Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Rosie DiManno of the Toronto Star,
Mincing Gorges apart, the two most dramatic re-lo announcements in the hockey universe last week — Kesler and Spezza — had nothing to do with the cracking open of free agency season.
Leafs were a spectator to the trade events involving these rather whiny me-first players, starry as they may be. In any event, top line centres are not what they covet or need, though some might argue a more coach-able second-line pivot than Nazem Kadri wouldn’t be a bad idea. And perhaps Joffrey Lupul, whose numbers last year reflected the drag of laboring alongside poor-fit linemates, would say so most vocally, if spilling his guts.
The trade winds will likely now settle down into summer doldrums.
“The big money moves either early or late,” said Nonis. “I don’t think we’ll see those types of trades again until maybe closer to training camp.”
So, for those anxiously awaiting some significant announcement on the Dion Phaneuf front, take the rest of the summer to chill out. The interest expressed by a few teams earlier in the year, from trade deadline through mid-June, has waned, if primarily because Nonis was unimpressed with what was being offered in exchange.
from Stan Fischler at The Hockey News,
The 1950 semifinal between Toronto and Detroit ranks among the most intense post-season series in NHL history. This was due to Gordie Howe’s near death after an alleged butt-end. “L’Affaire Howe” ignited one of the longest-running hates in the game: Detroit GM Jack Adams vs. Toronto captain Ted ‘Teeder’ Kennedy. The primary witness was Toronto defenseman Gus Mortson who was there when the blood feud started and there again eight years later when Adams bitterly reaffirmed it to Mortson who had by then become a Red Wing.
Adams’ hatred for the Maple Leafs was already deep rooted and understandable by the time the 1950 playoffs began. After all, Toronto had won the previous three Cups, including a sweep of Detroit in the 1949 final. But now it was a year after that debacle and, led by Howe, the Wings were stronger than ever. “We can do it this year,” Adams boasted prior to the opening game. “We’ve got the team this year.”
And so they did, primarily because Howe had blossomed into a star, patrolling right wing on Detroit’s Production Line with captain Sid Abel at center and Ted Lindsay on the left side. But when the Leafs went up 4-0 in the opener at Detroit’s Olympia Stadium few expected what Toronto author Jack Batten described as “one of the most infamous and controversial events” in NHL history.
from Ken Campbell of The Hockey News,
The Leafs once again raised ticket prices this season. One friend who has a pair of mid-level seats said the cost of his season tickets shot up 16 percent for 2014-15. What they need to show to their fans is that they’re in it to win it and what better way to do that than by giving a massive offer sheet to P.K. Subban?
I know what you’re about to say. Why would the Leafs do that if the Canadiens are just going to match the offer anyway? It’s a valid point, but let’s just say the Leafs get really aggressive and offer Subban a two-year deal at $12 million per season. Either way, they come out ahead because they either (a) get the player; or (b) put a division rival at a significant competitive disadvantage by forcing them to match the offer.
The Leafs would have to give up four first-round draft picks if they were to get Subban and there’s no getting around that. But would you rather pick 15th in the next four drafts or have P.K. Subban for two seasons and, most likely, beyond that?
Any team that signs Subban would have him for the next two years, which is plenty of time to get him signed to an eight-year deal. All the other defensemen of his ilk – Drew Doughty, Erik Karlsson, Alex Pietrangelo and Oliver Ekman-Larsson are signed to long-term contracts and aren’t going anywhere.
Subban would almost certainly look favorably upon a team that would give him that kind of deal. In fact, even if the Canadiens matched the offer, in two years when he becomes an unrestricted free agent, you’d have to think he’d look fondly upon a team that was most responsible for him getting $24 million over the previous two seasons.
from Chris Johnston of Sportsnet,
The Toronto Maple Leafs are looking overseas to bolster their depth at centre.
Sportsnet has learned that the team is on the verge of signing free agent Petri Kontiola to a one-year contract. Sources indicate that the deal will be completed as soon as the player gains his official release from Traktor Chelyabinsk of the KHL.
Kontiola is a former seventh-round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks and spent the last five seasons playing in the Russian-based league. The 29-year-old Finn also won a bronze medal while representing his country at the Sochi Olympics and earned a silver at the IIHF World Hockey Championship in May.
from Sean Fitz-Gerald of the National Post,
On the afternoon National Hockey League teams spent a half-billion dollars on free agents, the wealthiest franchise in the game opted to pick at the fringes, buying a 37-year-old recovering from a broken leg, and repatriating two wingers who have not scored 10 goals in a season.
The Toronto Maple Leafs still have new contracts to sign, more vacancies to fill, but their approach this off-season remains inscrutable. They missed the playoffs last year, but have angled neither for a rebuild nor a retooling. They have instead seemed to be tinkering.
They have made minor upgrades on defence. They have changed out goal-scorers for that sense of familiarity up front. It can feel a little like buying new floor mats when what the car really needs are new tires and a transmission to let it drive forward to give goaltender Jonathan Bernier a little peace and quiet every now and again.
“Let’s go with Step 1,” Leafs general manager Dave Nonis said Tuesday. “We’re at July 1, we’re trying to put together a group that has a chance to compete for the playoffs.”
Three year deal.
from Chris Johnston of Sportsnet,
What the Maple Leafs are in the market for right now is leadership.
Internally, that trait was identified by top members of the organization as a glaring need following a meltdown finish to the year — the third in succession if you link Brian Burke’s “18-wheeler off a cliff” to the blown 4-1 lead with 12 minutes to play in Boston to losses in 12 of 14 games down the stretch this March and April.
There is no question that a little more internal guidance and fortitude could help. However, determining which players can actually bring that element to Toronto while also contributing on the ice is no easy matter.
It must be remembered that the notion of leadership doesn’t necessarily change addresses with a player. One of the reasons the Leafs went after David Clarkson so aggressively in free agency last summer is because he was thought to come with intangible qualities like character. There was no chance to even test that line of thinking during his disastrous first season here.
from the Globe and Mail,
On Friday afternoon, he spent two hours meeting with the Leafs’ first-round pick, William Nylander, and his father, Michael, reminiscing with a former teammate but also doing some last-minute due diligence.
Then, when Saturday’s trade began coming together with the St. Louis Blues for defenceman Roman Polak, Shanahan was in the video room and making calls to hockey minds who have a close eye on one of his former teams and knew the big man well.
“I still have some friends in St. Louis whose opinions I trust,” Shanahan said.
This will be, in other words, no figurehead position – not for any length of time.
Shanahan intends to provide as much help as possible to Nonis and Co., even on days like the draft when, he admitted, many of the kids chosen had already finished their seasons by the time he took the Leafs top job this spring.
from Michael Traikos of the National Post,
There were rumours that the Florida Panthers wanted James van Riemsdyk in exchange for the No. 1 pick in this weekend’s draft. But the core of the Leafs remains off-limits for now. And help is not necessarily on the way either.
According to president Brendan Shanahan, “I don’t think July 1st is ever a great day to rely upon.” That being said, Shanahan wants to bring back David Bolland and reportedly has interest in signing 42-year-old Martin Brodeur to share the net with Jonathan Bernier.
And yet, management is somehow hopeful for a different outcome next season.
The Leafs are banking on young players, like Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly, to take another step forward and assume more responsibility. They expect that the Toronto Marlies, who advanced to the Calder Cup semi-final, will fill bottom-six roles at a bargain price. And they believe that the coaching staff, which will once again include Carlyle and as-yet-to-be-named new assistant coaches, will coax this team to be more competitive.
It’s a lot to ask. It’s maybe a little unrealistic. But the people in charge are under the assumption that this team’s problems are not as big as others suggest.
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.
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