08-09's Crystal Ball II

[Note: I do not believe that any of this will happen, but some of it might. The point is, it is now much more fun to speculate about the future of the Leafs – especially now with the potential of having names like Stamkos, Doughty, Brunnstrom, etc. in a Leaf uniform.]

For Leaf fans who have demanded change for a long time, one must keep their heads on straight (after all Peddie is still around and nothing substantial has happened). But it is also a fun time to be a Leaf fans JUST FOR THE VERY POTENTIAL of change swirling in the air. Below is a typical leaf plan that we often see posted here on HTR. However, the format is NOT so much a plan as a potential scenario, and there are some assumptions that have been made …
1) there will be some contracts that are completely unmovable and that the next Leafs GM is stuck with (McCabe, Tucker, Raycroft and Bell for one year).
2) there will be some contracts that currently thought by some to be unmovable – but actually will be moved if done a certain way in order to suit the needs of certain teams (Kubina, Blake).
3) there are some contracts that are VERY movable and attractive to GMs of other teams (Kaberle, Kilger, Gill, Antropov, Ponikorovsky, White).
4) In this particular scenario, I have Sundin NOT waiving his no-trade clause, resulting in the trading of my other favourite Leaf player – Tomas Kaberle (in other scenarios, I included Sundin waiving his NTC and Kaberle staying).
5) there are FOUR turning points (or, as I like to call it: ‘the hockey gods FINALLY giving long-suffering Leaf fans a break’) over the course of this 5-month scenario, which gives the article its fantastical tone.
6) that other NHL teams actually, believe it or not, have needs that must be fulfilled in trades with the leafs (I know, it’s a shock to me too), and also operate under a cap system (amazing isn’t it?).

Friday February 22nd – Mats is resigned
Just days before the trade deadline and with rumours swirling, Cliff Fletcher announces a two-year extension for Mats Sundin. This time, the contract is reduced to $5 million per season but a no-trade clause is maintained for both years.

Analysis: For the most part it is recognized by most hockey pundits that this was the only route Fletcher could take if Sundin was unwilling to waive his NTC (other than letting Sundin go for nothing in the offseason). With Sundin off the market, the fun seemingly ends and speculation turns to the other four players with no-trade clauses along with other tradeable assets like Antropov, Kilger, and Gill. The Sundin resigning is the first of the five turning points because, among other things, it dictates the route that Fletcher decides to take from here on in.

Tuesday February 26th – Trade Deadline
The domino effect of the Sundin signing sees both McCabe and Tucker refuse to waive their no-trade clauses when asked by Fletcher. Finally, at noon on the day of the deadline, the Leafs make two minor trades and then, towards the the 3pm deadline, make two shocking trades in quick succession:

Atlanta: Hal Gill
Toronto: 2nd rounder in 2009, Andrei Zubarev (prospect)

Minnesota: Chad Kilger
Toronto: 2nd rounder in 2008 draft

Analysis: The Leafs clear $3 million in cap space on two contracts that have a year remaining on each. They also acquire two 2nd round picks in the next two deep drafts and a Russian defensive prospect that displays the same kind of potential (though a different kind of defensive game) as Dimitri Vorobiev. The Thrashers view Gill as an important piece to improving their PK as they try to win their division from the Caps, Canes, and Panthers, while Minnesota believes that Kilger’s grit, speed, and shot (not to mention how cheap he is) heading into tough, grinding 7-game Western Conference playoff series.

St. Louis: Tomas Kaberle, Nik Antropov, Ian White
Toronto: Jay McKee, Matt Walker, 1st rounder in 2008, Ian Cole (prospect), Ben Bishop (prospect).

Analysis: The deal is stunning for many reasons, but mainly because Kaberle showed no signs of waiving his NTC and it was believed by many that he was untouchable. The Blues and Leafs essentially exchange two large defencemen contracts but two completely different kinds of defencemen. The Blues get a top-10, two-way blueliner, who is not yet 30 years old, is signed to an incredibly affordable $4.25 million a year, and STILL has 3 years remaining on his contract (also, Erik Johnson and Kaberle form a solid future defence pairing). Moreover, the Blues acquire Antropov, who in 61 games has put up 21 goals and 60 pts, is affordable, has a year left on his contract, and will give the Blues some offense beyond the playoff drive this season. The same goes for young two-way blueliner Ian White, who more than makes up for the loss of Walker, who has recently demanded to be traded after being unable to crack the Blues top-6. Of course, the Leafs benefit by getting an unspectacular, solid veteran shotblocker who has been inconsistent since his days with Buffalo (largely due to injury concerns) and is on the books for two more seasons. More importantly, they clear $2.3 million in cap space, acquire some prospect depth in Cole and Bishop, and acquire a 1st rounder in 2008.

San Jose: Pavel Kubina, Jason Blake
Toronto: Kyle McLaren, Mike Grier, 4th rounder in 2009 draft

Analysis: After being thwarted on other fronts (including the Kaberle deal), the Sharks land their two-way defenceman in Kubina, who is in the top-30 in defenceman scoring (6 goals, 30 pts). They trade a solid stay-at-home defender who takes up half of Kubina’s salary and half the time remaining on his contract. They also lose a solid two-way winger in Grier, but add more scoring depth in Blake, who has heated up in recent weeks to pot 17 goals and 41 pts in 61 games (and would seem to be a perfect fit for Joe Thornton). In exchange for these two larger, long-term contracts, the Sharks only give up players who are not contributing much from an offensive standpoint along with a 4th rounder in the 2009 draft, which was previously Toronto’s pick that was lost in the Toskala deal. The Sharks add $4.7 million in cap space and the Leafs create that much in cap room.

After the deadline Trader Cliff is lauded by some as a man who has done a lot with what little he has been given. His options were severely limited thanks to no-trade clauses and players unwilling to waive them. The veterans and contracts he has taken on or has kept (Sundin, Grier, McLaren, McKee) are reasonable and form a veteran core who are solid in their own end and can set a good example for other young players. In the remaining 16 games games after the deadline, the Leafs go 4-9-3 (with two regulation wins against Montreal and one against the Senators) and finish the season with the worst record in the East and the second-worst record in the NHL (28-40-14).

June 12th and June 22nd – Selection order announced and the 2008 Entry Draft in Ottawa, respectively
In early June, Leafs management announce a surprising choice in the hiring of a new President and GM – John Muckler, who, in turn announces the firing of Paul Maurice and the hiring of Pat Burns. But the news on Thursday June 12th is much nicer for the new Leafs GM and represents the second turning point for the Leaf franchise: for the second straight year the 1st overall pick will not go to the team that finish 30th overall, and this year goes to the Toronto Maple Leafs, who only had an 18% chance of getting the #1 pick. For Leaf fans, and in particular Muckler, it is breathtaking news. Now the n
ew GM can walk into his former team’s building and can announce the #1 selection and arguably a franchise player for that team’s arch rivals. To no one’s surprise, on Friday June 22nd Muckler announces the selection of Steven Stamkos from the Sarnia Sting.

Much more surprising – and related back to the Kaberle trade which now becomes the third turning point – is the fact that the Blues, despite finishing just outside the playoffs in the West in 10th place and despite a decent record (38-32-12), finish 21st overall in the NHL, but move up a spot in the draft lottery. This means that the Leafs’ are going to select again at 9th overall position. To everyone’ surprise, defenceman Luke Schenn is still available and the Buds promptly select him, completing the Kaberle trade. Moments after the Schenn selection, Muckler announces that, for the third consecutive year in a row, the Leafs have made a draft day trade:

Columbus: Alexei Ponikorovsky
Toronto: 2008 2nd rounder, 2009 2nd rounder

Analysis: It seems like a minor return for Ponikorovsky, who has scored 20 goals for 3 straight seasons (despite his shoulder injury he scores a career high 22 goals in 2006-2007). But Muckler and the Leafs’ scouts desperately want a higher 2nd round pick so that they can target Jared Staal (they lost their own pick in the Brendan Bell-Yanic Perreault trade at the 2007 trade deadline). They select Jared Staal 40th overall (formerly Columbus’ pick), and Tomas Knotek 55th overall (formerly Minnesota’s pick).

The consensus reaction from many hockey journalists and bloggers is that the Leafs were the big winners on the day. Stamkos is the future of the franchise. The loss of solid names like Kaberle, Ponikorovsky, and Antropov stings, but not when one looks at the prospect depth and the cap space that the Leafs now have. The selections of Schenn, Staal, and Knotek are widely regarded as steals for where they are selected.

July 1st – Leafs sign Fabian Brunnstrom
The snowball that is the Leafs’ good fortune continues to grow in this fourth and final turning point. They follow up signing Linus Klasen in February by signing another promising 22-year old Swedish prospect – Fabian Brunnstrom, beating out the Wings, Sens, and Canucks for his services. Brunnstrom was offered the maximum amount by the Leafs (as he was by the other 3 teams). However, he was also offered a top-six spot on the roster alongside the likes of Steen, Wellwood, Sundin, and Stamkos. Klasen, on the other hand, has another year to play in Sweden.

Also on July 1st, the Leafs say goodbye to five free agents who took up $3.5 million in cap space: John Pohl, Scott Clemmensen, Andy Wozniewski, and Wade Belak. The Buds also resign Dominic Moore for one year and near the league minimum, and their RFAs to very modest, longer-term deals (Steen, Stajan, Wellwood, Walker, Ondrus, and Harrison).

Remarkably, the modest numbers of the Steen, Stajan, and particularly poor season that Wellwood had means that the Leafs are able to sign the three to relatively cheap contracts and longer term deals. Of course, the signing of Brunnstrom is the icing on the cake for this long-suffering franchise. Not because he is a can’t-miss prospect, but because now the Leafs boast a prospect depth – much of it NHL-ready – that ranks among the top-10 in the NHL, and they have done so without trading Mats Sundin. The 2009 draft will see the Leafs have just one first round selection but THREE in the second round (their own, Columbus [Poni], and Atlanta [Gill]). Also, they’ll have their 4th rounder back.

Prospect Depth After July 1st, 2008
Kulemin——–DiDomenico——-D. Mitchell

Projected 2008-2009 NHL line-up:
Brunnstrom (0.9)—–Sundin (5.0)——–Steen (1.5)
Tlusty (0.7) ———–Stamkos (0.9)——Tucker (3.0)
Earl/Kulemin (0.8)—–Wellwood (1.5)—–Grier (1.8)
Bell (2.1)—————-Stajan (1.5)——Devereaux (0.6)
[Moore (0.7), Newbury(0.5)/Ondrus (0.5)]
————-McKee (4.0)—————McCabe (5.75)
————-Coliacovo (1.3)———–McLaren (2.5)
————-Stralman (0.7)————Kronvall (0.5)
[Walker (0.7)]
——————————Toskala (4.0)
[Raycroft (2.0)]

23 players, $43 million
Projected cap ceiling: approx. $53 million
Cap space: approx. $10 million

There are no buyouts (if any of the above salary amounts seem too small, then make the adjustments. In any case, plent of cap room). The contracts ending at the end of the 2008/2009 season: Newbury, Battaglia, Devereaux, Bell, Grier, and McLaren. The Leafs might need to sign a decent depth defenceman (Commodore), MAYBE a back-up goalie (Danis, Leighton, Hedberg, Joseph) and waive/buyout Raycroft, MAYBE a top-6 veteran left winger (vets like Stillman, Roberts, Shanahan, Nagy) – none of which are mandatory signings. The Leafs certainly have the cap space to make those UFA signings. But the key here is that there is NO REASON to spend to the cap ceiling just for the sake of it. A UFA signing is made only if it makes sense for the Leafs in the long-term (in terms of salary, avoiding an NTC if possible, age, consistency, etc.). In other words, it must be done in a discriminating and selective way, but, otherwise, forget it (re: the Detroit model).

116 Responses to 08-09's Crystal Ball II

  1. leafDEADhead says:

    What about Cody Hodsgon? He has vision, hands and size and will be better in his own end than Stamkos.
    Last time I checked, Sarnia was in 4th in their division while Brampton is leading by a wide margin. I saw the two play against each other back in January and I was not impressed by Stamkos. He looks like a toothpick on skates. He got knocked around by a relatively large Brampton team and Hodgson outplayed him by far.

    If the Leafs get the 1st overall, they should look at trading down in the draft order in exchange for another prospect or a 2009 1st rounder. The dummies at Central Scouting won't rate Hodgson higher than 10th among NA skaters, so he should be around at the 15th or 16th pick or so. I say look at who will get in at about the 6th seed in both conferences so the Leafs can pilfer a good prospect and a 1st rounder so they can take Hodgson. Then next year, when their trading partner in that deal finishes in a lottery pick, they can focus on Tavares…

  2. aj_furf says:

    I don't mean to be rude, but the original author's strategy is far more superior and realistic to the ones you've proposed.  To address them in the order they appeared:

    Sundin to Anh
    While this would be my #1 destination to ship Sundin, the Leafs will need to take some salary back.  I don't think ANH can fit Sundin in without offloading more than just draft picks.  Alter the trade to Sundin for ANH 1st rounder (via EDM) and Doug Weight and I think it's more realistic.  Weight is a UFA come July so his salary means nothing for the Leafs.

    Brian Burke to TOR
    To say he's "probably gonna take the Toronto job" is grossly optimistic

    McCabe to NYI
    Islanders are just as bad as the Leafs.  I know it's his wife's hometown, but I can't see him waiving his NMC to go there.

    Kaberle to WAS for Green, 1st RD pick
    Green currently has more points than Kaberle and is leading the league in goals for defencemen.  I'd be really surprised if Washington took on Kaberle's cap number in exchange for a player who's currently out-performing him, is younger, cheaper, and apparently requires a 1st rd pick to accompany him in the deal.  Top that off with the fact that Kaberle has historically been pushed around in the playoffs, and there's no way Washington pulls the trigger.

    Antropov + Poni to DET for Hudler/1RD pick
    Not a bad offer.  If the Leafs could convince the DET scouts to make the draft pick for them, I'd do it.  From Detroit's perspective, tho, it means bumping two current roster players off the team, and I don't know if they're looking for that kind of shake-up.  Maybe just Antropov for a 2nd rounder.

    Tucker to PHI
    Flyers are pressed right up against the cap.  I do think that Tucker is a good fit for their system, but since Philly will need to be very creative just to find cap room for Forsberg, I doubt they'd be willing to ram Tucker's $3M into the mix

    Ian White – I don't think any team will be dissapointed if he's packaged with someone else in a trade.  It's not as though is salary is a burden on the cap.

    Hal Gill – I'd prefer to keep him than to give him away for nothing.  Besides, you'll need a big, tough guy to stand up for all the young kids on the roster next year.

    Wellwood – It'd depend on what he expects his contract to be next year.  Anything more than $1.5M and you can show him the door.

    Raycroft – I agree.  Buy him out.  Clemmenson is more than capable of backing up Toskala, and it lets Pogge have the #1 job on the Marlies.

    Mike Richards – He plays for Philly.  Honest mistake, I know you mean Brad Richards.  A sound 2-way centre is not a bad pick-up for a young team looking to develop.  If you could convince TB that you're doing them a favour by taking his contract, sure, but I would give up very little to acquire him.

  3. aj_furf says:

    The most rediculous thing that has been posted so far on this thread has been your comparison of the author's proposals to a 3rd round pick for Crosby.  You, sir, have crossed the proverbial "line" with that comment.

    In terms of the trade proposals, none of them are over-the-top outlandish as you seem to believe.  15+ scouts are not attending leaf games to only have a look at Sundin, there's interest out there for other players.

    The only outrageous suggestions made were with respect to the draft, since the odds of landing Stamkos, as well as the other prospects mentioned would require a miricle.  But it's very obvious the author acknowledges this and is just having a fun time speculating at what an ideal scenario could be.

  4. 08-09 says:

    thank you!

    youve got the gist of it. as leaf fans who are suffering through 41 years and the knowledge of a few more cupless years on the way, we have every right to indulge once in awhile and i dont think i'm going too far over the top in this fantasy proposal.

    if any ONE of the above things happen, i'd be happy.

  5. Bure96 says:

    Your right. Speculating your teams future is fun. I might write an article like this about the Canucks, but I don't think anyone will read it, because it's not about the Habs or Leafs lol.

  6. 08-09 says:

    Well, to me, the Canucks' future is now. They have Luongo, they've got the team to be in the final 4 or final 8 every year. Now they have to add that last piece while, at the same time, not dipping too much into their prospect pool to do so.

    Their prospect depth is not that bad … its not that good either but much better than most teams out there.

  7. aj_furf says:

    As I've indicated in a couple posts here, I find your article a great read.  The thought that went into it, the fact that everything is realistic from a fairness point of view and the fact that you acknowledge it's unlikelihood. 

    There's a lot of fans in Leaf Nation who are just chompin' at the bit for this re-build to occur, so it's a lot of fun to speculate, and it's even more fun when the odd article comes out with good suggestions.

    I have just one question that I don't think anyone has commented on yet:

    Why Muckler?

    I know it's just my own opinion, but for some reason, I don't like him.  Just wondering why you made him your choice from all the other candidates.  That, plus the fact that I think the leafs hinted that they will be looking for someone with loads of experience, but still considered "young".

  8. aj_furf says:

    Not sure of your reason for posting the figures above, but it's a good backdrop for a comment I'd like to make.

    I don't agree at all with the concept of throwing in draft picks/prospects along with our big contracts simply to get them off the books.  I think most of us agree that a youth movement is the right path to take.  If that's true, they why use them to help free up cap space?

    What do we need even need cap space for over the next two seasons?  I say if we can't trade away the big contracts straight up, then just wait it out and let them expire. 

    For the Leafs, cap space will only be needed to re-sign prospects/draft picks that show signs of being legitimate NHL'ers.  This won't happen for at least 3 years.  Cap space for UFA's?  Why bother.  The only time the Leafs should consider persuing a big-ticket UFA is once there's a solid core to build around.  Again, approximately 3-years.  In 3 years, almost all of the bad contracts will be gone, the leafs will (hopefully) have a solid core of young players and the cap space to lock them up long term, and the flexibility to add meaningful UFA's when they're ready to compete for the cup again.

  9. 08-09 says:

    Thanks for the feedback.

    Why Muckler. I dunno, to tell you the truth that is the thing that I am not very attached to.

    I just like the poetic justice idea of Muckler walking into Scotiabank Place where he used to GM (and made the Heatley-Hossa trade among other things) and select Stamkos (or a significant #1 blueliner) for the Leafs, the Senators' arch rivals.

    I would actually like to see more speculation that extends beyond the big 3 (rutherford, burke, holland) and onto other candidates like Armstrong, Taylor, Smith, Patrick etc.

    But I am not attached to Muckler at all as the choice for the Leafs' GM.

  10. aj_furf says:

    hahah…fair enough

    Maybe they could land one of the top GM's you mentioned above, and just convice Yashin or Daige to make a cameo appearance for the purposes of making the 1st overall selection!

  11. Wings19 says:

    Lol good luck with that

  12. mojo19 says:

    Beating Montreal makes me happy!

  13. LEAFLANDER says:
    Here is what I would do for my 08-09 Leafs

    Players Targeted via trade:

    Alexei Cherepanov RW (prospect nyr) Marc Staal D NYR Tyler Kennedy RW Pit Jordan Staal C Pit Marc-Andre Fleury Pit, Peter Mueller Phx C Keith Ballard D Phx Steve Downie RW Phi

    Free agent Signings –
    Brian Campbell D

    08 Draft

    Sought players salaries:

    Keith Ballard 2.5 mil Phx Caps Space 08-09 30.000 07-08 33.498
    Fleury, Marc-Andre 08-09 1.600 07-08 0.989
    Jordan Staal 850K Pens Cap Space 08-09 27.15007-08 29.062
    Peter Mueller .850k Phx Caps Space 08-09 30.000 07 -08 33.498
    Marc Staal .765k NY Rangers Cap Space 08-09 19.075 07-08 52.040
    Tyler Kennedy 550K Pens Cap Space 08-09 27.150 19.075 07-08 29.062
    Steve Downie 585k Flyers Cap Space 08-09-53.525 07-08 58.744
    Alexei Cherepanov N/A NY Rangers Cap Space 08-09 19.075 07-08
    Logan Couture C SJ San jose Cap 08-09 36.325 07-08 32.240

    Leafs Cap 07-08 50.120 08-09 -43.765(before my trades)

    Trades that I would swing:

    Steen Stajan and Pavel Kubina
    To Phx f
    or Keith Ballard Peter Mueller

    Antropov Colaiacovo 2nd rnd this yr draft from SJ
    To NYR
    for Marc Staal Cherepanov Brendon Shanahan salary dump in

    To Flyers
    for steve downie

    Blake Kaberle Toskala
    To Pits
    for Jordan Staal Tyler Kennedy Marc-Andre Fleury

    Sundin and Tucker
    to San Jose
    for Logan Couture (C) and 2 1st rnders and a 2nd rnd pick in this yrs draft'

    Sign Fabian Brunnstrom LW

    Campbell 7.5
    McCabe – 5,750,000
    Sundin 5 mil
    Ballard 2.5 mil
    Gill – 2,075,000
    Bell – 2,166,667
    Poni – 2,105,000
    Fleury, Marc-Andre 1.600
    Kulemin – 1,487,500
    Kilger – 900,000
    Tlusty – 855,000
    White – 850,000
    Fabian Brunnstrom 850K
    Jordan Staal 850K

    Peter Mueller 850k
    Stankos 850
    Marc Staal .765k
    Stralman – 731,667
    Alexei Cherepanov 700k
    Logan Couture 700k
    Pogge – 683,333
    Steve Downie 585k
    Devo – 575,000
    Tyler Kennedy 550K
    Kronwall – 487,500


    08-09 Leafs Roster
    Fabian Brunnstrom
    RW Kulemin – Sundin C- Brunnstrom LW 
    RW Kennedy -Mueller C — Tlusty LW
    RW Cherepanov – Stamkos C– Bell LW
    RW Downie-Staal C-Devereaux LW

    Ponikarovsky- LW

    D Keith Ballard – D Brian Campbell
    D Bryan Mccabe – D Marc Staal
    D Anton Stralman-D Staffan Kronwall
    D Hal Gill

    Marc-Andre Fleury G
    Justin Pogge G


  14. stoned says:

    I appreciate all the time you took writing that story,but you lost me when you said Gill and Kilgar would fetch 2- 2nd rounders,that's a dream.

  15. 08-09 says:

    guess i was pretty close eh?

    Gill got a 2nd rounder AND a 5th rounder

    Kilger got a 3rd rounder (and a high one at that considering its Florida's pick)

  16. 08-09 says:

    guess i was pretty close eh?

    Gill got a 2nd rounder AND a 5th rounder

    Kilger got a 3rd rounder (and a high one at that considering its Florida's pick)

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