Tyler Bozak was once a promising prospect in Toronto. Although he was never anticipated to be the next Mats Sundin, it was said that he would be the Maple Leafs’ next regular first line centre. Four years later and Bozak has yet to reach the level everyone expected of him and he hangs over the Leafs like a nightmare as the home stretch of the NHL season approaches.
Bozak, 26, is currently playing out the final year of his most recent contract with the Leafs. He will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, meaning by the time July 5 rolls around, general manager Dave Nonis will have no control over the young forward’s NHL future. That is unless the Leafs’ brass elects to re-sign Bozak.
They may not be in a rush to re-sign him but it’s a possibility and it seems easy enough to do, right? Wrong.
As mentioned in Dreger’s tweet, Bozak will demand first line money from the Maple Leafs. He has every right to do this. After all, he does play on their top unit. The only issue is that Bozak isn’t really what you would call a “true” first line centre; he isn’t a perennial goal scorer or play maker, nor is he the face of the hockey club either. He only really plays on the top line because there is no one else to fill that void, especially considering Mikhail Grabovski’s lack of production this season.
The reality is that Tyler Bozak is really a second line centre playing on a mediocre team with a mediocre roster. In no way should a player who has never reached the 50-point mark in a season earn more than an average of $5 million per season, the same amount that Ryan O’Reilly in Colorado, who has produced less than Bozak has in the NHL, recently signed for. In fact, many would argue that Grabovski, who has reached that plateau twice in his career, is well overpaid at $5.5 million per season.
So where does this leave us? Well, there is the option to trade Bozak, although as Dreger was quick to point out above, he is essential to their playoff push, something that isn’t guaranteed to end well in the first place. But hold on for one second as there may be a way out.
If the Maple Leafs are looking to add an impactful centre, would it be possible to ship Bozak out of town in exchange for a different centre on a longer contract that could make just as large or larger of an impact in Toronto? Of course this would take a package trade, which would create a whole other conversation on its own.
Should the Maple Leafs trade centre for centre? Should they be making any large changes at all while in the playoff hunt? Is it worth it to let Bozak walk? Just how big of an impact would this new player make? These are only four questions that come to mind when considering a potential Bozak trade, especially if another player or draft picks were going the other way with him.
We can almost guarantee that the Leafs are not going to re-sign Bozak before July 1. Especially when compared to O’Reilly, there is no sense in giving Bozak the type of money he will be looking for. Then again, it makes almost just as little sense to trade him, unless Dave Nonis and company get lucky and find a trading partner willing to swing a deal that favours the Leafs enough to pull the trigger.
Until this situation gets sorted out, and it looks like it never will in time, Tyler Bozak will continue to weigh heavily on the minds of Maple Leafs management.
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