The Leafs have made some significant trades before the March 2nd trade deadline. While I’m certainly not a Dave Nonis supporter I do applaud him for not sitting on his hands and making some moves. In particular, ridding himself and the Leafs of the absurd David Clarkson contract must be a massive relief. This trade is a ‘win’, really, no matter what. Even in the worst-case scenario where Horton never plays, the Leafs still are better for it by moving Clarkson. In the event that Horton plays, even better, he’s a good player that has had great experience.
By all accounts, Nonis may not be done. Off the top of my head I can think of a few trades that could really shake things up for the Leafs that could work before the deadline. Bozak, Kessel, and Lupul seem to be the names that are tossed around the most. With that in mind, I tried to figure out a move that Nonis might be able to make that could potentially bring some excitment (which is definitely lacking) back to Toronto.
Bozak, Lupul, and Kessel
I’ve written before that I quite like Tyler Bozak. I think he has a difficult role and faces a lot of criticism because he’s thrust into something for which he might not be good enough. Bozak would be a GREAT second line center, and he’s decent first line center but he’s certainly not up there with the TOP NHL 1st line centers. I do think that Bozak offers good value for his cap hit, and I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to keeping him. That said, that same value makes him pretty good trade bait.
To be honest, I don’t have much to say about Lupul. Sometimes he’s good, sometimes he’s a ghost. It’s a big cap hit for that kind of player. So I’m a bit indifferent about whether he stays or goes.
Phil Kessel. I actually really like Kessel and I think he also faces unfair criticism. Sure, he’s fairly one-dimensional, and he can be streaky. Most goal scorers are streaky, just look at Ovechkin this year. At any point, Kessel could easily go on a run and score a bunch of goals in a row. But he can also go quiet and not score for a few weeks. Obviously, it’d be nice for him to be more consistent, but there’s not much that we can do about that.
The Leafs need a number one center. That hasn’t changed. So, who has a number one center that might be willing to deal at this time of the year? The Carolina Hurricanes. There’s been talk about Eric Staal since the Fall, but the fact of the matter is, why would he go when he wants to play with his brother? Let’s simplify that. Package Kessel and Bozak together for both brothers.
Eric and Jordan Staal are on a combined cap hit of $14.3 million. Eric Staal is an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) as of 2015 making him an attractive trade for the Hurricanes. Jordan Staal is under contract until 2022. In comparison, Phil Kessel is under contract until 2021 and Bozak until 2017.
As a straight swap, this might not work. I would venture that the Hurricanes might not go for this…. so here’s the kicker. Although I didn’t necessarily agree with the Franson to Nashville trade, that 1st rounder could really be useful as a bargaining tool. So the trade becomes both Staals to Toronto, and then Bozak, Kessel, and the late first round draft pick to Carolina. Obviously, Bozak could also be Kadri or Lupul, if the the Hurricanes would prefer – I think you get the idea.
Thoughts? I think this would bring some real excitement to Toronto. I’m sure two kids from Thunder Bay, Ontario would leap at the chance to play in Toronto. (Anything would be better than Carolina, no?) I also think this would be a positive move from Toronto, and while I like both players that Toronto would be parting with, I’d be pretty excited at the prospect of these two brothers joining the team.
Thanks for leading, let’s hear your thoughts.
Economist/epidemiologist interested in the intersection between sports analytics (advanced stats) and intuition.