“We’ll see where this goes” is a catch phrase that Elliotte Friedman likes to use when he’s reporting on something that could happen or is in the process of coming together, usually a trade. This sort of thing isn’t a rumour, a rumour needs to come from less informed sources; this is a report that there may be something to report. I lifted his phrase and made it the tag for all the stories that started trickling in prior to the draft.
The first “we’ll see where this goes” story dates to before the Stanley Cup was even handed out, and I’m going to start with that one, and see just where all this did go.
Friedman himself reported on May 30 that the Leafs and Nikita Zaitsev were working on a trade, and it wasn’t long — less than an hour — before it was confirmed by Bob McKenzie that Zaitsev had requested it.
We know where that went. but it was a month before we had our answer. In the middle of June we had a host of rumours:
The rumours on that day, and most days after, centred around Vancouver. Darren Dreger’s comments that day weren’t reports of trade talks so much as reports that Vancouver wanted a defenceman and Toronto wanted to trade Zaitsev.
Meanwhile David Pagnotta, speaking on Vancouver radio, said:
There are teams that view Zaitsev as a strong, sturdy, shutdown defenceman. [Pagnotta elaborates on this, and Zaitsev’s career arc] There are other teams that are interested in [Zaitsev]. The last time we spoke last week, I think it was six or seven. There’s interest there. There’s that salary cap hit that comes into play. But it still sounds like you’re looking at tossing up probably a draft pick or mid-level prospect along with an NHL defenceman now and probably looking at a five-six type defenceman. But that seems like that’s the asking rate from Toronto’s perspective.
And in case you’ve forgotten, that’s not how it went down. They got a pick and the rights to a defenceman they will likely only have for one year or less, but some or even most of that was for Connor Brown.
But if you don’t ask, you don’t get, and in mid-June, it’s totally plausible that Kyle Dubas was telling teams he wanted that. You do ask, you don’t necessarily get, which is why taking reports of those trades that fell through too seriously is not recommended.
Also in that post was talk of the Canucks signing Jake Gardiner, who is without a contract still. The Canucks did sign Tyler Myers and not their own not-as-good-as-his-salary, unqualified RFA Ben Hutton.
We might never know how hard the Leafs were trying to trade Patrick Marleau to the LA Kings, but we know they were trying to move him. That story came down on May 31, one day after the Zaitsev news, this time broken by Pierre LeBrun. This all came out that weekend because it was the end of the Combine, and all the GMs were in one place with all the media there with them.
The idea that there was a fit with the Kings was quickly disputed by the LA beat reporter Helene Elliott, and she turned out to have the right information. It was June 1 that we first heard from Nick Kypreos on HNIC that Marleau was looking to go back home.
We covered that in full a couple of days later:
And I broke down the possible destinations near his home in California, and not a single one of those was where this went. Of course you know that, and that the Leafs first round pick next year went to Carolina, who bought out Marleau a few days later for the very small salary cost savings, and to pave the way for him to sign a new deal in one of those closer-to-home destinations. He’s still an unsigned UFA now. The Leafs sure found a use for the cap space, however.
On June 14, LeBrun again broke the news that the Leafs were trying to trade Garret Sparks. So far, this hasn’t actually gone anywhere, but they did sign Michael Hutchinson to a minimum-salary extension that was official on June 29.
On June 20, the reports from the draft that Kyle Dubas had a phone and knew how to use it, had got me a bit cranky, so I posted that article that contains within a tweet from Dreger that says that Dubas was telling teams he would listen on Kapanen and Kadri, and that the Leafs would need a defenceman back in a Kapanen trade and a centre for Kadri. He also mentioned the thing obvious to anyone who’d had a look at the salary cap for the Leafs, that Connor Brown would be traded. I said this:
I will confess to you the shocking news that I’m not very chill about the idea of trading Kasperi Kapanen. I have been an early adopter of the idea that a trade of Nazem Kadri might become a good idea at some point. But even that leaves me very concerned.
And we know where both of those things went. The extension for Kapanen was leaked at the draft and was finalized officially a few days later.
But it’s telling about the broader perception of various media people that I had to emphasize that Dreger’s tweet was a report of actual information he had actually been told by actual sources who would know all this as fact and not something he just heard from someone who claimed their uncle’s cousin knew Dubas.
At the draft, Dubas himself spoke to the press and was asked mostly about trades, not prospects. Let’s factcheck the man who would actually know what he was really up to. Here’s some things he said:
There’s a good chance Patrick Marleau will remain with the Leafs into next season.
I said this:
This answer is mostly unsurprising, because how do you move that deal? The most recent speculation by Bob McKenzie on Overdrive revolved around a Byzantine arrangement of trading Marleau to a team that would buy him out (remember there is no cap relief for whoever buys him out when that’s done) and then he can re-sign in San Jose for a low amount for one year.
Yeah, geez, that would never happen. I guess I was unwilling to entertain the idea that the price would be paid. I’m still a bit unthrilled by it, even if it was obviously the key to everything that followed. Dubas was, I think, flat out lying, and he absolutely should in this case as the trade to Carolina was announced two days later so he was still working on it.
It’s not a foregone conclusion that the Leafs would match an offer sheet for any unsigned RFAs
A short time later, the news got out that Kapanen and Johnsson were re-signed, but other than that, how do you factcheck a hypothetical?
It’s our full intention that Naz is going to be on the team.
This is also a total lie. We know now that prior to the trade of Nazem Kadri on July 1, he’d known himself for about a week that he could be traded. Again, lying in this instance is good negotiating. They might well have ended up keeping Kadri, but “full intention” is total hot air there.
At that time, I thought a trade with Vegas made more sense because Vegas would take picks, but then the Leafs hadn’t spent their best pick yet, and as we all know, Dubas did not acquire Colin Miller from Vegas. We don’t know if he even tried, but it seems likely he did not.
June 21 was the day we first heard that the Kapanen and Johnsson deals were all but filed with the NHL from Chris Johnston. Bob McKenzie had the numbers the next day, and they were dead on, even though he qualified his report with “in the range”.
Everything got a little quiet post-draft, and it wasn’t until Jun 29, when it seemed like maybe the Leafs were doing nothing that we learned they were going to do something. Friedman has the report that Zaitsev was to be traded to Ottawa. Dreger had already seeded the ground earlier that day with a report that Ottawa had interest, but they were on Zaitsev’s “no list” for his no-trade clause.
Four minutes after Friedman’s report, Johnston added the Cody Ceci angle. At 8:25, that evening, three hours after the first report, McKenzie added that the deal was tentatively done, and that other pieces were part of the deal. He then speculated, or is that “speculated”, that Connor Brown was one of those pieces.
We had confirmation the next day, very late, that Brown was part of the deal and it would go down the next morning, all from McKenzie.
And we know where that went on July 1, after the signing bonuses were paid.
Also late on June 30, we all discovered that, dropped in the middle of a Friedman story at Sportsnet’s website, was the news that the Leafs were going to sign Nick Shore.
That’s still not official, and Dubas did say on July 1, that there was a stack of things Brandon Pridham was finalizing and hadn’t got back from the NHL yet. He specifically said depth signings, but then, he also implied the Leafs were done for the day too.
Can we believe anything he says ever again?
On July 1, after the Zaitsev trade and before much else had happened, I noticed that there were rumours again about Nazem Kadri.
Pagnotta said the Leafs were involved in trade talks on Kadri, and LeBrun responded with a bit about how they were listening, but not shopping him. It seems now that we know a deal between the Leafs and Calgary for Kadri had already fallen through that LeBrun was standing right on the line of telling the technical truth, while leaving out something he likely knew. It’s possible he’d been asked not to make that public yet.
And we know where that went.
Well, what to make of all that?
Dubas lies really well when it suits him. The media, all of them, even the ones you don’t like, tell the truth all the time, but maybe not the whole truth. And some of those leaks came from the Leafs as pokes at other teams, or that’s what I think.
I think I wasn’t very good at evaluating reports to decide if there was a high probability of a trade happening. I think that’s an interesting thing to consider, that without all the information in hand, people often make up a story that fits the information they do have, and conforms to their world view. It has to be plausible to them, but doesn’t have to acknowledge that there is a lot they don’t know.
I saw this very clearly in other people’s reactions to the Leafs not getting in on Colin Miller. I could see that I didn’t know all the things Dubas did know, like if he was trading Zaitsev, if he was getting a defender back in that deal, what his cap situation needed to be to keep anyone from seeing the Leafs as vulnerable to an offer sheet, etc. etc. But I didn’t see that very clearly inside my own head on other reports, in the heat of the moment.
The day before the Miller trade, I’d seen a Bob McKenzie report that telegraphed, as he does so well, that the Leafs were not serious about Miller, and I’d had time to think that one over.
What I did do after the Miller trade fallout was buy a copy of Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman because I think the ideas in that book will be very relevant to this process of evaluating information.
And that’s where all that went!