Ah, the heady aroma of trade rumours. There’s really nothing like a big juicy rumour about an ageing depth guy on a bad team who was given some “good pro” term on his last contract.

How the Leafs ended up in this movie

The Maple Leafs have been in the market for a fourth line centre since the Nixon administration, I believe. But let’s just confine the history lesson to the Mike Babcock years.

While he was busy tanking fairly superstitiously in 2015-2016, Babcock played Byron Froese a lot at 4C. He was a good pro, would play big minutes in blowout games without complaint, was okay at faceoffs and defensive play, and had a surprisingly high shot rate for a fourth line guy. All the fans hated him. They wanted Mark Arcobello or Peter Holland or really some other guy to play on that line. And, to be fair to the fans, Froese was a great guy to put out in a blowout, but he didn’t quite have enough to elevate himself out of the AHL top C range.

He went back to the AHL, was the top C, and the Leafs traded him in the deal that got them Brian Boyle last year. Everyone loves Boyle. He’s a very rare thing, an elite 4C, who is actually not really good enough to be someone else’s 3C, which is the usual way you lose the good ones.

Boyle did not want to re-sign with Toronto, and pining for your one true love is never a good way to make pragmatic decisions about the future. So Leafs fans should forget him.

I skipped over something, didn’t I? Okay, the Ben Smith years, I’ll tell the story.

At the end of the tank year, the Leafs got Ben Smith back in a trade. He was Froese-plus. He was excellent at faceoffs, knew how to PK, played his role with a smile, and had a surprisingly good offensive shot pattern and rate, and the fans really hated him. OMG.

Everyone thought he was gone away to Colorado the next year, but no, the Leafs grabbed him off the waiver wire and played him in the face of relentless disapproval from all media (because they don’t actually care what the media think, and never have) and dumped him on his ass in the minors the second they had Boyle to take the job and Smith had enough games to meet the expansion draft requirements.

Ben Smith took over for Froese in every way as the good pro on the Marlies, and his contributions there this season have been excellent. He is capable of carrying the top line, although that job has devolved to Miro Aaltonen lately.

Then last summer, of course, the Leafs signed Dominic Moore, still had Eric Fehr who they’d taken in trade (as insurance, I think) and they signed the mysterious Aaltonen who was more winger than centre, more offence than defence and never looked like a 4C at all.  The fans loved him in training camp.

Beyond all those guys, the Leafs have in their system one Frederik Gauthier, who has been given a few games in every year Babcock has been coach, and has proven to be so offensively null and defensively incapable as to be a very large blank spot in the lineup. The only other centre in the system who isn’t going to graduate from college to the ECHL is Adam Brooks, and he’s turning pro at the pace a cruise ship uses to come into harbour. He may arrive. He hasn’t yet.

It’s the trade deadline and the Leafs want a 4C

The Leafs do seem to want a 4C again, or perhaps still is a better word. They are still looking. Moore is competent — relative to Gauthier, he’s a star. Fehr is in California in the AHL, and Smith is the captain of the Marlies.

So who do they get as at minimum an insurance policy on Moore, or at best, a solution for a few years while they hopefully start drafting some guys who aren’t defencemen?

The case for Luke Glendening

I’ll start with what I have against him. It’s not that his Corsi looks bad, or he’s not very exciting. He’s not supposed to be. If the history lesson proved anything it’s that dull gets the job done, just not too dull.  No, the problem with Glendening is that his term is three more years after this one.

The amount of $1.8 million seems horrible to people who only ever look at the base cap hit on players and have forgotten that Aaltonen’s cost to the LTIR pool right now is only $25,000 less. But Glendening’s cap hit is not an atypical amount for depth centres, who seem to be getting rarer than star 1RHD.

Matt Cullen makes a million, and he’s older than Patrick Marleau. Old man Luke is 28.  Derek Ryan makes $1.425 million, and if the Hurricanes want to trade him, well good, let’s do that instead. I can be so easily talked out of the case for Glendening with any plausible name.

Mark Letestu makes $1.8 million, and he’s 33, but he’s really more of a PP cannon and not a PK guy.

Tomas Plekanec is on a $6 million contract, but the Habs are likely keeping him. The Senators have decided not to trade Jean-Gabriel Pageau (who is too good for 4C), according to rumours, and that leaves Antoine Vermette at $1.750 million and age 35.

So, you know, I’m not convinced the dollars are wrong at all, but the term is about two years longer than I’d like, and two years longer than it should have been. He is only 28 though. But he’d need to have the unexpected scoring touch of Boyle to be worth that term.

But there must be other options right? What about teams rebuilding, let’s get their 4C.  Cool.  Let’s.  Montréal is playing Byron Froese and the Rangers are using Peter Holland. Any other ideas?

The Case Against Luke Glendening

There’s the easiest part of it.

The thing about Luke Glendening is that he looks like he might be about a replacement-level 4C.  You can point to a few things suggesting he’s worse...

Or you can point to the fact he plays surprisingly tough competition for a 4C, and expect he might do better.

And he probably would do better!  Whether it would be better enough to fix those ugly numbers, who knows.  But is there anything there that jumps out and tells you he’s worth a term investment, or a financial investment (such as it is) over an ordinary guy off the pile?  Not really.  He has a more substantial contract than your typical 4C.  There’s nothing to show he’s really more substantial.

If the Leafs were signing Luke Glendening out of FA for a year and a million, it would be really easy to talk ourselves into him being a perfectly passable 4C, one Babcock is familiar with, and one who might have more to give once he escapes from that odd competition he’s been in.  But trading for that contract seems at best an overpay and at worst a minor extravagance.  This team won’t be made or broken by a trade for Luke Glendening, but trading for bad contracts is a bad habit, even in a thin centre market.


You know who else is a good pro, plays hard, is good with a rebuilding team full of young guys, and is a Red Wings fan going back generations? Matt Martin, that’s who.

So if this deal could be to flip the Red Wings the Leafs now surplus babysitter for their surplus passable 4C with whatever else needed to happen to make that work, I’d say it’s genius.

Your turn

Give it to us straight. What do you think of this idea?

Luke Glendening: What kind of idea is this?

OMG!!! Just call-up Ben Smith if Moore breaks his pinky.354
Good Pro, Good Man, knows how to play right, I like him. (Signed, Mike)210
Dubas would get us Larkin for a second-round pick.330
Just play Komarov as 4C. Now that’s genius.1535