The Toronto Maple Leafs are a big bag of mess, but with the likes of Shanahan and Babcock guiding two out of three of the most important positions I feel pretty comfortable we are moving in the right direction. The trade talks swirl around the core of the leafs and rightfully so, they haven't meshed the way they should or performed to the best of their capabilities. For me, the scorched earth rebuild is something that can happen in many layers and over the course of the next 2 or 3 years since realistically we are that far away from competing but there is one absolute must make move. Wait for it cause it's never been said before....The captain, Dion Phanuef must go. There are many reasons why and they have all been said before, he was the leader for multiple collapses, the salute-gate, rumours of not being very personable and cocky, etc...Ultimately he is a good D man and most people can agree he would be a great 2nd pair D man that could step up through the year and play 1st pair minutes in a crunch or due to injury, who wouldn't want him. Well there is his contract, but is it really that bad in comparison to guys like Matt Niskanen? Yes it is, and only because the cap didn't go up as expected. If next years cap was set at even 75 mil, it makes it a whole lot easier to move him. Toronto may have to take back a bad contract (for less years) but hopefully not retain any of his salary because the cap should rise again next year. Toronto should get a good draft pick and maybe a prospect because thats what he is valued at for most GM's in the league.
I ask you, unbiased based on numbers is a bad contract, a mid level prospect and a high draft pick not fair for a 2nd pair Dman?
If you read my blog called "Babcock Thoughts from a Leaf Fan" it states why we needed to land Babcock to change the desirability to players to come and play in Toronto. The same applies to the Captain, there are certain Captains players will want to come and play for/with, and then there is Dion. That's the main reason why I would be focusing all trade talks on him before worrying about the rest of the core. Lupul will have to be healthy and hot at a deadline to move him for any sort of value so why not hold on to him and give him a mentorship role with that opportunity to go to a contender in the next year or two. Kessel is selling low right now, so no rush unless you get a fair deal. (blog coming on kessel) Bozak and Kadri are equals to me, both not quite 1st line quality and with Holland a cheaper and potentially better option due to size and potential development we don't need three 2nd line centre so both kadri and bozak can go but again no rush as we don't really have a proper replacement up the middle. I would try and trade one guy now and the other at the deadline or next draft unless a fair deal comes up. JVR and Gardiner are not really on my radar to trade any time soon, they fit the rebuild and Gardiner played well at the world championships so I would give him a chance under Babs. Morgan Reilly isn't going anywhere and I would use Komarov as a mentor for Leipsic (similar playing styles) Polak and Robidas should be deadline rentals to get draft picks from teams in need. The jury is still out on Bernier so that would be an explore your options but lock him up if those options stink because he is a great goalie.
So we come back to Phanuef, for a trade to work there needs to be positives for both sides. Phanuef should be going somewhere he can be a secondary leader, so a team with a leadership structure already in place. The team should also have extra prospects, draft picks and some cap flexibility within reason and have a need for a D man. Below are a couple potential trades I could see happening
Philly - This is my #1 pick but its a tough on because their cap flexibility is of concern but Phanuef could play a hard nosed game with lots of power play to load up his shot. To go with Dion I think Toronto would have to sweeten the deal with a guy like Leivo or Percy or even Kadri (if you sign kadri for 2 years and retain some salary) plus a draft pick. Giroux is the heart and soul and no one is changing that leadership, and they need some help on D until the likes of Sanheim develops. In return Philly would send Toronto Luke Schenn (break out the #2 jerseys but its cap relief or Mark Streit) a prospect like Robert Hagg, and the # 7 overall pick. (Toronto Drafts Mathew Barzal)
Toronto sends Phanuef + Kadri (retain salary or use prospects/draft picks)
Philly sends Schenn (D) + Robert Hagg (D) + 2015 1st round pick (7th overall)
*Toronto Drafts Barzal or Crouse
#2) Carolina - This one makes a lot of sense because Carolina really isn't that far from being extremely competitive. I would do a similar trade Phanuef + Kadri (sign and trade with retaining salary for a year or two) Canes would send back Semin + Brock Mcginn (LW) or Trevor Carrick (D) + 2015 1st round pick (5th overall)
Carolina potential line up:
E Staal - J Staal - Terry
Skinner - Kadri - Nestrasil
Gerbe - Lindholm - ?
Malone - Mcclement - Dwyer
Faulk - Hainsey
Phanuef - Bellemore
JML - Murphy
*Could use a little tweaking but sure looks a lot better.
Toronto sends Phanuef + Kadri (sign and trade with retaining salary)
Carolina sends Semin + Carrick + 5th overall pickrn*Toronto Drafts Marner/Hanifin/Provorov
#3) Colorado - Another tough one because of the contract and the fact it doesn't fit into Sakic's structure of 6 mil tops kind of thing but lets give it a try anyways. Phanuef, Percy plus Bozak and the 24th overall pick for O'Reilly, and the 10th overall pick. Salary retention and/or a bad salary back is an option here as well though I would try and stay away from retaining any of Phaunef's salary because of the length of the contract but 1 mil isn't that bad to work with to get it in Joe's structure. There is a connection for next year anyways with Iggy (although that may have ended poorly in Calgary with rumours of Dion sleeping with Conroys wife???) Colorado still gets a first round pick but they also get a good solid defender for years while they make a push for a cup. As well they get Bozak who was amazing at the University of Denver (he can handle the altitude)
Toronto sends Phanuef + Bozak + Percy + 2015 1st round pick (24th overall from Nashviille)
Colorado sends O'Reilly + 2015 1st round pick (10th overall)
Not to go into to much more detail, there is potential trade partners in Detroit but it doesn't sound like they want to give up Larken or Mantha and not sure Teemu Pulkkinen will get the deal done. Edmonton has ties to Dion but doubt they want to give up much of their high end talent for a guy making that much for that long when some of there superstars will be up for new contracts during that time. Calgary could bring him back but then there balance sheet is all out of whack with the D men making too much of the overall cap space. Dallas could be interested but they also have glaring needs in net and secondary scoring. LA was mentioned to be interested but they are in a bigger mess and looking to get younger with draft picks so doubtful there.
No matter where he goes, he just has to go, and not because I hate him as a fan but because like all the relationships I had before my wife the love is gone. He was great when he first came (the honeymoon stage) and then things got stale, the scoring slowed down and the hitting stopped and his weird personality starting showing. With fresh new leaders in 2 out of 3 positions in the organization they need to complete the leadership shift and make the trade even if the return isn't as good as you want. Hold on to Kessel and make it back by raising his stock and selling higher on him. We don't need a Captain next year, we can roll with 3 A's and hope Morgan Reilly rounds into our next C under Babcock for the next 8 years. rnrnStay tuned for my Kessel blog in a couple days.rn