Leafs make line changes ahead of western trip

Time for Tim Connolly to start doing something.

Don’t get us wrong — the 30-year-old veteran has played a significant role in turning the Maple Leafs’ penalty killing around. Among Toronto forwards, only David Steckel has averaged more ice time a game when the Leafs are shorthanded.

But Connolly draws a salary of $5.5-million US this season, the second-highest paid Leafs forward after Phil Kessel, and costs the Leafs $4.75 million against the salary cap.

For that, so far, you get seven goals and 18 assists in 44 games. The past 16 games? Zero goals and three assists. Even if, say, Connolly is playing with a minor injury, those numbers are unacceptable.

It’s a bit ridiculous that Leafs coach Ron Wilson is at the point, when every game is crucial and a playoff spot is anything but a guarantee, that one of his richest players needs a kick in the pants.

But that’s where Wilson finds himself with Connolly, who has been moved to the right wing on a line with centre Mikhail Grabovski and winger Clarke MacArthur.

Nikolai Kulemin has been dropped to the third line, and Matthew Lombardi will move to the middle on that unit, taking Connolly’s spot.

“Grabo has been playing exceptionally well, and this is to get both Kulie and Timmy going a little bit,” Wilson said. “A different look with Timmy going over to the wing. Take some of the responsibility defensively away from him and get him thinking about playing with a couple of guys who have been pretty successful this year and hopefully he can get out of his little mini-slump here.”

Connolly said he was frustrated, but only to the point that the Leafs have fallen down recently, losing three in a row for the fifth time this season.


41 Responses to Leafs make line changes ahead of western trip

  1. dumbassdoorman says:

    This team is a young team struggling to find their identity, almost like they are listening to rumours and waiting for a trade to happen. As they grow and learn to be pros, this will slow down, IMO. SO basically, as I see it,  Burke either needs to make a deal or tell the team straight out, he isn't making one. This will help them focus and win a few more games I think. Unfortuneately they are playing to well to insure a high pick so they might as well gain some playoff experience.

  2. 93killer93 says:

    Lebrun, Dreger, and Mckenzie have all reported that Rick Nash is available for the right price. Eklund keeps saying he is the Leafs top target, so these next two weeks are going to get very interesting. 

  3. JoelLeafs says:


    Conditional pick (Maybe as a 2nd if Leafs make it past the 2nd round, 3rd otherwise)

    Cap evens out (only about .5 mil coming Toronto's way, not including Rynnas' minor league contract), Columbus gets a roster center, wing, and D, plus a decent goalie prospect for their kinda-weak pool and a pick. We could always swap Bozak for Kadri or even MacArthur, but I see them wanting a center back.

    Think this would do it, or would they need a 1st?

    Columbus has the likes of Carter, Umberger, Vermette, Brtassard, Wisniewski, Tyutin, and Methot locked up long term, and plenty of RFA's, so I can't see them taking on too many players, which is why I didn't throw in too many other prospect. As I see it, Bozak, Kuls, and Schenn will be in the lineup immediately and Rynnas could even back-up the struggling Mason (Sanford has a 2-way). Swap out Bozak for one of the above mentioned wingers causes a bit of a problem at the wings, but whatever they want, I suppose…

    Come back home Nash.

  4. 93killer93 says:

    Seeing that the Leafs are rumored to be heavily going after Brayden Schenn, I would try to keep Luke at all costs.

    read this one somewhere,
    Gunnarsson, Aulie, 3rd(2013)
    It would defintaley be hard to get Nash without Schenn, but i would rather do something like,
    Bozak, Kulemin, Frattin, Kadri, Komisarek, 1st, 2nd 
    Nash, Huselius, Pahlsson, 2nd
  5. hockey_lover says:

    I posted this in another thread but i'll post it here again.

    The biggest problem with going to the Rangers or Leafs is that Nash STILL has reservations in playing in a media centric city. There are quite a few teams that are really good that dont have the media up their arses every single minute.  The Rangers and Leafs ARENT those places.

    Money and salary cap not withstanding, teams like: The Wings, the Bruins, the Panthers, Vancouver, San Jose, St. Louis are teams that give Nash a good chance of at least smelling the playoffs AND will allow him to live in relative peace .. again, compared to the retardedness of New York, Toronto or Montreal. Christ, even the Penguins are a media circus right now.

    Sure the idea of coming home might entice Nash and its certainly something to take into consideration. But if he doesnt want the media attention, he isnt coming to Toronto.

  6. 93killer93 says:

    There have been a couple reports out of Columbus that friends of Nash have said that while he has always wanted to stay away from big hockey markets because of pressure, he realizes it may give him the best chance to win.  I personally think him being from the area, Toronto has a chance. I would assume Columbus trades his East much like Philly did with carter and richards. I see Florida, Tampa, New York(Isles), and Carolina as the smaller markets of the conference and the only team I think would make a move for him right now is Florida.

    I think the best fit for him is Nashville, good team that is a contender, not a huge hockey market.
  7. 93killer93 says:

    TSN's Chris Cuthbert is reporting that Columbus' asking price for Nash is; Colborne, Kulemin, Gardiner, and a 1st. 

  8. JoelLeafs says:

    Heh, would be nice but I think that puts us over the cap by a few mil. Not including minor league contracts we're sending just shy of 10 mil out and taking on over 15 mil.

    That lineup looks great to me, but I don't think it's feasible.

    Also, I don't think Burke would be apt to take on a 7.8 mil contract that extends to the 2018 season… that can really handcuff a team.

  9. JoelLeafs says:

    ***** that. Gardiner is the shit. Swap Gardiner for Gunnarsson and 1st for conditional 1st, and I'm down.

  10. reinjosh says:

    Nash might not want that pressure but I'm sure he can't ignore that his best chance of winning will be in those pressure markets. I would even hazard a guess he never becomes that 80 plus point player until he's in that pressure market. I just think he needs that pressure to win.

    Now that said, Nash isn't something we should add. Same with the Rangers IMO. Both teams are pretty deep in wingers, both teams don't exactly have a need for a scoring winger, both teams have top line players that like to carry the puck. Nash in either will not work. He either won't be getting top line time, or will just mess up team chemistry. As much as it would be cool to see a deal happen that brought him to the Leafs, I think the fallout would not be something that helps this team.
    I wonder if Nashville would work. Having his contract added to potentially three 7 plus million dollar players might make things tough, but he would certainly be the gamebreaking forward they need. The Preds might be the one team in the league that could make a core heavy team built around four 7 million dollar players work. 
  11. dumbassdoorman says:

    I am torn on whether or not I would make this trade, Gardiners inclulssion in this deal makes me leary. However, it is a moot point as I do not think nash would want to play in TO with the media and pressure involved. If that is the case, maybe he isn't really a great player, as greats always want the pressure.

  12. dumbassdoorman says:

    That's what I was thinking when Nashville was mentioned. Where do they get the rest of a team to play, with Rinne, Weber and soon to be Suter making that kinda coin. Not to mention who says Clb wants the propects they are may offer. They are going to want NHL players in return as well. I still think they are better off trading Carter, if they can, even at a loss. Trading nash depending on the return may make him only pout more….lol

  13. hockey_lover says:

    Not really though. Like I said above, Detroit, Vancouver, Boston … all give him a  legit shot of winning a cup but the media covered isnt smacking his face 24/7 like it would be in TO or Montreal.

    If he goes to Nashville, its pretty obvious that either suter or weber wont be signed.

  14. reinjosh says:

    To be honest, take Gardiner out and put Schenn in it and I'd do it. 

  15. reinjosh says:

    Why is that pretty obvious? They already said they can spend to the cap now, so money isn't a concern anymore. 

  16. reinjosh says:

    Well Nashville is the king of getting budget players to be competitive. I don't think it would be hard to fill in the rest of the pieces around those four. 

    Imagine putting Nash and Radulov on that team? :O Friggin awesome. 
  17. Vicks_Prick_Leafs says:

    at least this is a respectable trade value proposal.
    i can't stand some of the people here proposing, kulie, gunner, bozak, 2nd, rynnas. this isn't ea sports.

    if i was interested in adding Nash, i'd do that proposed trade.

  18. KingCanada says:

    Id see something like Kadri, Kulemin, Schenn and 2012 1st rounder.

    We have many defensive Dmen, not too many offensive guys so Id rather keep Gardiner.  Im torn between Kadri/Colborne but I think long term Colborne is the better player.

    Im just not comfterbal trading away centers since its our one glaring need.  Kadri seems better off on the wing anyway.

  19. KingCanada says:

    Id like to see..

    To Toronto: Rick Nash
    To Colombus: Nik Kulemin, Nazem Kadri, 1st AND 2nd round pick 2012 and ONE of (Aulie/Holzer/Blacker/Percy)

    If not swap Schenn for the "2nd and defensive prospect" and I think they both work!

    I just hope Burke doesnt trade Colborne….we need to keep our young centers!!

  20. 93killer93 says:

    I really think assuming he is available Nashville should go after him hard. They have 31.5 mil in cap space next season with Wilson, Kostitsyn, Tootoo, Suter, Weber and Lindback as the pieces that need to be resigned.  Even if Suter gets 6.5 Weber stays at 7.5, that leaves them with 16.5 to sign the remaining 4. I would really expect a roster player to be included in the trade.

    Considering the rumored value i listed below, i think a comparable package would be,
    Kostitsyn, Watson, Blum, 1st
    Nash, Pahlsson, Gillies
    I think they could really just make the Nash trade and maybe grab a veteran defenceman like Vishnovsky, Gill, or Kubina and they would be set.  The key for them to afford these big contracts IMO is a strong playoff push. If they make the conference finals or the Stanley Cup finals, i think ownership will have no problem spending to the cap.  
  21. hockey_lover says:

    I just dont see them spending $7mil on Rinne, $7.8mil on Nash, and what appears to be $7mil on both Suter and Weber. Sure its possible but its gonna leave some areas pretty thin.

  22. JoelLeafs says:

    3 roster players, a prospect, and a pick.

    Yup, all junk.

  23. Steven_Leafs says:

    and hopefully Burke will work his magic and offer Columbus to "upgrade" Colborne to Connolly, "upgrade" Gardiner to Aulie, and to even it out for Toronto change the 1st to a conditional 1st (if Toronto makes the Conference Finals it is a 1st, if not it is a 2nd).

    That way the leafs dump Connolly's contract (and fit Nash under the cap), keep Gardiner and instead lose one of our many defensive D.

    come on Burke, you didn't waste all those smoke and mirror tricks on the Franson deal did you? ;P

  24. reinjosh says:

    Oh yeah it's unlikely, but like I said, maybe two teams in the entire league could actually do it. Phoenix is one I think (but they don't actually have the money), and Nashville is the other.

    The way they can make a budget roster into a competitive western team, you'd have to think they could fill in the blanks pretty easy. 
    Plus maybe Weber and Suter take small paycuts to help get it done. 
  25. NonLeafFansAreGay says:

    So Wilson scratches Armstrong cause he's struggling, but shuffles up the lines cause Connolly is struggling.

  26. NonLeafFansAreGay says:


    To Columbus:
    Aulie, Connolly, Rynnas, 1st round 2012, 2nd round 2013
    To Toronto:
    Burke, pick up the phone and do it.
  27. KingCanada says:

    Id hold onto Connolly…we need centers.  Swap in Kulemin and its possible.

  28. KingCanada says:

    It really frustrates me when players are rumored to not want to come to Toronto because of the media…Look if Kessel (maddd shy) can do it then so can you!

    Plus if your loved in Toronto, you WILL live forever…fact lol.

  29. KingCanada says:

    I know what you mean, some of those aforementioned guys are solid tho but wouldnt do it for Nash.

    What irks me is everyone thinking Rhynnas is going somewhere.  Hes our 4th string goalie and hasnt proved anything yet.  He will be kept and guided under Francois Allaire and most likely be the starter for the Marlies next season if Gustavsson chooses to sign elsewhere.

  30. TheLeafNation91 says:

    Go get a shovel…And we'll dig a deep hole.

  31. LeafsFTW17 says:

    ***** that, go get the bobcat.

  32. LeafsFTW17 says:

    my turn to make trade proposals, weooo..

    To TOR:  Rick Nash.

    To CBJ:  Kadri, Kulemin, Aulie, Scrivens, Lombardi.

    -Kadri will be a perfect fit there, Aulie will find playing time and be effective for them, Kulemin can replase Nash (not close to as well) and will help out Nail Yakupov when they draft him, Scrivens will be a huge part of this deal being a young and talented goalie. Lombardi will justify the salary.

    To TOR:  Brayden Schenn, Lapperriere.

    To PHI:  Gunnarsson, Grabovski, 3rd.

    -Gunnarsson fills in that spot on defence that the flyers have desperately needed while Grabovski upgrades Schenn on that line with Briere. The 3rd is there for good measures.

    I think if the leafs traded Kulemin Grabovski would be pretty p'od and would try to get as much money as possible to take it out on managment.
    Leafs top 6: Pretty sexy.


    Also would anyone else want to see a line of Biggs-Colborne-Frattin in the future?

  33. SabresFan220 says:

    Is anyone questioning why the Sabres let Connolly walk last summer? I find it funny the Leafs actually paid him more than what he wasn't earning with his play in Buffalo. Some would say Leino has been even worse, but I don't know if I'd go that far. Considering how badly the whole team has underachieved this season he's not been the worst.

    Let Connolly do what he's adapted his game for in recent seasons, be a defensive 3rd line center. He's become an excellent PK guy who can win a few faceoffs. He's no longer the offensive dynamite playmaker we hoped he'd be, the concussions and hip problems have taken that from him. He can pass, but keep him on the half wall on the powerplay, he's not the pointman he used to be either.

  34. albertateams says:

    That was a clinic by Kipper last night. The leafs offense actually looked really good, created good scoring chances and were able to control the puck in the offensive zone for extended periods. Unfortunately, their defense is horrible in their own end, I actually felt bad for the Monster last night. Positioning and mental mistakes by the D resulted in 4 of the five goals.

  35. TheLeafNation91 says:

    Leino's contract is byfar worse than Connolly's but I agree with you.

    It was a project, but that's why Burke only signed him to a two-year contracts so I'm not that worried about him.

  36. reinjosh says:

    Kipper has been unreal this year. He's still one of the best goalies in the league and gives the Flames a shot every game he plays. I don't think a top 5 pick is realistic with him playing in net. 

    What do you do know with Calgary being 1 point out? I still think they need to make some restructuring changes, clear some guys out for picks and prospects, try and get a top 10 pick. However I understand the allure of a playoff spot. And they have the momentum, even with the injuries they keep sustaining. 
    Jokinen is playing awesome right now. Almost on pace for a 70 point season. You could get a lot for him at the deadline with the prices the way they are, but do you forgoe that and sign him the way he's playing?
    Maybe you try to make a deal that helps now but also for teh future? Something like trying to package Backlund and something for Roy? Just making sure that something isn't Reinhart or Baerstchi and probably not this years first. 
  37. albertateams says:

    I've been saying it all year, with Kipper in net the Flames are at worst a 9-11 team. He's been good all year but the last 7 games he's been lights out.

    Probably nothing. Injuries have really handcuffed moving out UFA's for any kind of return. The kids have looked good but nobody is scheduled to come back before the deadline. Difficult to add anything substantial without dramatically over paying I think they have to wait to the offseason to make any major changes. I think they have to keep the status quo and try to make the playoffs with more or less the group they already have.

    From what I here he is going to be resigned, his family loves Calgary he wants to stay. I hope its not for more than 2-3 years at 4-5 million per.

    Yeah something like that is probably the extent  of a move they make, if they do anything. I think they move Sarich or Babchuk before the deadline but outside of that I think the group stays the same.

    I just hope they don't trad the 3 pieces you mention above, I also wouldn't move Backlund, Irving or Brodie unless the return is a reasonably young guy that is proven.

    I really go back and forth on trying to get Carter. The cost would have to be pretty minimal to take that contract back, but if you get a healthy 30+ goal guy he could be a steal.

  38. reinjosh says:

    To be honest on Backlund, I haven't watched him enough to know whether or not he should be kept or not. I just figure if we can get a potential ppg playmaking center like Roy then we should do it even if its using Backlund. But yeah I don't want to give him away, that would be just a recipe for disaster.

    Carter could be a steal, I'm just worried about how he fits into the team. I highly doubt he fits with Iggy. The experiment with Nash hasn't worked and Nash and Iggy are similar players. I suppose it could work, and maybe its more just Nash doesn't mesh well with players, but I'm not sure I'm willing to take that chance. That said, having a guy like Carter would make teh offense much more terrifying. You then have Iggy, Cammy, Carter, Jokinen to build two scoring lines around. It would be the deepest offense the Flames have had in years.
  39. Steven_Leafs says:

    I'm not sure if PHI wants Gunnarsson at all, every time I hear about PHI going after a D they are always after a big strong defenseman like to replace Pronger. You may have to switch Aulie and Gunnarsson around or something. lol

    And then maybe grab a rental D from Columbus like Johnson or Martinek for our 7th D-man.

    I do like the look of that top 6 though. 😛

  40. Steven_Leafs says:

    yeah it turned out bad for us but we had to pay him big bucks since he was a UFA, luckily Burke only gave him 2 years which is a perfectly fine 'failed experiment'. With a front-loaded contract, a cap floor team might be willing to take his contract if we want to dump him. Depending what Burke would want for him it could be a no risk purchase.

    Worse case we are stuck with him for another year and he plays that poorly again, it isn't like we desperately need the cap space for this off-season.

  41. albertateams says:

    Yeah, Backlund can look like a potential first line center one night and then an AHLer the next. He has really shored up his defensive game the past couple of months. I think he's probably going to be a 2nd 3rd line center or LW as he really needs to work on his faceoffs.

    If the Flames got Carter I doubt they play him with Iggy, for the reasons you mention plus how well the Tanguay Olli Iggy line is going. However rolling out that line plus Cammy Carter and GlenX really would be the best top 6 we've had in years.

    One guy that was a great pick up is Comeau really adds some speed to the line up, has been great defensively and maybe his offensive side will come around.

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