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Kyle Dubas reportedly talked to LA about Kyle Clifford

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31 Thoughts has another example of some tire kicking from the Leafs.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Los Angeles Kings Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

In 31 Thoughts today, Eliotte Friedman discusses the Leafs, as expected at this time of the year.

First the bit that was also reported on a recent game broadcast:

The Maple Leafs told potential trade partners they will not move Timothy Liljegren, Rasmus Sandin or a first-round pick for a rental.

Of course Kyle Dubas has flat out said he’s not interested in rentals at all, but this sounds like solid information on how uninterested they are.

Next the other part:

Can’t be sure, but there are rumblings Toronto GM Kyle Dubas asked about Kyle Clifford when he was talking to Los Angeles about Muzzin. Dubas knows Clifford from his days working at Uptown, which still represents the winger. Clifford has a great reputation, and a contract Toronto could fit. Those, of course, are two reasons L.A. is happy to keep him.

In a couple of recent appearances on Insider Trading on TSN and on the Bobcast, Bob McKenzie has discussed the idea that the Leafs are looking for a versatile forward who can play up or down the lineup as a centre or a wing. Rudely put: Par Lindholm, only better.

Clifford seems to be the type, just like Luke Glendening is somewhat the type. But Glendening, beyond his contract which runs for too many years, is just not really good enough to pay assets for and then have him cost $1.8 million.

Clifford’s deal is two years, this and next, at $1.6 million and he’s a UFA when it ends. He just turned 28, and he has played centre and wing before. That sounds like he’s the type, and he’s not too old. His deal is decently short, but he’s not a rental. His cap hit is too high for a fourth liner on the Leafs, however. But if he’s a realistic improvement and a player who could play on the third line if needed, is he worth it, assuming he doesn’t cost a lot of assets?

He’d need to be better than Glendening in my estimation, and of course better than Lindholm, Connor Brown or Trevor Moore, as those are the guys moving up to play bigger minutes if someone is hurt.

Evolving Hockey

So what we have here is Evolving Hockey’s RAPM chart over three years, not including this season, of our two subjects. Both our fellows are good at one thing for a depth player, that is. In Clifford’s case it’s shots for, not against. In Glendening’s case it’s quality of shots against, not really quantity. Clifford is also at least above replacement level at offensive shot quality and quantity, which is not something the Leafs need assistance with.

Can I swap their contracts and take Glendening? I actually rather like him as a depth player, and if he was on a decent deal, I’d happily take him as an extra, decently versatile, good pro who is likely better at some things than Connor Brown is.

As for Par Lindholm, he’s only played part of a season, so Evolving Hockey doesn’t give us a three-year chart for him, but looking at this season, he’s clearly right around the same barely over replacement level as the two other rumoured trade targets.

However, Clifford is having his best year in a while, so if all you look at is this one partial year, he looks like an upgrade in some areas. A comparison using Evolving Hockey’s GAR (Goals Above Replacement) stat over three years up to and including this year gives this, however:

  1. Glendening: 0.035 GAR per 60 minutes
  2. Lindholm: -0.045
  3. Clifford: -0.185

In terms of actual GAR these sorts of players provide over the course of this same sample, you get this:

  1. Glendening: 1.6 (over 2+ seasons)
  2. Lindholm: -0.5 (over this season to date)
  3. Clifford: -5.4 (over 2+ seasons)

GAR includes the player’s effects on goals for and against in all situations, so over three years, Clifford has personally cost the Kings one win, whereas Glendening has given Detroit a fraction of one.

Both of these players do some things well, and I bet they’re good in the room. But the Leafs have all the “good in the room” anyone needs at premium prices, and if they’re going to spend assets and use up almost Connor Brown money in cap hit, then they better be getting a guy who is good on the ice.

Both Clifford and Glendening might be modest depth upgrades, but not enough to be worth spending on.

If you want a recommendation, try this instead: