Category Archives: Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto Maple Leaf News and Rumors
After leaving the Toronto organization to become the assistant general manager of the Montreal Canadiens, Rick Dudley claimed the Maple Leafs, with the same roster they had last spring, would be a playoff team if they had solid goaltending.
Roberto Luongo certainly would fit that bill. And, amidst all this Luongo-to-Toronto speculation, this could very well be a case of “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”
Goaltending, is that an important question? If the answer is yes, the Toronto Maple Leafs face a very important question. And there are plenty more — first-line centre and the top-four defencemen among them — facing the team as it prepares to join the rush to training camp this week.
Toronto owns the NHL’s longest active playoff drought, having not made an appearance since before the last lockout, nine years ago. The Leafs finished 12 points out of the post-season last year, 13th overall in the Eastern Conference.
If they are to snap that run in a shortened schedule, they will have to address each of the following issues carefully, because every game will mean something.
Goaltender Roberto Luongo issued a tweet on Sunday that said: “So (what) do we do now?”
Many Toronto fans may be asking the same question after months of speculation over whether the veteran goaltender with the 12-year contract will be joining the Maple Leafs from the Vancouver Canucks for the lockout-shortened NHL season.
When the Roberto Luongo rumour mill went into full churn, promising Toronto defenceman Jake Gardiner knew who to lean on.
Who better than Luke Schenn?
Wait, a minute, Schenn did get traded.
“Sure, but it took four years,” Gardiner said. “He had rumours from the first time he got to Toronto. He had four years of it.
“I talked to him and he said, ‘Rumours are going to happen. You have to push them off. You can’t can’t ever worry about it.’”
From that point, Gardiner hasn’t, and with good reason.
Since a mid-season sag that saw him sit seven consecutive games in January, there hasn’t been a lot for Gardiner to be concerned about.
Even the rumours have been an ego stroke. The Canucks wanted him in a Luongo trade. His skating and transition game fit Vancouver’s attack like a longboard suits a hipster. The Leafs responded with their position that they can’t possibly give him up.
“I’m happy Toronto wants me, I don’t want to leave,” Gardiner said.
No NHL player can be traded during the lockout. But that doesn’t mean nobody is talking trade, or that trade rumours can’t gain life while the players are locked out.
Well, not true. At least not yet.
Yes, the Leafs remain very much interested in securing the services of Luongo, and the talks are very much alive. It’s believed Leaf GM Brian Burke and his Vancouver counterpart Mike Gillis spoke as recently as two weeks ago, at which time the Canucks demands were reduced from the bounty they requested at the draft, but not enough for the Leafs to agree to anything.
At the draft, reports indicated Vancouver asked for centre Tyler Bozak, defenceman Jake Gardiner, a first-round pick and winger Matt Frattin in exchange for the 33-year-old Luongo. The Leafs had no interest in paying that kind of price, largely because there is no significant market for the services of the veteran goaltender.
The Leafs, however, have only James Reimer on their NHL roster, and he’s a goalie in search of bounce-back season himself. So they have a definite need for quality veteran goaltending and the Canucks need to get Luongo out-of-town.
So talks have continued on and off, with Bozak as the centrepiece. Vancouver believes Bozak would be a good fit as their No. 3 centre behind Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler. The Leafs might be willing to pay more than Bozak, but how much more is unclear.
The most recent owner’s CBA proposal, meanwhile, may have altered the temperature of talks between the two clubs.
Luongo has 10 years remaining on a contract that comes with a cap hit of $5.33 million per season and expires in 2022. His actual salary is $6.714 million for the next six seasons, including the 2012-13 campaign, but then drops by 50 per cent in the seventh year and to $1 million in each of the final two.
The belief has long been with this contract that he’ll play for six years, then retire, taking the Canucks off the hook for the cap hit in the final four years.
The Toronto Maple Leafs remain interested in acquiring the services of Roberto Luongo.
According to TVA Sports hockey analyst Enrico Ciccone, Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke contacted his Vancouver Canucks counterpart, Mike Gillis, about the 33-year-old goaltender last weekend.
This is not the first time Luongo has been linked to trade talks with Toronto. In April, the Leafs were among a group of teams that showed interest in the veteran netminder.
Luongo has played 727 games in the NHL and has spent the past six seasons in Vancouver.
Last season, the emergence of Canucks backup Cory Schneider has put Luongo’s status as the club’s No. 1 goalie in doubt.
The Canucks signed Schneider to a three-year, $12-million contract this off-season, leading to speculation that Luongo, who has 10 years left on a 12-year, $64-million contract, would be traded over the summer
When Jonathan Bernier, the Los Angeles Kings‘ well-regarded backup, announced his desire to be traded, rumours swirled that Toronto would be an appropriate landing spot. Here are five reasons why a Bernier-to-Leafs deal should not be struck.
1. They already have him.
More or less: Canadian goaltender chosen in the 2006 draft; will enter the 2012-13 season at 24 years of age; never played a playoff game; save percentage just on the friendly side of .900.
Take away the Mennonite background and last season’s rash of injuries — not a small deal, we know — and James Reimer is Jonathan Bernier. Neither is quite ready to carry a team into the postseason, but both have shown hints of brilliance that, with patience, health and some strong coaching, could get them to that proverbial next level.
Thing is, on paper, the Leafs goalie looks equal to or better than Bernier, who carries with him the perception of a potential star netminder being selected 11th overall (to Reimer’s 99th) and having won gold with Canada at the 2008 World Junior Hockey Championships. (Bernier went 1-1 in the tournament, splitting post duties with Steve Mason.)
Sure, there are hockey minds out there that believe Bernier’s hybrid stand-up/butterfly style and quick reflexes make him a prime candidate to improve with experience, but who’s to say a healthy Reimer (or even the untested Ben Scrivens, for that matter) won’t appreciate at the same rate?
Reimer has played 71 games to Bernier’s 48, has actually won more games than he’s lost (34-24-9 to Bernier’s 20-17-5), and has posted comparable stats — despite playing behind an appreciably worse defence. Reimer has six shutouts, Bernier five. Bernier has a .910 save percentage, Reimer’s is .914.
2. Bernier wants to be a starter now, but might not deserve it.
Bernier told TVA that he wants to be a starter in this league, but his impatience could be his undoing. Yes, it was only one interview, but Bernier and his Stanley Cup ring could have chosen to play things cool. There are worse jobs than getting paid millions to platoon in for a quarter of a season in a gorgeous city on a young, excitable winning team, allowing your skills to improve under limited scrutiny behind the second-best defence in the entire NHL.
Sure, it goes against what Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke has previously said.
Then again, what hasn’t.
Regardless, the Leafs are reportedly going after young Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Bernier, not the veteran netminder Burke told a Toronto radio station he was interested in acquiring.
According to Hockey Night in Canada’s Andi Petrillo, the Leafs have made an offer to the Kings for Bernier, who was the backup to Jonathan Quick last season. Quick signed a 10-year, $58 million contract extension last month, leading Bernier to ask for a trade.
Earlier this month, Burke told Sportsnet 590 The Fan the Leafs wanted a proven puck-stopper as an upgrade in net. Now it looks like he’s focused on 23-year-old Bernier, who fits more into the might-be-great category.
“We’re not looking at that avenue,” Burke told The Fan. “A couple goalies that moved are young, unproven guys. That’s an avenue were not interested in. We’ve kicked the tires, looked at all the prices, but that’s not an avenue we’re looking at.”
The Maple Leafs are among a dozen teams that have made exploratory calls to Shane Doan, captain of the Phoenix Coyotes, who opened himself up Monday to the idea of leaving the only NHL franchise he’s ever played for just as it was facing another threat to its existence.
A source confirmed to the Star the team made serious overtures to Doan’s agent, Terry Bross.
Chicago, Detroit and Vancouver are thought to be the frontrunners for Doan’s services. Others known to have made a pitch are St. Louis, Montreal, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, the New York Rangers, Winnipeg and Los Angeles.
Teams that missed out on Zach Parise see the 35-year-old Doan, a power forward, as the next best option. Many of the same teams are also interested in trading for Columbus winger Rick Nash and Anaheim winger Bobby Ryan.
Doan became an unrestricted free agent July 1 but told teams he wanted to see how events that affect the future of the Coyotes unfolded this week in Glendale before making a decision on his playing career.
“We don’t want to create a false expectation he will leave until it’s a real possibility,” Bross told the FAN590 radio station. “Shane’s first desire is to finish what he started in Phoenix and stay with the franchise and finish his career where he started it.”
Well, we’re well into Day 6 of free agency, and the Toronto Maple Leafs have easily been one of the league’s quieter teams.
Especially if you look at all those that finished near the bottom of the standings alongside them.
The Carolina Hurricanes, for example, finished two points ahead of Toronto, dealt for Jordan Staal and are working to add another top six forward.
he Blue Jackets traded for Nick Foligno (and are working on a Rick Nash deal), the Oilers signed Justin Schultz, the Ducks added a pair of defencemen (and are looking for good return on Bobby Ryan) and the Wild may have hit a homerun in adding Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.
There is, of course, still a lot of off-season to go, and Leafs GM Brian Burke insists he isn’t close to being finished. He’s listed his team’s top three priorities as (a) getting bigger (b) adding a veteran goaltender and (c) adding another top two centre.
Those aren’t easy holes to fill, even with some $12-million in cap space. In one case, it’s probably not even the right one.
He was never going to fill the needs in the entry draft and the chances were remote that a big, first-line centre and an experienced goalie from the early days of free agency.
But that doesn’t mean Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke plans to head to training camp without acquiring either big ticket or both. Whether realistic or not, Burke vowed on Tuesday that there is plenty to be done over the next two-plus months.
“I would say that’s not a real possibility at all,” Burke told Sportsnet 590 The Fan radio when asked if the current roster will be the one that reports for camp. “That’s remote. We need to do some more work.
“We believe we can upgrade at those positions, yes.”
Burke acknowledged that the requirements of new coach Randy Carlyle will be different than those of Ron Wilson which is why size will matter in whatever shopping happens. He believes he answered that in part by acquiring big (but not necessarily nasty) winger James van Riemsdyk in the draft-day trade with Philadephia but more needs to be done.
At least Brian Burke used the pronoun “we.”
When describing the perils of spending stupid money on July 1, the Maple Leafs general manager included himself in the group that tends to overpay on hockey’s annual shopping day, whether the shelves are stocked with quality merchandise or not.
Burke, after all, has seen his share of acquisitions blow up in each of his first three summers here. First there was Mike Komisarek who was overpaid and immediately underachieved. Then there was Colby Armstrong who might have been a useful third-liner if he could have stayed healthy. And most recently, the failed first-line centre named Tim Connolly.
In each case Burke was taking a shot and various deficiencies, including injury, conspired against the success of the top three, especially Armstrong, who had his contract bought out on the weekend.
So not doing anything of significance on the first two days of free agency may not have been the worst thing for Burke and Leafs management. Not that they had a choice at landing the big game, mind you.
Not overspending this time around is in part prudence by the team and in part the predicament that the Leafs find themselves in.
With a lean market to begin with, a roster with too many holes and too many questions about which direction the team is headed, Toronto is far from a preferred destination for the top end of any free agent crop.
It may not have always been that way. When Burke first arrived here, it was probably easier to get players and agents around the league to buy into the buzz. One of the sport’s biggest personalities landing in maybe its biggest market was tantalizing. Getting Phil Kessel as a bonafide superstar right out of the hop, plus the declaration that he wasn’t interested in a five-year rebuild made the Leafs at least intriguing.
No, Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke was pretty quiet on the opening day of free agency on Sunday – making only one small addition in checking centre Jay McClement – and given the market, he was fine with that.
After being burned on July 1 before, he wasn’t wading into the frenzy despite his team’s obvious needs.
“We hand out contracts with unrealistic values and with unrealistic term,” Burke said of NHL teams on free agency. “When you’re in a hard cap system, that bites you right in the butt at some point. …
“I think if you look carefully at the impact players from July 1 have, you’ll see it’s not what people think it is.”
Some evidence of Burke’s previous mistakes in free agency was on display on Sunday.
Colby Armstrong – bought out on the weekend for the final year of a three-year, $9-million (all currency U.S.) deal the Leafs signed him to two years ago – landed with the Montreal Canadiens for just $1-million next season.
Netminder Jonas Gustavsson, a Leafs signing in 2009, received a two-year deal from the Detroit Red Wings, who were happy to have him as a backup and felt he had been misused as a Leaf.
“Their team had trouble and he was kind of leaned on to be the guy and it might have been a bit too much,” Wings vice-president Jim Devellano said. “We’ll have a better team and I think he’ll do just fine.”
If Brian Burke is to be believed, don’t expect the Toronto Maple Leafs to be big players in the free agent market this summer.
Speaking at the P.E.I. Special Olympics Festival Luncheon on Wednesday, Burke discussed his plans heading into free agency beginning July 1.
“With the salary cap and the new collective bargaining agreement that’s coming up, I don’t know what our plans are for filling out our roster,” Burke said. “Free agency starts on July 1, it’s a really thin group.
“Teams are locking all these quality players up now, so the group that is getting to the market is thin, it’s shallow. There are really two high-end players and that’s about it, (Nashville defenceman) Ryan Suter and (New Jersey forward) Zach Parise.
Although Suter or Parise would provide the Leafs with an immediate infusion of star power, it seems unlikely either will be wearing the Blue and White next season.
“I don’t think we are going to be in on either one of them,” Burke said.
And despite missing the playoffs each season since being named GM of the Leafs in 2008, Burke said he isn’t ready to abandon his long-term plan for short-term success — even if it costs him his job.
“People say if you don’t make the playoffs you are gone,” said Burke. “That’s fine. I am not going to do anything short term to make the playoffs and keep my job.
It depends how bad the feelings are between Brian Burke and Mike Gillis.
After the weekend, it’s not hard to say they’re sour, with gusts to out-and-out dislike.
That’s okay. GMs who don’t like each other can do hockey deals, and part of the weekend was spent by both men trying to see if they can work out a trade that would move Roberto Luongo and his enormous contract into the Leaf tent.
Nothing happened, and Burke’s comments that he wasn’t going to “strip-mine” his organization to get a goalie without mentioning Luongo specifically suggested Gillis is asking for a lot more than Burke – or anybody – is willing to give. Only Florida is also in the mix, it appears, which works for Luongo since it’s his first choice.
Gillis says he’s in no hurry. Well, he might want to re-think that.
There’s one card Burke could play, one that would turn relations between the two clubs downright ugly.
The Leaf GM could lay down a huge, multi-year, multi-million offer sheet next Monday for the other Vancouver goalie, 26-year-old restricted free agent Cory Schneider, the Canucks goalie every team would rather get if they had a choice.
That wouldn’t get them Schneider; Vancouver would have to match rather than accept multiple first rounders from Toronto.
But it would force Vancouver’s hand in the same way San Jose forced Chicago to let Antti Niemi go a few years ago by signing Niklas Hjalmarsson. Let’s say the Schneider offer was eight years for $40 million. The Canucks would be stuck with more than $10 million in annual goalie costs, with both at lengthy terms. The Leafs could also, if they wanted, load the deal with so-called “lockout” money, say $15 million in the first year that would be Schneider’s even if there’s a lockout next season.
Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke has said repeatedly he wants to get bigger up front.
He took a step in that direction Saturday.
The Leafs GM pulled the trigger on a significant move after the NHL draft concluded, acquiring left-winger James van Riemsdyk from the Philadelphia Flyers for defenceman Luke Schenn.
Van Riemsdyk, who missed significant time last season with a broken left foot, had 11 goals and 13 assists in 43 games for the Flyers in 2011-12.
Burke says the six-foot-three, 200-pound van Riemsdyk will add a physical element to a lineup that was pushed around far too often last season.
“He will provide speed, size, and finesse to our top two lines and we know that he fits those needs that we have wanted to address for some time,” Burke said in a statement.
Van Riemsdyk shared the Flyers’ team lead with seven goals in 11 playoff games in 2011 after earning career highs in goals (21), points (40) and a plus-15 in 75 games during the regular season.
“To go to a place like Toronto is unbelievably exciting for me,” van Riemsdyk said on a conference call. “Just the tradition they have there, the city, the fans it’s all unbelievable and growing up a big-time Yankees fans, a good analogy for me is that it’s like playing for the New York Yankees of the NHL.”
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By September, Rogers Communications Inc., and BCE Inc., will have closed their purchase of MLSE (the NHL governors put their rubber stamp on the deal this week). Assuming they keep the MLSE board at seven directors, five new ones will join chairman Larry Tanenbaum and Dale Lastman. Give one spot to the successor to now-retired MLSE president Richard Peddie and it would work out that Rogers and BCE would each name two directors.
By that time, if indeed they haven’t already, Tanenbaum and Lastman should be asking themselves and others they respect in the hockey and business worlds what they should do when Burke’s contract enters its final lap in the 2013-14 season. This may seem a tad premature (but not to the many Burke bashers in Leafs Nation) but it is only prudent with five new board colleagues coming in.
Burke, then, needs to make a solid impression with his new bosses this season. Fortunately for him, this does not mean taking a big swing in the usual vain hope (at least where his predecessors were concerned) of hitting a playoff home run. A lot of NHL types agree with former Leafs director of player personnel Rick Dudley, who said as he departed for the Montreal Canadiens that all the Leafs need to finally get on the right track is a reliable, veteran goaltender.
Thus the slow-motion chase for Roberto Luongo of the Vancouver Canucks. He is the best goaltender available in a slim market but Canucks GM Mike Gillis is keeping quiet about his asking price. Neither the Leafs nor the Florida Panthers, the only other team with more than a lukewarm interest in Luongo, have been able to get Gillis to say just what he wants. But some progress was reported by Thursday night.
Brian Burke is in a bit of a pickle.
He’ll be in Pittsburgh this weekend to participate in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft where teams hopefully add prospects to their puzzle. And the Toronto Maple Leafs general manager will no doubt attempt to do exactly that, but the draft will be his secondary concern.
Somehow managing to get experienced players to fill some of the holes on his roster will be his No. 1 priority.
That is why for the past few weeks you’ve heard more about Burke possibly acquiring veteran goaltender Roberto Luongo from the Vancouver Canucks and how he’ll be a player in the Rick Nash sweepstakes than what he’ll do with the No. 5 overall pick.
No player Burke chooses with that selection — should he not trade it — will come in and single-handedly lead the Maple Leafs to the playoffs.
Burke’s reputation as one of the top GMs in the NHL has taken a hit since he engineered his escape from Anaheim to join the Maple Leafs on Nov. 29, 2008. That was not too long after The Hockey News named him the best GM in the business. You sure don’t hear anybody making that claim these days.
Burke came to Toronto guns-a-blazing, telling the hockey world how his Maple Leafs would be bigger and bolder than ever; how they would be a tough team to play against and how he’d build the club from the goaltender out. Suffice it to say those words now ring hollow.
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