Hello out there! This is my first blog and any feedback would be appreciated! Here goes..
1: Trade Dion Phaneuf
Look, I'll be the first one to admit he is by far the team's best defenseman, but if upper management is as adamant about the "culture change" that must take place, then #3 has to go. There may not be a better time than now to trade the captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs. With the salary cap expected to rise somewhere between 4 and 6 million dollars, and the leafs in dire need of signing other players (a league-low 12 players under contract once the 2014 season is officially done), this may be one piece with a heavy price tag that can still be moved for a very good return.
When I think of potential suitors for #3, I think of the suddenly deep-pocketed Florida panthers, with a rich owner wanting to win now, and about 30 million in cap space. There has been a lot of talk about Dale Tallon shopping the 1st overall pick, and this is where I believe the Leafs should start. Getting a top prospect on an entry level contract would be huge for the team as it would save them 6+ million in cap space if they did indeed move Phaneuf to Florida.
So.. what could this trade look like? Well, I'm certain Phaneuf alone for the first overall pick wouldn't fly, so the Leafs could then do two things. They could throw in their 1st round pick (8th overall) and ask for Florida's second rounder (32nd I believe), or they could add a player like Gardiner (doubtful tor would trade, unless in package for #1C) or Kadri and hold onto their #8 pick as well. I would propose:
Phaneuf + 8th overall pick FOR 1st +32nd overall
2: Trade Joffrey Lupul
Great guy off the ice and in the locker room, but inconsistent and injury prone. Trade with Vancouver.
Lupul + 4th rd pick FOR Bieksa
3: Draft Sam Bennett
Change in culture acquired. He is what more leaf players need to become. He can shoot, pass, deke, and skate, but its his determination, will to win, heart, motor, and hockey IQ that separates him from the rest of this years draft class. He can slot into the #2 centre spot, and the team can finally move kadri to the wing, where he SHOULD be more effective.
4: Don't sign Bolland. Unless.....
If he comes cheap, snag him up! If he accepts a short term deal at a lower cap hit than what is being rumored (5M+) and can sign him for 3.5-4M, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Otherwise we have too many bad contracts in our forward crop (thanks, David Crapson) and he'll go walking away into free agency.
5: Avoid the free agent market... mostly
Re-sign RFAs and a UFA or two, pick up Leo Komarov (again) and possibly one other cheap 4th line forward (dwight king offer sheet?)
6: Promote a few kids from the Marlies.
D'amigo, Granberg, Leivo and Macintyre are good candidates to start the season with the Leafs next year.
7: See how the first 20 games play out
JVR - Bozak - Kessel
Kadri - Bennett - Clarkson
Komarov - Bolland - Holland
King/Leivo - Mcclement - D'amigo
Bieksa - Reilly
Gardiner - Gunnarsson
Franson - Granberg
Not exactly the most frightening group ever assembled, but if they can successfully change the culture, commit to playing team defense and a 200-foot game they will be much more successful. With that much speed on the back end and good outlet passes, this fast team gets a whole lot faster and more dangerous as a result. If the lack of commitment to team defense continues, however, a blockbuster trade of sorts may be in order.
Thanks for reading!