The general consensus is that this is mission impossible for Fletcher. Personally, I think he is in an amazing position (and I think he knows this). For the first time EVER in Toronto a GM has zero expectations to win (actually, most would prefer if they lose), he has free reign from management and fans to trade who ever he wants, he has the authority to eat salary to clear room - and if he clears $15M or so of salary, acquires 3-4 1st and 2nd round picks, it will be deemed a HUGE success. He must be giddy right now, as a well trained monkey could pull this off...
Here is just 1 scenario - and lets make this interesting - lets say Sundin wont waive the no trade and they resign him instead...
Kaberle - $4.2M - no trade now, but, leafs have an out in the off season - trade at the deadline or before the draft - 1st rounder + top rated D prospect (minimum return)
Raycroft - $2M - waive
Tucker - $3M - will get takers. This year will be a poor return, but is an affordable gamble - probably get a 2nd rounder back (sorry leaf fans, wont get a 1st rounder for tucker right now)
Bell - $2M - waive or trade
Kilger - $800k - trade or waive
Gill - $2M - trade for 2nd rounder and maybe a depth prospect
Belak - $675k - trade or waive
These moves alone clear $14+M of cap space + the cap increase coming, thats $19-$20M of free cap space without even breaking a sweat. This also gives you 2 1st rounders + 3 2nd rounders in the coming draft.
You still have Antropov, Poni and Toskala which would be EASY to move if you decided to (another $8M in salary)
You have still kept Sundin, Blake, McCabe and Kubina (and who knows, maybe you could move 1 or more of these if you really wanted to)
The point must be made, this isn't really a tough job for Fletcher. The toughest job for Fletcher is to decide what pieces he wants to move and which ones to keep. But, he needs to make sure whatever he moves and whatever he keeps, that the end result be, he clears $15-$20M of cap space, acquires at least 1 more first round pick and 2-3 additional 2nd rounders. As illustrated above, this can be done without even making any real tough decisions and with keeping Sundin. So much more is possible, especially if he can work out an agreement with Sundin to leave and then come back, especially if Antropov's value countinues to rise approaching the deadline, especially if d-men countinue to fall in the NHL and suddenly a much bigger market is created for a guy like Kubina...
For me, the "untouchables" (beyound the obvious - ie anyone under 25), assuming you want a shot at being competitive in the next year or so, would be:
(certainly trade if you feel strongly you can resign or if the return is high enough)
(need a goalie and dont want to throw Pogge to the wolves just yet)
(very difficult to replace and will cost you more to replace on the free agent market and probably would not get as good of a player with equal or better skillset for the money - ie) Suray in Edmonton or Hamrlik in Montreal)
(I know everyone hates this Blake contract - but man - hard to replace that speed and work in the corners. Im giving him a break because of his health. The man played through cancer, didnt miss a single game and brought it every night. Even if he is a little over paid and even if the term is a little long, I want this guy on my team - especially if Tucker is moved, besides, his scoring touch seems to be returning - and looks like he may hit 20 goals again this year. If his worst year, while battling cancer is 20 goals, I'll take him at $4M any day of the week)
(I know I will take some heat for listing these guys, but, they are very very cheap, they have speed and if a guy like Earle can keep up his play like he did from his single NHL game so far - granted, not sure how likely that is - you have a very affordable and very effective 4th line with ALOT of speed. As such, these are 2 role players I would keep, with the understanding they will be your 4th line next year and the whole line will cost you approx $1.7M)
End of the day, without making any real tough decisions (other then trading Kaberle) and even with keeping Sundin - Cliff could put this team into a position to have $15-$20M of free cap space, 2 1st rounders and 3-4 2nd rounders and still have this team to work with before
adding free agents and before moving other assets:
Best of the 2 first rounders, Williams from AHL (maybe)
McCabe,Kubina,Strahlman,White,Colaiacovo,Kronwall, Solid Youngster garnered from Kaberle Trade,Harrison from the AHL(maybe)
There is so much more that can be done. Cliff still has marketable assets in Antropov, Poni, Toskala. The market may open up for a player like Kubina. Sundin and Fletcher may work out an arrangement where Sundin can be traded and will come back. Heck, Sundin may not even come back, but, the return of assets and picks, along with the opening of even more cap space would enable the Leafs to go after 1 or 2 viable replacements for him. The market for Antropov may countinue to grow, and Fletcher may be able to get a great return for him. All of these moves would just open up even more salary space and would further increase the prospect depth via additional picks in the upcoming draft and could also increase the depth of young, "established", blue chip prospects. The new GM could then decide which of the above players they wanted to move, which they wanted to keep and which free agents they wanted to sign with their available cap space.
End of the day, do not be discouraged Leaf fans. Fletcher does not have a difficult job ahead of him, and even if Fletcher only does the bare minimum, as outlined above, the situation moving forward will be a much more positive one.
really good blog - finally some OPTIMISM!!!
I like the blog...BUT I really think you over value Byan McCabe, he is NOT a good D'man, he's not even a good PP d'man since the contract. What people are starting to realize is that Kaberle has made McCabe not the other way around.
thanks for your comments. I disagree on McCabe, but, that is certainly ok. McCabe blocks alot of shots, plays 20-30 mins a night and the Leafs record with and without him in the lineup sort of speaks for itself. Kaberle is a unique talent - and no doubt his passing ability has garnered alot of points for McCabe - but, Kaberle has not been able to carry the defensive load when McCabe has been out of the lineup. Whereas, when Kaberle was out last year for a good stretch, McCabe didnt miss a beat... Love him or Hate him - you need to give him credit for what he does well - even if you think he is overpaid.
Great blog! This is exactly how I've been thinking about the situation and now that you've laid it out in a very concrete way I can really appreciate the great position the Leafs could be in as soon as next season!! Don't forget to toss Kulemin into the roster for next season either. He could easily replace Antropov on the chart, and I think Nik will be traded anyways because he is at the peak of his value right now and Fletch, being a savvy man, knows this.
Tucker has a ntc....you are over rating Gill, I doubt a team would give a 2nd rounder for him, maybe a prospect or a mid rounder. As much as all that sounds nice and it's nice that someone has been able to put a positive spin on the Leafs situation you have to be realisic too.
hi thechad - if the only thing you are debating is the value of Gill - who cares - change that 2nd rounder to a 5th rounder - then end result is not that much different. I think Gill has value, especially going into the playoffs and especially at his salary - if you disagree - thats alright - lets settle on a 4th rounder for Gill - doesnt change much in the grand scheme of things - that still leaves the Leafs with almost $20M of cap space next year....
Why do people always lampoon a whole blog on one sticking point? Btw, I just realized that you DID include Kulemin. My bad!
The problem is where are you going to replace all these guys. Draft picks dont walk into the NHL unless there names are crosby, oveckin, Toews, Kane........The leafs clearly have no one that can walk in and play. All these guys that get waived must go thru re-enrty waivers and if they are taken they still eat up half of the players salary against the cap. The Leafs have to take an aproach simliar too the flyers. Gain Prosepects by trade clear cap space and sign some solid UFA in the summer. By trading the whole team and waiving them is not going to help the cause.They are better off keeping the decent guys that can help the club into the future trade for draft picks. Clear cap space and sign some decent UFA in the off season. If that means demoting guys so be it. Do you really think that McCabe is going to stay with the leafs if he is playing in the AHL for the Marlies. The Rangers did it with Kasperitus. They have to play a hard nosed approach first ask nice then if they dont want to waive the NTC demote them to the minors. Trust me guys will be flying out of T.O faster then shooting stars if it means they are going to play in the AHL
I guess I've ben scorn to many times by McCabe. Whether it's scoring on his own net or the MANY times he's passed the puck right onto the oppositions stick. Lets not forget the Flyers series, he screwed us all by himself in that one. He does log minutes and block shots but he's not elite. 1 really good half season, on a contract year, thats all he has given us. Since the rule changes his game is awful, before the change he was very useful.
Hey DuckyJets - for replacing these guys - see the roster above that is put together. These mostly fringe guys are not hard to replace. As for re-entry - why would you bring them up on re-entry - if they need to be waived and they clear waivers, they play in the AHL and the salary is absorbed. Re McCabe, when the heck did I ever say to demote him to the Marlies. In fact, you cant demote him as he has a no movement clause. If you must rip something, can you please at least take the time to read it - as it is obvious you have not done so... thanks
Hi 29Times - I really can understand why alot of Leaf fans are disgruntled with McCabe. But, he isnt as bad as people make him out to be. With a few exceptions, he would be part of a top pairing on almost any other team. This may be one of those players we don't appreciate until he is gone. He had 12 points in 27 games this year, which is pretty much a 40-50 point pace. He was a plus player last year on a very weak defensive team that had brutal goaltending and also wracked up 57 points. I would hate to see Leaf fans run this guy out of town. This really reminds me of Larry Murphy - and I am sorry to say, but Murphy was very late in his career. McCabe has much more to offer now. Re-think his salary as well. People seem to be really mad over that contract more then anything else. Check out what Suray got in Edmonton and what Hamrlik got in Montreal. I would take McCabe over both of those players - no questions asked...
I'm sick of people claiming that McCabe makes 7.2 million per year. His cap hit is 5.75/year. No more no less.