An ideal scenario for the Leafs (April 2008 to September 2009)

Another fantasy scenario from yours truly. Sit back, relax, sip from a cup of tea/coffee and read knowing that all of this is a just-in-fun analysis of the Leafs. Clearly this is a best case scenario that does not involve any buyouts and DOES require the next GM and coach to actually consider benching those high priced vets who do not perform up to their contract (what a concept!). In any case, to say this upcoming offseason won’t be exciting or an immense amount of hope for Leaf fans is ludicrous.April
– Fletcher resigns Wellwood to a two-year $2.8 million contract, Stajan to a 3 year $4.5 million contract, and Moore (a favourite of Fletcher’s and another solid 4th liner reclamation project of Ferguson’s) to a one year deal at 700K.

– After Anaheim is eliminated from the playoffs in the 2nd round, the Leafs GM-search crew of Kirke and Peddie interview Ducks’ GM Brian Burke, who turns the job down. Their next choice is Detroit’s Assistant GM – Jim Nill, whom, for the first time, is given permission by Ken Holland to speak to the Leafs organization. After the Wings are eliminated in the Western final, Nill is interviewed and accepts the job. In a surprising move, Cliff Fletcher is made the team’s President. Initially, the Silver Fox was going to just be a consultant after the new GM was hired. But Fletcher is made President for the remainder of his 19-month contract to guide Nill on the current make-up of the organization and to act as a buffer between Nill and the MLSE board of governors. At the press conference Fletcher makes it clear that is Nill that is in charge, and that he has been given full autonomy, reporting only once a year to the MLSE board and only on budgetary matters. Personnel moves are his and his alone.

– With the draft a few weeks away, Nill has his work cut out for him. No major management moves are going to be made until well into the July free agency period. Fletcher extensively schools Nill on the Leafs organization from top to bottom – but the main concern is the draft, freeing up cap space, and the upcoming free agency period.

– The draft lottery is held a week before the draft in Ottawa and, as expected, the Leafs – who finished 25th overall in the NHL (12th in the East) – will select 6th overall. After trying without success in trading up in the first round (Plan A), the Leafs select Luke Schenn at #6 (after Stamkos, Doughty, Pieterangelo, Beach, Bogosigian, and ahead of Hodgson, Filatov, and Wilson).

– Nill then walks across the floor to the Kings’ draft table to discuss a Plan B deal. As the first round winds down, it is announced that the Leafs have made a trade:

Los Angeles: Nik Antropov, Ian White, Andrew Raycroft, 3rd round pick in 2008
Toronto: 2nd round pick (31st overall) in 2008, Dan Cloutier, goalie prospect Jeff Zatkoff

The Kings will select later in the 2nd round thanks to a pick that they picked up from the Flames in the Conroy trade. They are more than happy to pick up Antropov (who is an upgrade and less expensive than the soon-to-be-UFA Nagy) and to exchange Cloutier’s horrible contract with one year remaining with Raycroft’s bad contract with one year remaining (and Raycroft actually has better numbers than Cloutier since the lockout). This is a move that Fletcher would not have made considering that he had previously considered Antropov as part of the core moving forward. Despite giving up Antropov, who had a career year in 2007-08, Nill understands the value of the Leafs getting a very high 2nd rounder (virtually a 1st rounder), moving a player that has perhaps peaked in value, along with acquiring more depth between the pipes. Nill immediately selects Jared Staal at #31.
Nill is estatic to have Schenn and Staal in the Toronto organization as they represent top-tier prospects that the Leafs organization are in desperate need of. The Leafs also select Kruise Reddick later in the 2nd round (Pens-Hall Gill trade) and WHL defenceman Michael Stone with the Panthers 3rd round pick (Kilger).

– Just one week after the draft, Nill swings two massive trades and clears a massive amount of cap space that was previously thought to be unmovable for many years to come:

San Jose: Kubina, Ponikorovsky
Toronto: McLaren, 2nd rounder in 2009, 4th rounder in 2009 (formerly the Leafs’ pick in the Toskala trade)

NY Rangers: McCabe
Toronto: Backman, 3rd rounder in 2009, 4th rounder

With July 1st on the horizon, both the Sharks and Rangers avoid overpaying for UFA defencemen and get defencemen whom some consider to be overpaid but actually look rather affordable considering the rising price in UFA D-men.

The Sharks already resigned Campbell to a big contract and, with Kubina, Rivet and Carle under contract and with McLaren gone, have four top-4 defencemen signed for about $18.5 million. They also get that scoring left winger in Ponikorovsky, who has scored 20 goals in 3 straight seasons, is still just 28 years old, and has one year left on his affordable contract. The Leafs, of course, dump $4.5 million in salary and stockpile more picks for the 2009 draft.

After losing out some key UFA d-men, resigning Rozival to a lucrative long-term deal, refusing to resign Mara or Malik because of their salary demands, and after it becomes clear that McCabe is willing to waive his no-movement clause, the Rangers and Leafs make a deal. The Leafs take on some salary (Backman) to help the Rangers make this trade, but it is clear that this is a salary dump for the Leafs. McCabe has 3 years left on his contract with the largest chunks already paid out to him in the first two years of his 5-year deal.

With this move, the Leafs ONLY have four contracts – Stajan, Blake, Tucker, and Kaberle – that have 3 or more years of term left on them (Stajan and Kaberle are welcome considering their term, amount, and production).

– On July 1st, Clemmensen, Pohl, and Wozniewski are let go to free agency. With Clemmensen gone, it is expected that Todd Ford will back-up Justin Pogge in the AHL while Reimer and Zatkoff will play in the WHL and the NCAA, respectively. Pohl is replaced by Moore or any number of solid AHLers (Boyce, Foster, etc.). Wozniewski is no longer needed (as if he ever was).

– Nill makes 2 minor signings during the free agency period: Mike Commodore for 2 years and $2.5 million per season, and Swedish prospect Linus Klassen. Commodore is a solid defenceman that the Leafs need more of and, along with McLaren, give the Leafs some grit on the back end. The total cost of the very different looking 7-man Leafs D heading into training camp (Kaberle, Backman, McLaren, Commodore, Coliacovo, Stralman, and Kronvall) is approximately $14 million (the previous cost of just 4 defencemen – Gill, McCabe, Kaberle, and Kubina – was about $17 million). With all the attention to another Swedish LW prospect signing with Detroit (Brunnstrom), the Klassen signing goes under the radar.

– For many, it becomes clear that Nill expects the 2008-2009 leafs to be an audition squad. With many of the contracts ending at the end of the season, he has a lot of cap flexibility and options at his disposal after his first year on the job. There are spots on the roster for the Leafs’ younger prospects (Kulemin, Stralman, Tlusty, Kronvall) and the mid-20s players (Steen, Williams, Wellwood and Stajan) are thrusted into more significant roles in order to see what they are made of.

Sundin is resigned for one year and $6 million, an important signing considering he is setting an example for the y
ounger Leafs to follow.

– Bell, Blake, Cloutier, and Tucker are given opportunities to rebound from off seasons but are on a short leash with the new coach – Pat Burns.

– Nill also forgoes the previous inclinations by Toronto GMs to spend to the cap limit and refuses to buy out anyone, knowing that – and perhaps this is the most important part of what he has done – at the end of the upcoming 2008-2009 season $18 million in cap space can be freed or, at least, is movable (Sundin, Cloutier, McLaren, Devereaux, Backman, Battaglia, Moore, Bell) – that represents one-third of the overall cap space.

Tlusty (0.9)-Sundin (6.0)-Steen (1.7)
Kulemin/Earl (0.9)-Wellwood (1.4)-Tucker (3.0)
Blake (4.0)-Stajan (1.5)-Williams (0.5)
Bell (2.1)-Moore (0.7)-Deveraux (0.6)
[Battaglia (0.6), Newbury (0.5)]

McLaren (2.5)-Kaberle (4.25)
Backman (2.3)-Coliacovo (1.3)
Commodore (2.5)-Stralman (0.7)[Kronvall (0.5)]

Toskala (4.0)
[Cloutier (3.1)]

2008-2009 cap hit: $45.5 million for 23 players
2008-2009 cap ceiling: $53 million (approx)
2008-2009 cap space: $7.5 million

In terms of the prospect depth (not including those already playing with the Leafs):
Klassen-Reddick-D. Mitchell



Beyond this offseason
– The 2009 draft will see the leafs pick once in the first round (likely a very high pick considering the 2008-2009 season is an audition season), twice in the 2nd round, and twice in the 3rd round.

– The 2009 trade deadline could see potential deals from those who are UFAs at the end of the 2008-2009 season (Cloutier, McLaren, Devereaux, Backman, Battaglia, Moore, Bell), younger players who either underperform or play well and boost their trade value (Wellwood? Coliacovo? Kronvall?), or even those with NTCs or nearly-untradeable contracts (Sundin, Blake, Tucker, and even Kaberle).

53 Responses to An ideal scenario for the Leafs (April 2008 to September 2009)

  1. 08-09 says:

    Considering the lack of depth in their system and the amount of work that must be done, seeing JFJ sign a guy like Brent Aubin last year and seeing Fletcher signing a guy like Stefano Gillati this year is very necessary.

    Even though these players won't amount to much, I'd much prefer them sign these guys who are in their early-20s, see what they can do on the Marlies and take their chances.

    they are long term shots, but better them than signing more guys like Ling or Nash or whatever. The Marlies do need a veteran presence, but lets not overload them with vets (i.e. the Chicago Wolves).

    So Gillati is 20 years old, plays LW, is 5-foot-11, 205-pounds, named to the QMJHL's first all-star team this season and has scored 94 goals and 207 points and 271 penalty minutes in 257 games in the Q.

    Again, not a top tier prospect (which the leafs can only really do through top-10 draft picks and trades), but depth nonetheless. Signing a guy like Klassen or Brunnstrom would help as well.

    The Q is known for its high octane offense (often skews offensiv numbers) and smaller players. That is why you take Aubin, DiDomenico, Gillati, with the grain of salt. But its good to be going in that direction if you are a franchise where the leafs are at. As long as you are starting to draft top tier prospects, signings like these make sense.

  2. GoLeafs13 says:

    it will be their first year of rebuilding…do u want them to win the cup. it will take time but they will get there. stop being a smart

  3. 08-09 says:

    with the 7th pick, the leafs might have an outside shot at one of the following four players:

    – Bogosian

    – Filatov

    – Schenn
    – Pietrangelo

    OR, they could definitely draft one of Boedekker, Wilson, Beach, Myers, or Hodgson.

    Not too bad all things considered. But it does make it all the more important for the leafs to draft in the top 3 next year (not just Taveres but other players too – Taylor Hall?).

    Previous picks at # 7

    2007: Voracek (ahead of Hamill, Couture, McDonagh, Eller, Cherepanov, Esposito)

    2006: Okposo (ahead of Mueller, Sheppard, Frolik, Bernier, Little, Giroux, Berglund)

    2005: Skille (ahead of Setoguchi, Bourdon, Kopitar, Staal, Hanzal, Parent, Kindl, Rask, Cogliano)

    2004: Olesz (ahead of Smid, Stafford, Radulov, Zajac, Wolski, Meszaros)
    2003: Ryan Suter (ahead of Coburn, Phaneuf, Kostitsyn, Bernier Brown, Seabrook, Carter, Parise, Getzlaf, Burns, Perry)
    2002: Lupul (ahead of Ballard, Semin, Higgins, Paille, Steen, Ward)

    2001: Komisarek

    2000: Lars Jonnson ??? (ahead of Frolov, Volchenkov, Hale, Boyes, Kronvall)

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