Someone recently brought up the idea of the leafs rebuilding, so I decided to go a little more in depth.
If we went into a big rebuild, we could get some pretty decent returns for Kessel, Phaneuf, Gunnarson, Lupul, and something from an idiot for Bosak. Our forwards for next year would include Jvr and Kadri being the only two worthwhile forwards to keep during a deep rebuild. A line to shelter the young guys, probably including third liners, the guys who are decent defensively but can't put up points, and can be had for 2x3 contracts would be fine for a second line. And then an Ashton/Lievo/Abbot/Holland line to develop them would be decent for the future of this franchise. Komarov/D'amigo/Bodie/Hartikainen/Gauthier (if he's ready) or other Marlies that project into this role. Clarckson in the press box until he can skate and proves he’s better then Bodie, Komarov and D'amigo this looks terrible on paper, but you're not able to see this years pick, nor next years (Mcdavid/Eichel are projected to be #1c's, with the roster we'd have, I don't doubt a bottom 2 finish which should be good enough for a top 3 pick any of which seem to be really good), not to mention any of the returns for current leafs. And then there are the guys in the pipe like A.Johnson and C.Verhaeghe who might make the team in 2/3 years. Basically, this would be a TERRIBLE offensive group right now, worse then the upcoming Seattle and Qeubec teams will be. But in 2 or 3 years with the picks by then, it could be very respectable and on the younger side with a whole lot of potential.
Goalies: We have 2 starting goalies. No need to trade either. But if you could get 2 firsts and a second from Calgary for Bernier you do it. Heck, even for a first and a second you trade either goalie. Maybe even for a first from a lottery team. in the pipe you have Sparks and Gibbons who looked like decent prospects with the Marlies and Bibeau who was stellar for the second half of the season. All in all, a position of strength and you don't have to bother trading anyone as they'd still be useful in 3 years when the rebuild would be done.
Defense: First of all, let me start by saying, you should not let any of the young guys play top 2 minutes. not Gardiner or Rielly. No one, it will likely ruin them. If you want to do a rebuild, do what Buffalo has done and keep two guys (Erhoff, Myers) to play the top minutes. That means if you trade Phaneuf and Gunnarson, you have to bring in a Niskanen, a Gilbert, a Hainsey, one of those guys for a short term contract. For the young guys, you can have a Gardiner-Franson (who's underlying stats are decent, I really think the system made him look REALLY bad, if we had a decent coach and system, he should be a decent 4th) and thats not terrible until Rielly can play 2nd line minutes and you have Gardiner-Rielly. Franson is still there, and you have room to bring in Percy or Granberg as the 6/7th defensman. Develop them for another 2 years going from sheltered to not sheltered minutes and then you probably have a #1/2-Rielly, #1/2-Gardiner, #3/4-Percy? #4-Franson and #5/6 Granberg, with Finn or Nilsson or another prospect being able to take on 6/7th role. That might be pretty bad in 3 years or that could be amazing. not to mention it would still getting better.
If you traded Phaneuf+ for E.kane+ or something like that, and kessel to a rebuilding team or a team with a lot of youth- Tampa or Anaheim for example, you could probably get back at least a few second liners, or if you trade him to a rebuilding team, you could get a Seguin, Hamilton, and another pick. This seems like it could be a really good roster in 3 years
That has a lot of question marks, but those would be filled with this years pick (Ehlers/Nylander?), guys in the system (Ashton, Lievo, Verhaeghe, Johnson, etc.) and returns from a trade (a guy like E.kane, Yakupov, other young guys, and possible high draft picks).
Gardiner-Rielly -hopefully they're both at least #2's in 2 years.
Franson-Percy -hopefully Fransons underlying numbers mean something and Percy develops to a #3/4 by then, or if Gunnarson was kept he would be perfect to slot in there.
Granberg-Finn - I'd hope that these guys can handle at least these minutes in the NHL in 3 years, what with Granberg being close to a roster spot next year and Finn having a great year.
You'd have either two starters in Reimer-Bernier, but I doubt you can convince both to stay for 3 years so probably one of them and have Sparks as a decent backup.
The asterisk on this would be that you need a good GM, a good coach to develop the young guys properly, and not trade Kessel/Phaneuf to a perennial contender (chicago) for anything less then 4/5 1sts. You'd end up with ALOT of youth and potential, not to mention the amount of capspace you'd have from all the ELC's and bridge contracts.
On the flip side of this you could try and push for it over the next 3 years and go something like this.
CAPGEEK.COM ARMCHAIR GM ROSTER
Leafs going for it
James Van Riemsdyk ($4.250m) / Paul Stastny ($7.500m) / Phil Kessel ($8.000m)
Milan Michalek ($3.500m) / Nazem Kadri ($2.900m) / Ales Hemsky ($4.500m)
Dustin Penner ($2.000m) / Peter Holland ($0.851m) / Radim Vrbata ($3.500m)
Jerry D'Amigo ($0.851m) / Manny Malhotra ($1.500m) / Troy Bodie ($0.600m)
Carter Ashton ($0.851m)
Dion Phaneuf ($7.000m) / Anton Stralman ($5.000m)
Carl Gunnarsson ($3.150m) / Ron Hainsey ($3.000m)
Jake Gardiner ($2.250m) / Tom Gilbert ($2.000m)
Morgan Rielly ($0.894m) /
Jonathan Bernier ($2.900m)
Drew MacIntyre ($0.600m)
Mike Komisarek ($0.000m)
Mikhail Grabovski ($0.000m)
Tim Gleason ($0.833m)
RETAINED SALARIES (3.69% of upper limit)
David Clarkson ($2.625m—50.00%)
CAPGEEK.COM TOTALS (follow @capgeek on Twitter)
(estimations for 2014-15)
SALARY CAP: $71,100,000; CAP PAYROLL: $71,054,000; BONUSES: $850,000
CAP SPACE (22-man roster): $46,000
If you can find a partner for Gleason (Edmonton?) you also might have just enough room for Komarov also. That actually looks like a decent roster, especially if Kadri takes the next step. Buuuuuut, that’s a capped out team at it’s peak. Stastny is here for another 7/8 years, Niskanen for 5/6, Hemsky for 4/5. If you win in the next year or two, thats great, but you’re then out of contention for another 10 years.
By rebuilding you get a chance at elite talent and ALOT of capspace to work with. You also throw away all of what Burke did more or less, but Nonis did some of that anyways. By not rebuilding, you get a chance to win now, but by doing a quick rebuild, you’re a playoff contending team in a few years, and then if you’re smartly managed and not by Ray Shero, you’re right back in it every, single year.
I hate cheering for the Leafs to loose, but you know what? I wouldn’t mind celebrating 20 wins over 2 years for the chance to be the Chicago Blackhawks, to be a modern day dynasty, to have multiple all-stars on your team and cap room to work with every single year. To have 3 cups in 5 years, or more. To have a Sidney Crosby (well, Connor Mcdavid) on the Blackhawks and win every cup. Ever. All 100 of the past and all the future ones.
In my opinion, the right move is to rebuild. That would be painful, but it would be right.
There’s the third option, and it is like the forbidden fruit. Get rid of older pieces, replace them with younger, but don’t go big in FA for a guy like Stasny, but maybe more on Hemsky, Vrbata and Pouliot.
Problem is you still don’t have elite talent at C unless Kadri becomes it. It looks so nice, it feels so right, but it is very likely wrong. unless you can get the Yakupov’s, the E.Kane's of the league for the Lupul’s, Bosak’s, and Gleason’s of this team, you will still be lacking. The point of this would be to remain competitive while getting younger, meaning no bottoming out to draft a top centre. you might get a top 10 pick, but it would likely be at the point where the cream of the crop is already gone, unless by some miracle a Couturier drops to 8th or so. This process is similar to that of a proposed 3 year rebuild, yet without the accusation of possible high end talent.
A good comparison to who we'd be would seem to be the Rangers, just not with Lundqvist. They are an above average team. They have a great goalie who can save their ass. They have a good defence core. They have a few great forwards and a lot of depth. Thats how I picture what the Leafs could be, but that is as good as they could be. The roster would be good, but it’s not comparable to the Blackhawks, it’s simply not good enough. Thats why I think its right to rebuild. I don’t want a competitive team, a team thats in the playoffs every year but isn’t getting better. I don’t want to be the Wild with a lot of older UFA’s signed longterm with a few promising players. I want multiple stars, still on the younger side, with decent cap hits and a decent pipeline and drafting. I want to say that my team can face the Blackhawks and be even to them, I don’t want anything else.
Anyway, thats my opinion, let me know what you think in the comments. Also, any comments on the writing itself would be appreciated seeing as I'm just trying writing out and this is one of my first attempts.