” imminent just yet
  • Marcus Kruger isn’t the player in question, but he is also on the move.

This leaves us with Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Corey Crawford as options here. Most seem to think that Seabrook is the most obvious player to go, and thanks to the abundance of immediate salary, the Leafs’ need for a defenceman, and a relationship with Mike Babcock on the Canadian National Team, many seem to be connecting the two together.

Personally, I’d lean towards extreme caution when it comes to the 32-year-old Seabrook.

The weird thing too is that he largely fits the mould of player that I want the Leafs to add to their blue line. I’m not huge on the idea of slowing a team this fast down by adding “shutdown” defencemen; I want skaters who can move the puck up as fast as can and keep this team on the attack, even if it comes with a risk when they’re unable to do that.  Seabrook fits that description.

However, the net result has only led to him driving possession above the team average once in the past five years, and that year (+1.99%) was his only notably above average season (>1%) in that regard over the past decade. That wouldn’t be a huge deal if he rode the average, scored points and played the toughest minutes, but he’s become increasingly sheltered over the years and has been worse than -2% relative in three of the last five seasons. I’m all for creating differential through offence, but what Seabrook is doing isn’t quite at the creating differential stage.

More importantly, he costs an absolute boatload of money. If you’re skeptical of signing Kevin Shattenkirk to a $7 million or so contract in July, you should have no interest in Seabrook; he has seven years left at a $6.875 million cap hit, bringing him to Age 39.

The “sweetener” on a trade like this would have to be so good that it wouldn’t be worth it to Chicago, who would be moving Seabrook to get back under the cap (the Hawks start the offseason $4.52M over the ceiling). We’d probably be talking about a trade along the lines of Seabrook and multiple picks and prospects for an inconsequential defenceman, which wouldn’t be of any interest to Chicago. I’d avoid the discussion at all costs, but wonder if others within the Leafs organization feel the same way.

As for the other options, I don’t know if there’s a fit there either. The internal fan voice inside of me would love to see Marian Hossa wrap up his career here, but you’d need the full 50% salary retention there for it to make any sense. Toronto would have no need for Crawford, nor do I think the Hawks would move him. Panarin’s contract is too good for Chicago to walk away from now, and the amount of money the team plans on investing in its current forward core and their strive for good people in the locker room, I can’t imagine they’d try very hard to win a Kane bidding war (which we would’ve heard about by now if it were him). Keith would be fun to have, but Chicago isn’t in a position where that contract needs to be parachuted out of yet either. Lastly, Hjalmarsson is incredible value, and that combined with the fact that moving him for nothing would still have the Hawks over the cap probably means he’ll stick around too.

It’ll be fun to see where this all ends up, if there’s any real smoke to the rumour at all. But I can’t see a fit with the Leafs. Which I suppose doesn’t really rule them out, but I’m not holding my breath either way.

  • Glen

    Make big-swing additions now and you limit your ability to sign the big three when their entry level contracts are up. I shudder when I hear people talk about bringing a Hossa or a Thornton here. Lets just see how the dust settles with some of the young guys on the farm next year and maybe bring in some useful mid level guys.

    • The Hossa point is fair. Jumbo would almost definitely be a one or two-year deal, which means he’d have zero impact on the ELCs whatsoever.

      This is the right time to add veterans. It’s the wrong time to give them term, but it’s absolutely the right time to bring in the short term ones. Sitting around waiting to give the kids raises is just wasting your most cost-efficient window.

      • Glen

        Thanks for taking the time to respond, enjoy your writing . I admit that I am a bit of a contrarian at times but I would rather see a young player get a shot instead of an over the hill vet.

      • Kanuunankuula

        But you should also get rid of the bonus overrages before that, which means having a bonus cushion one year and not using LTIR. Otherwise it will keep snowballing to the Marner-Matthews-contract year. Which would be bad.

  • Stan Smith

    I have to admit that Seabrook would be an interesting thought. He would definitely bring experience to the Leafs and would be the top pair guy they are looking for. He plays lot of minutes 5 on 5, plays the PP & the PK. I’m sure he would be great with either Rielly or Gardiner. He probably improves the Leafs D immediately more than anyone else that has been mentioned.

    On the negative side is his age and contract. How fast will his abilities erode. I would have to ultimately say the contract is just too much, and would hurt when it comes to negotiating the big three when they come due.

    • Kanuunankuula

      He is already overpaid for his contract, not when he’s old and busted up. That deal was terrible when it was signed. Whoever takes that deal off the Hawks books will be one of the worst GMs in the league.

      Please no Leafs.

  • lab16

    NMC’s will make a lot of those moves difficult. Panarin can be moved and he’s at 6M(it was a contract made for moving him), 2 years, which is just perfect for a lot of teams. Kruger will be moved and will make an excellent 4th line center on just about any team. On defence Hjalmarsson can probably be convinced to move one team on his 10 team list.

    So without investing too much time into this:
    CHI: Panarin, Kruger, Hjalmarsson (approx 13.2M)
    TOR: JVR, Dermott, Bracco (under 6M)

    That’s 7M in savings for the Hawks leaving them 3 M under the cap.

    A very quick trade put together which makes 10 times more sense than taking on one of the larger team killing contracts, for a dwindling player.

  • Anonymous

    I do not see any scenario where it would make any sense for the Leafs to talk to Chicago about acquiring Seabrook. He is very over rated and over paid and he is in the declining stage of his career. The rational move on the part of Chicago would be for them to buy him out if they can. As for the Leafs, even if Chicago offered their first round picks for the next couple of years and gave up a top shelf prospect in payment to the Leafs for taking Seabrook off their hands the Leafs would still be handcuffed by Seabrook’s contract for the next few years.
    All the prospective dmen that the Leafs may be interested in and may become available will be way over priced in costing too much in terms of picks, prospects and roster players. The Leafs should look to improving their d-core internally or by free wallet acquisitions.