Having seen the Leafs be aggressive sellers as the trade deadline has approached in recent years, we now have to consider them as possible buyers.
Which brings us back to Iginla and Doan....
Oh Damien Cox. Yesterday on Sportsnet (Ripping off my “Leafs+trade rumors = get clicks” formula) Cox talks about acquiring “veteran leadership” at this years trade deadline.
Look, we’re all excited about how well this season is going, and yes I agree with Mr. Cox that shipping out unknown young players or picks for a big piece isn’t where the team is at yet (despite TSN’s insistence that the Leafs need to trade Nylander like RIGHT NOW), but if an amazing opportunity comes along, you think about it. However, if they aren't at the “get big piece for Cup run” stage, how are they at the “get depth vet for playoff run”?
Blowing leads is a problem. Failing to win winnable games is a problem. However neither of these problems are solved by adding depth level forwards.
Shane Doan has not been a star on the ice for the Coyotes this year. 51 games in and he’s only scored five goals. His time on ice is the lowest it’s been since he was 23 years old. He’s carrying a $3.8m AAV this season, with $1.2m remaining right now.
Jarome Iginla is also looking at the lowest TOI of his career and hasn’t cracked 15 points yet this season. He’s playing on a terrible Avalanche team yes, but Would you right now swap him out for anyone on the Leafs third line? $1.7m cap hit for the rest of this year doesn’t seem like a good investment right now.
The Maple Leafs bottom six includes players like Matt Martin, Nikita Soshnikov, Ben Smith, Connor Brown, Zach Hyman, Leo Komarov, and Tyler Bozak. While maybe the two vets in question could be helpful on the low minute fourth line, I don’t see how they replace any of Hyman, Brown, Komarov, or Bozak on the third line, or why you’d take away experience and opportunity from Brown or Hyman or Sosh.
Before I write the trade off completely, what would the cost be?
Last year at the deadline there weren’t any comparable trades made in age. Eric Staal would have been my go to but he’s 32. In 2015 we could use Olli Jokinen as a comparable in age, not stature. Jokinen was a throw in to the Leafs acquiring Brendan Leipsic and a first round pick from Nashville, he was quickly shipped out to St. Louis for Joakim Lindstrom and a 6th round pick (Nicolas Mattinen). A good comparison? No, but it doesn’t seem like trading for veteran depth is something teams actually do anymore.
If the cost is relatively the same here, it’s almost acquiring something for nothing. Mattinen is....well he’s playing for the London Knights and good for him, and Lindstrom is now playing in Europe.
However, is it better to take possible ice time away from youth like Sosh, Brown, Hyman this year? Last year the end of the season served as a try out for many young players, and I think games after the deadline should be earmarked for the same. if injuries occur it should be Marlies, or even the fabled Josh Leivo who is said to haunt the press box, taking the ice not vet players on their last legs.
Cox says the acquisition isn’t so much about their skills, but for what they can teach the kids:
A player like Iginla or Doan would be brought in to help, almost as playing coaches, as this team continues to grow. Not to play like they were 25 again. Of course they’re not the players they once were, and neither would bring foot speed to a very fast Leafs team. But they could add something else, smarts.)
If this is why they should bring these players to the team, wouldn’t it be better to wait out their contracts and then hire them as coaches? The Leafs have enough players on payroll who could work in a coaching capacity. Stephane Robidas is doing this already. Joffrey Lupul hasn’t been on the ice at all this year, he could be in this role as well.
Matt Martin was brought in to be a mentor for the youth of the team and been praised for his leadership in the room. Don’t forget that Iginla’s leadership for young kids is why Colorado courted him, and Doan is still around the Coyotes so he could mentor the up and coming players. If that’s the job these players already have, and the teams are at the bottom of the standings, well, do we want them as leaders?
Cox concludes his article with this:
This isn’t the time for the Leafs to go big-game hunting or to make a major financial/cap commitment to a new player, not with a lot of money set to come off the payroll this summer. But if a smaller move for some experience would help the club make the playoffs and maybe become a tougher out in the post-season, it would be worth it.
This season was one transitioning out of a tank and taking the first steps forward. Those steps turned into a full on run at times, but it’s important not to lose sight of the bigger picture. This year should be taking a long look at what you have, and then tinkering in the off season, making additions both big and small, to become a serious threat next season.
But these headlines do make for nice back end numbers, eh Damien?