Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun,
The hot dog vendor who parks daily at Front and John Sts. just lost his most reliable customer.
Almost every afternoon at 2:30 p.m., often wearing a toque, Phil Kessel would wander from his neighbourhood condominium to consume his daily snack.
And now he’s gone. Just like that. The Maple Leafs could no longer stomach having Kessel around, the first player to be both punished and rewarded for the saddest Leafs season in history. The Leafs held their breath, plugged their noses, and ostensibly gave Kessel to the Pittsburgh Penguins because they couldn’t stand having him around anymore.
Really, this was as much about illness and insomnia as anything else: The Leafs were sick and tired of Kessel.
Sick of his act. Tired of his lack of responsibility. Unwilling to begin any reset or rebuild with their highest-paid, most talented, least-dedicated player. He didn’t eat right, train right, play right. This had to happen for Brendan Shanahan to begin his rebuilding of the Leafs. Separation between the Leafs and Kessel became necessary when it grew more and more apparent with time that everything Shanahan values was upended by Kessel’s singular, laissez-faire, flippant, mostly uncoachable ways.
from Luke Fox of Sportsnet,
Stop holding your breath for the Toronto Maple Leafs to deal away Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf, says Don Cherry.
“They’re not getting traded,” the Hockey Night in Canada icon told Sportsnet 590 The Fan on Tuesday.
“First of all, you wouldn’t get fair value for them right now. [Kessel] is a 30-goal scorer. He can put the puck in the net. And Dion, I remember when he was with Calgary, he was a Norris Trophy [finalist].”...
Cherry believes Toronto will refuse to sell low on its core players and give new head coach Mike Babcock a chance to get their games into shape.
"[Babcock] has a knack for turning guys around and straightening them out," Cheery said. "[Kessel] will report in shape this year, not 10 pounds over and laughing that he only skated 10 times in the summer.
"Give [Babcock] a chance with those guys, and if he can't do anything with them, then you're going to have to get rid of them. But they won't be traded."
from Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun,
“We’ll be active, but we might have a different set of targets than other teams,” Leafs president Brendan Shanahan said as the NHL draft wrapped up Saturday, “But I don’t know if we’ll be the headline stealers.”
Shanahan then caught himself.
“We’re Toronto, so somehow there’ll be headlines,” he said with a laugh. “So let me re-phrase that, I don’t think we’ll shake the hockey world.”
Names and salaries that might have enticed interest in the pre-cap era have little allure in 2015. Martin St. Louis and Sergei Gonchar are long in the tooth. If looking at players under 30, the list includes defenceman Mike Green, Toronto-born right winger Chris Stewart, left winger Michael Frolik, centre Derek Stepan, defenceman Andrej Meszaros and a couple of goalies, including Michal Neuvirth. Green would be taken quickly, though he’d need to be part of a dynamic team as he was with the Washington Capitals.
If you look deep enough, there’s even a few former Leafs who could be looking for homes this summer, led by Nashville’s Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli — both let go in trade deadline deals four months ago. And at the end of the season, 36-year-old Eric Brewer was dropping hints that he wanted to return full-time after playing out the schedule in T.O.
But that was Nonis, this is now. In the absence of a full-time general manager, Shanahan has his own visions and his unorthodox quartet making the personnel decisions now features himself, Mark Hunter, Kyle Dubas and Brandon Pridham. Two recent junior hockey execs, a capologist and his own acumen from years on the ice and as a league exec.
from Damien Cox of the Toronto Star,
The Leafs started the draft by going small with London Knights forward Mitch Marner at No. 4 overall, a marvellously skilled youngster who desperately wanted to play for his hometown Leafs. NHL Central Scouting lists him at five-foot-11 and 160 pounds, and that bureau’s boss, Danny Marr, is a stickler for accuracy on such things.
That said, Marner said himself at the end of OHL playoffs he was more like 150 pounds. The Leafs hope he will be Patrick Kane and he might be. Lean and light and shifty.
That wasn’t small enough, however, for the new-age Toronto organization, which traded down to add picks and used one of them to select Long Islander Jeremy Bracco of the U.S. National Team development program in Ann Arbor, Mich.
The kid can dish, and he’s elusive, which he better be since he comes in around five-foot-nine and maybe 170 pounds. Bracco’s dad and uncle were goalies, he’s named after Jeremy Roenick and he broke a bunch of assist records for the U.S. program, so he’s all about skill.
Some saw him as a first-rounder, but the Leafs got him 61st, at the end of the second round. He is supposed to go to Boston College, but the OHL Kitchener Rangers own his rights and are desperately hoping he chooses to come north instead.
When you combine the selections of Marner and Bracco, highly skilled players who won’t be punching anybody in the face anytime soon, it’s symbolic of the type of thinking that’s suddenly popular in the Leaf front office.
from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun,
The damage of this past Maple Leafs season lingers and cannot be easily undone.
The Leafs went to Florida hoping to trade more than draft picks and came away wondering where they proceed from here.
The market for Phil Kessel was thin and only marginally active.
The market for Tyler Bozak, Kessel’s centre of choice, was non-existent. The Leafs did not receive a single phone call inquiring about Bozak’s availability.
The two players that Brendan Shanahan would most like to move remain with his club and now a strategy revision of sorts is likely underway.
The Leafs would like to move Kessel, who apparently wants to stay. And they want to keep captain Dion Phaneuf, who apparently wants to leave. And since Shanahan talked avidly about changing the culture and the leadership group of the club, not one player of consequence has been moved out yet.
An alteration of management’s strategy has now become a work in progress and all bets are off about the roster being blown up before September.
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from Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun,
Told that an anonymous GM has called the asking price for Kessel “crazy” — likely a combination of prospects and picks — Shanahan said none of his peers have characterized Leafs demands as such. But dealing Kessel has all sorts of complications: A burdensome contract at eight years and $64 million US; whether it’s one of eight teams he’ll agree to join and, of course, getting a good return.
With most in agreement the Leafs need a shakeup in the room before new coach Mike Babcock gets to work, there is pressure on Shanahan to make a bold move.
“We like some of the things we are hearing,” Shanahan said. “Whether they develop into something more real, I couldn’t give a firm answer.
“For whatever reason, the mix hasn’t worked out well here. But we do have some strong individuals and talented players. I won’t say one way or the other who is going to be around (next year) and who won’t. It’s still too early for that. But when you have a guy like (Kessel) who is such a natural goal-scorer in the prime of his his career ... everyone wants goal-scoring. Obvioulsy, in a cap era, it’s not easy to fit that kind of player into the lineup any more. But he’s a great player, scorer and finisher,”
Shanahan said there has not been a firm offer for Kessel yet, so he didn’t want to talk about how much of the contract the Leafs would pick up or even approach Kessel for approval of a destination.
from Pat Hickey of the Montreal Gazette,
Toronto Maple Leafs: It’s a good thing for coach Mike Babcock that he has an eight-year, $50-million contract because it’s going to take a few seasons to straighten out the collection of losers Babcock has dubbed Canada’s team. Leading scorer Phil Kessel is on the trading block and so is captain Dion Phaneuf. There are reports out of Toronto that both will be dealt before the draft. That would free up $15 million in cap space, although there are suggestions the Leafs will have to retain some salary. Joffrey Lupul ($5.25 million) and Tyler Bozak ($4.2 million) are also in play. The Leafs draft fourth overall, which should yield a very good player, and they also have Nashville’s first-round pick at No. 24.
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from Ryan Pylette of the London Free Press,
On Friday in Sunrise, Fla., it's go time.
"One thing I know in this business -- time tells everything," Hunter said. "I feel confident we've done our work, but you never know what's going to happen in a draft. Someone else could take somebody right ahead of you that you like, so there's a lot of intangibles with this job.
"But this is a winning business and we're here to try to turn this around. No, we've got to go show it."
It's been rather hilarious to hear the 52-year-old Hunter, in the past nine months, referred to as an "NHL rookie" with an experience base largely "limited to the OHL".
Every big-league GM understands what this hire did for Toronto. He is one of the best personnel men in the game.
"I've been doing this for a long time now," the Petrolia native said. "I'm not just going in where I haven't been involved with watching kids from a young age grow from year-to-year. I've seen a lot of them come and go, and you can't replace that experience.
"Hopefully, that will come into use where we don't miss anybody we should get along the way."
from Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun,
With all the other question marks surrounding the Maple Leafs heading into this summer, add the contractual status of their No. 1 goalie.
Jonathan Bernier hopes to land a long-term deal, but approaching restricted free agency, the club has exercised its option for salary arbitration for 2015-16. Bernier’s numbers last year were down as the Leafs’ second-half collapse consumed him as well as other players.
The Leafs don’t have any in-house options other than coming back with Bernier and James Reimer and because they chose arbitration, they have no walkaway option if the decision goes against them.
So it’s unlikely something won’t be ironed out before an actual arbitration hearing takes place in July or early August. A two- to three-year deal may also result, but the dollar value is in question as the shine came off Bernier after he debuted in 2013-14 with 26 wins and a .923 save percentage. That was the highest in team records since the stat was introduced in the early 1980s, but underlined a poor team defence in front of him.
A year short of being a UFA, Bernier made $5.8 million US on his past two-year deal, more than half of it in Year 2 when he won less games and had a drop in save percentage.
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About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
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