Tavares to Leafs? Panarin to Kings?
Figured it was about time to start speaking up for a change.
First, congrats to the Washington Capitals on winning their first ever Stanley Cup title. It sure seemed bleak when it came down to the Caps vs. Vegas in the end; rooting for a perennial playoff choker to put an end to Mr. Bettman’s disgusting Vegas Cinderella story, but they did and God bless them for saving the NHL! No way in hell should an expansion team be given such a glorious opportunity to draft such solid talent from each team and then go on to win a Stanley Cup in its first season. If they had, we should have all boycotted this upcoming season. Thank god they didn’t so we didn’t have to think about such disappointing measures!
From now on, every NHL club should circle Vegas on their calendar and be ready to pound them into submission and really finish all their checks on those guys. No more Mr. Nice Guy and no more “Vegas is a vacation baby!” (YOU HEAR THAT YOU STINKING LA KINGS!!!!)
Ok, back to the real issues concerning the Toronto Maple Leafs and the LA Kings.
Since Hockeybuzz is predominantly a Maple Leafs safe haven, I will start with the LA Kings.
Not at all a fan of the Ilya Kovalchuck signing. I was very angry at him for choosing the Devils over the Kings in the summer of 2010 after being wined and dined around town, however very happy when the Kings kicked him and his Devils in the butt to win the 2012 Stanley Cup. Then he decided to “retire” or quit on the Devils but now wants to come back. So the 35 year old won the gold medal at the 2018 Olympics, big deal! If the Russians hadn’t won the gold medal then they never would have given the fact that all the other rosters were 100% without NHL talent.
The fact that GM Rob Blake signed him to a pretty big cap hit of $6.25 million for 3 years better mean that the club will resign Drew Doughty. But even during the season I had hoped that the club would trade Doughty to improve the big problem this team has; no speed, no creative skills and cannot score!!! For Blake’s sake, Kovalchuk better score at least 25 goals these next two seasons for the price of paying him as a top six forward. I still think the Kings should trade Doughty in order to bring in some fresh young blood, some younger guys who can actually skate and create things.
These last three seasons since the Kings won their second Cup have been nothing but a disaster, both on and off the ice and that is downright unacceptable. And Drew Doughty is definitely part of the problem and one of the main forces behind the firing of future Hall of Fame coach Darryl Sutter who led to the club to both Cups.
I have read that former Blackhawk standout and current Blue Jacket UFA after this season Artemi Panarin has high hopes on joining the Kings probably because of the signing of fellow Russian star Ilya Kovalchuk. Panarin is exactly what this team needs and could be the missing piece as Jeff Carter was to the club back in 2011-12. But I would rather be able to sign Panarin to a 3-4 year deal at least which cannot happen if the Kings decide to resign Doughty. Perhaps the Kings could work out a deal with Columbus between the two pending 2019 UFA’s?
I highly doubt that Doughty would like to spend the rest of his career in Columbus, but if he is giving the Kings a hard time in contract negotiations, who cares. (Not sure about that, haven't heard a thing for about a month and things sounded good according to Eklund?) With Panarin’s future LA King wish list ideas, the club should have no problem keeping him around for a few years, at least until Kovalchuk’s contract expires after the 2021 season (as does Carter’s, Browns, and several of the others coming off the books around the same time frame).
Or perhaps Columbus would be interested in acquiring Jake Muzzin or Alec Martinez along with a forward such as Tyler Toffoli or Tanner Pearson in a deal involving Artemi Panarin as long as the Kings can extend him? Either way, this thought depends on what happens with Drew Doughty. I honestly believe that if the Kings resign Doughty to a monster contract extension, the Kings will most likely fail to win a single playoff round until all the smoke has cleared and this core of Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, Jonathan Quick and even Doughty is as good as done playing.
I do have plenty of faith in the defense surrounding Doughty to get the job done. These guys still played their butts off against a younger, faster and more creative Vegas club. They lost because they could not put the damn puck in the net. It was as simple as that. Not many teams I know lose games because of their offense, but that has become the Kings main nemesis for a long time. The Kings cannot score! And I believe the only way to fix that is by trading Drew Doughty, not only to get some young assets back, but also the ability to sign or keep those other younger and fresher guys around the aging core that has seen so much success.
Simple philosophy for the Kings going forward…
Trade Doughty and prepare for an exciting future with several options to build with OR resign him to a monster extension, become the next version of the Chicago Blackhawks and when you do come across a good young player to keep around with the older veterans (Gabe Vilardi, Daniel Brickley, Mikey Eyssimont (spelling?), Jaret Dolan-Anderson, Alex Iafallo, Adrian Kempe, etc) you definitely wont be able to resign any of them! No hope, no titles, just old, slow and boring hockey for years to come.
To me it is a pretty obvious decision, but going forward with an even older player to help a pathetic offense with little or no speed does not look too promising from Mr. Blake. And if Kovalchuk turns out to be a big mistake, goodbye Robby! Then we have to start this process all over again and the club won’t hold the cards in being able to move a great bargaining chip for younger faster players. The Kings will be stuck in purgatory.
Now to the Maple Leafs…
Congrats on the Marlies AHL championship run. I was able to attend game one of the Eastern Finals against Lehigh Valley while on a short trip from Chicago to Toronto back in May. I am very proud that a fellow Chicagoland area kid Garrett Sparks was able to complete a strong season with a title. The Leafs must allow Sparks and Calvin Pickard to have a chance at backing up Freddy Andersen next season. While Curtis McElhinney has been a rock solid backup, there is no need for the club to carry a 35-year old journeyman backup goalie when you got two 25 year olds playing their butts off in the AHL with nothing more to prove. Moreoever, I feel that Mike Babcock’s foolish decision to start Andersen nearly 60 times during the season played a role in Andersen’s second consecutive poor performance and numbers in another horrendous first round series. Not only does the Great Dane need more rest during a season in which the club knew by the end of January they’d be the #3 seed in the Atlantic Division, but the fact that a number one goalie also should be challenged by a younger backup. Trading McElhinney could help bring in a low risk high reward defender?
Why? Because I still do not have complete faith that Andersen is the best option in goal for the club to help win that elusive Stanley Cup. He is a solid #1 but not an elite #1 and I don’t think he will ever be or should be considered an elite starting goalie like Jonathan Quick in LA, Carey Price in Montreal, Tuukka Rask in Boston, Sergei Bobrovsky in Columbus or Andrei Vasilevsky in Tampa. At the same time, I believe or have hope that either Sparks or Pickard could in fact be the one who just might lead the Leafs to the Eastern Finals at least.
Now my thoughts on John Tavares; I really do not buy any of this meeting with all these teams garbage. Tavares is just rising up his stock as high as he can go. He wants to remain an Islander for sure, especially with guys like Lou Lamoreillo and Barry Trotz calling the shots. I do believe that there is a place in his heart for his hometown Leafs and if things really go south in the next few days leading up to July 1st, Tavares in a Leafs uniform just might become an honest to God possibility. But, what is the plan IF the Leafs do in fact sign Tavares? If wunderkind GM Kyle Dubas and staff does in fact lure him to Toronto, I hope it is not for the moronic single season maximum contract I have read about. That would be the most asinine thing this organization has ever done! First of all, this current Leafs club is not even close to becoming a Stanley Cup contender, nor even a legitimate Eastern Conference champion hopeful. There is no way the Leafs are close to winning a title of their own with the current pathetic defense and a very mediocre playoff goaltender at best.
I truly believe that John Tavares will resign with the Islanders for at least 8 years (99.9% sure he will). But let’s just say he does choose Toronto. It better be a multiyear contract, and at the age of 27 and still plenty to offer and play for in his career, I would not mind the cap hit and monetary commitment for a player like him. That being said, there is no question that someone would have to go out of the current “big three”. If I were at the table with Larry Tannenbaum, Brendan Shannahan, Kyle Dubas and the board, my choice would be 100% Mitchell Marner. When he was drafted I actually was disappointed the Leafs selected him instead of defenseman Noah Hanifin. In fact, I 100% believe that if the Leafs had taken Hanifin over Marner, they would perhaps be a legitimate Eastern Conference threat. This club needs defensive strong players, not a plethora of small undersized yet speedy forwards and he is the weaker defensive skilled of the three as well.
To win the Cup you should have a good mix of offensively gifted yet strong solid defenseman along with a good goaltender who is on top of his game. Notice I didn’t say elite goaltender, but your goalie needs to be good and Andersen still can be good enough and on top of his game but clearly hasn’t yet so far in Toronto. (2010 Finals was a matchup of Antti Niemi and Michael Leighton for heavens sake, which is why all the games featured at least 8 or more goals except for game 2, guess both sides were tired of scoring 11 in game 1)
Still, a defense featuring the likes of Jake Gardiner, Morgan Rielly, Nikita Zaitzev, Ron Hainsey, Travis Dermott (who I really do like) and Orland Park IL own Connor Carrick is just way too weak and soft. Hainsey was a good replacement for Matt Hunwick and a solid veteran leader, but the younger top three just flat out stink and cannot defend well at all. There is hope for Zaitsev, but Gardiner and Rielly will never amount to much of anything. I have seen enough of those two. Gardiner is a great skater and moves the puck well into the zone and is an offensive threat but defending well in his own zone, forget it! It is not going to happen.
The same could be said about Rielly, but the 5th full year pro who has not gotten much better since his call-up if at all, and is not nearly as offensively skilled as Gardiner. I would like to see if the Leafs could get something in exchange for either of those two in a deal, more likely Gardiner being a UFA next summer. Still, trading one of those guys doesn’t help the situation and free agency wont help much either now that John Carlson has been signed. The only ways to fix the blue line is to be patient or through trades.
Which all comes back to Tavares. If the Leafs do land him, one of the big three will no doubt be traded and hopefully before their RFA signing period comes up. I would keep William Nylander and Auston Matthews over Marner, but what if Matthews has another poor season missing 20 games (with the team going 16-4 without him in the lineup, don’t think I didn’t pay attention to that little tidbit because it sure was interesting to notice that fact) and another poor playoff showing? Perhaps Matthews could and should be the odd man out? And if that becomes somewhat of a reality, then I would love to see what the Leafs could get for the prized young superstar. He was supposed to be part of the saving grace for Toronto hockey, but could it be Tavares, and a whole host of younger unknown defenseman to come through a trade if Tavares is signed?
No doubt interesting days ahead for Toronto and LA…although I am still cautiously optimistic, yet concerned as well.
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