As the hockey world knows, the Toronto Maple Leafs have officially entered the re-building phase.
Having failed to reach the playoffs in the past two seasons, while only reaching the post-season once in the past 10 years, major changes are quite obviously coming in Toronto.
With the coaching carousel set to come to an end and a new general manager on the way, major roster changes are set to take place this coming off-season.
One major issue in particular which remains to be addressed is the center ice position. Since the departure of Mats Sundin, the Leafs have lacked a definitive number one center, let alone considerable depth at the position. Tyler Bozak has been good in his six seasons in Toronto and Nazem Kadri has shown signs of brilliance and inconsistency, however, both players are clearly not number one centermen in the NHL.
Addressing the IssueIn order to address this issue, the Maple Leafs will have a number of options available.
The most likely of which is to draft Dylan Strome with their first round, fourth overall draft selection. Strome, the brother of New York Islanders’ forward Ryan Strome and teammate of Connor McDavid, projects to be a future number one NHL center iceman.
At 6 foot 3, 185 pounds, Strome has the size and skill to lead the Maple Leafs into a fruitful future, however if the Leafs plan to develop their prospects properly, Strome will not play at the NHL level for some time.
Further, with seemingly endless trade rumors surrounding the team, some of which including Tyler Bozak’s name, it is difficult to ensure the likes of Bozak or other centers will be in blue and white to start the 2015-16 NHL season.
One option for the Leafs, an option which they will likely pursue often this off-season, is to trade current or future NHL players in order to improve and strengthen their re-build.
While there will be a number of players available via trade this coming off-season, there is one player in particular who has fallen off the radar of many teams, for obvious reasons, who the Leafs should show interest in acquiring.
Yes. Cody Hodgson.
Let’s be honest, Hodgson was terrible last season for the Buffalo Sabres. Coming off of a 20 goal, 44 point season in 2013-14, in what his first true full season in the NHL, Hodgson laid a stinker.
78 games. Six goals. Seven assists. 13 points.
However, at the age of 25, Toronto born Cody Hodgson still has plenty of hockey ahead of him, time he can and likely will use to reach his true potential. Let’s not forget, Hodgson did win the OHL most outstanding player of the year in 2008-09.
In his first full NHL season, 2011-12, Hodgson scored 19 goals and 41 points in 83 games between the Vancouver Canucks and the Buffalo Sabres. In 2012-13, Cody scored 15 goals and 34 points in the lockout shortened 48 game season. When factoring in his 20 goal, 44 point season in 2013-14, it is clear that Cody has had considerable success at the NHL level.
What’s most important is that Hodgson is a natural centerman. In no way am I insinuating that Hodgson will be the Leafs’ future number one center ice man, but moving into a re-build, acquiring young centers with significant potential would be certainly be a smart move.
Further, with Jack Eichel on the way and 2014 2nd overall pick Sam Reinhart in the pipeline, Cody Hodgson will in all likelihood see his ice time significantly decrease in the coming seasons.
One issue however that could block a trade of Hodgson to any NHL team is his current contract. On the books for another four seasons at a cap hit of $4.25 Million dollars, any trade involving Cody would likely require salary retention by the Sabres or the movement of a player of similar salary to Buffalo in return.
At the end of the day, the Toronto Maple Leafs are looking to add young players with potential moving forward.
Although Hodgson does retain a significant cap hit, he could certainly be worth acquiring considering he has proven NHL success and still has many years of hockey ahead of him. Yes, he did have an off season in 2014-15, however, with two star centers on the way in Buffalo, Toronto born Cody Hodgson would likely welcome a move which would see him not only play for his home town team, but guarantee a considerably greater amount of ice time.
Brett Slawson is a four-year veteran of The Hockey Writers who covers the Toronto Maple Leafs, NHL prospects, and the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads.
Contact Brett on Twitter @brettslawson92, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.