Tonight's tilt against the Buffalo Sabres will determine the fate of three players, but if Clarke MacArthur plays then consider him number four and likewise for Mike Komiserak, who'd round out the frustrated quintet. The youthful new-look Toronto Maple Leafs now sans-Lupul needs to now prove it can bounce back and crush a team they should have already beaten this year.
I believe Nicolai Kulemin is on the bubble. He needs to produce. In the likely event MacArthur gets traded, thereby eliminating any possible reuniting of their infamous great line last year, Kule really needs to produce on the scoresheet tonight, which will also continue to make Grabbo look even better. Yes, he will finally provide the team an excellent dynamic duo upfront when paired alongside a very hungry and competent Nazem Kadri.
Recall, a year ago MacArthur was worth a first rounder.
I don't think it makes sense to trade Phil Kessel, given the cost of his investment, but admittedly he's one helluva risk, ever so moody and never so truculent. Even though the team is now slipping from its pre-season contending status and providing management a lengthier than usual glimpse at promising players like Kadri and Jake Gardiner, we may as well learn to live with the prolific Kessel.
Well, okay, the speedy Kessel with a great shot. Oh, ok, with a quick shot.
By my estimation, Kessel this season is expected and should be able to pop in 20 goals and, if so, will control his own destiny, if he chooses at that point to continue playing for the Blue & White. If now moveable under new GM Dave Nonis, Kessel wasn't when landed for two first rounders and a second rounder, and quite likely remained on former GM Brian Burke's personal unspoken untouchable list, thereby possibly eclipsing the Courtnall for Kordic trade as the worst in Leafs history.
Joining Kessel as a non-core element, and with the coming addition of help, Ben Scrivens is the odd man out between the pipes, given James Reimer is slated for back-up, minimally, for another two years. Scrivens is valuable. But with each loss, the pressure mounts on Nonis to do something to improve the team, notably in the standings, rather than remaining steadfast and resolute, determined to provide players a fair training camp period and complete a fair analysis of their market value for new owners.
Nonetheless, Nonis will enjoy and can afford the owners' support in early moves to improve the team overnight and provide a greater likelihood to contend for the Cup in a few months. By dispatching Tim Connolly and Matthew Lombardi early, and with the aforementioned Lupul now signed, Nonis is facing off against Tyler Bozak, David Steckel and MacArthur as they're the only current Leafs' forwards without a contract at the end of their Cup run this season.
Assuredly fully intent on making some much-needed room on the ice for those worthy Marlies and, in the process and perhaps more critically, opening up the much-needed cap space required for a key acquisition or two this summer, Nonis needs to move Bozak, Steckel and MacArthur, not Kessel. Meh. Nonis should throw in Phaneuf and go for Getzlaf.