The move is a clear signal from San Jose that they intend to compete this season. That’s not surprising with how they sit in the Pacific Division currently, but it was a question earlier in the season.
San Jose’s End
For the Sharks, they’re taking care of some depth concerns. Many of their fringe players haven’t been able to grab a role the way the team hoped in the offseason. Guys like Mirco Mueller and Barclay Goodrow haven’t become the regular NHLers that they might have been.
Goodrow was recalled Sunday, but hasn’t played a NHL game since Dec. 18. Ben Smith has been very good in the AHL, but it’s clear that new coach Peter DeBoer isn’t overly fond of what Smith is bringing to the team.
Two seasons removed from being a productive depth scoring in Nashville, Spaling hasn’t proved much in his limited time with Toronto. With one goal and seven assists in 35 games, he hasn’t been hugely productive. As a rate he’s putting up 0.88 points per 60 minutes of even strength play. It’s his least productive season since his rookie year.
Spaling has consistently been a possession parachute, having never posted a positive CF%Rel. This year he has the worst mark of his career with a -9.7%. (That means that the team gives up many more shot attempts than they’re taking when Spaling is on the ice.) He’s had some nice seasons and maybe he works better in a smaller role with more talented teammates than he was seeing in Toronto, but Spaling has not had a good year.
On the blue line, the Sharks lack of depth was exposed when Brenden Dillon went out with an injury and they just weren’t able to replace him with Mueller or Matt Tennyson. Neither was having a positive impact and with Tennyson back in the lineup for the first time since December 8, DeBoer didn’t even like his game enough to have him play more than 9:05 in any of the five games he’s played in February.
Polak will provide an improvement there, even if he’s not world beater. But Polak is, like Spaling, a negative possession player. He’s been improved this year, but his -1.8% CF%Rel as his best mark since the 2008-09 season doesn’t say much. The Sharks had a hole to patch in the ship, but it may be a steep price for the incremental improvement Polak can provide.
Torres was acquired to make the money work for San Jose. The Sharks have limited cap space and needed to ship out Torres’s $2 million AAV in order to take on Spaling’s $2.2 million and Polak’s $2.75 million contracts.
Since he finished serving his 41-game suspension the Sharks have had him buried in the AHL. That is in part because he’s had setbacks with his knee. He’s had two procedures on his knee in recent seasons and hasn’t played a NHL game since Mar. 8, 2014 between those injuries and suspensions.
Torres may finally see some NHL ice time again in Toronto, but if he does it’s because Toronto’s lineup has been absolutely ravaged by injuries, trades and suspensions. Additionally, it won’t happen too soon. The team has assigned him to the Toronto Marlies.
Since the start of the 2012-13 season he’s only played 44 regular season games.
Importantly, Toronto acquires a pair of second rounders, helping them stretch out their rebuild with high draft picks from the 2015 draft through 2018. They had nine picks last year, currently have 12 lined up for the 2016 draft (most ever taken by a team in a single draft is 13), and they have eight lined up for 2017 already. From 2016 to 2018 they’ll have four 1st round picks and six 2nd rounds picks.
This deal may help San Jose, but it’s already a win for Toronto. The only losers are anyone who has tickets to see the Leafs play this year. They’ve traded away Dion Phaneuf, Shawn Matthias, Polak and Spaling, have Leo Komarov suspended for three games and have a laundry list of players on injured reserve, including Joffrey Lupul, James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, Milan Michalek, Jared Cowen, Stephane Robidas (who hasn’t played this year) and Josh Leivo. It’s a grim situation that can only serve to help their draft lottery odds.
— Leafs PR (@LeafsPR) February 22, 2016
Advanced stats via War on Ice. All Corsi numbers score-adjusted.
Dustin Nelson writes about news and the Minnesota Wild for The Hockey Writers.