It’s a long way to free agent season, and there’s likely not going to be any trades for two months or so, but there are a few players we can be very sure played their last game for the Leafs in Sunday’s loss to Columbus.
Then there’s some we hope have.
Acquired in the Nazem Kadri trade, and with half his salary retained to make the numbers work, Tyson Barrie arrived as a credentialed top-pairing right-shooting defenceman. He will leave as a derided third-pairing fill-in and power play specialist who wasn’t missed when he left his last Leafs game injured in the second period.
We all really wish him well, and hope his injury isn’t serious. He’d taken hit after hit after hit in that game, and may well have a pile of Boone Jenner-shaped bruises.
You can’t call Barrie’s tenure on the Leafs anything but an abject failure, and his season was in some ways the Leafs season. He started out very ineffective, and that was all blamed on Mike Babcock. There’s something to that. The thing that most correlated with terrible shot share or quality of shooting at either end of the ice in October was Tyson Barrie. He even made Jake Muzzin look bad.
Barrie fared better with Sheldon Keefe behind the bench, but that was mostly because Keefe put him on the first power play unit while Morgan Rielly was not 100% and used him on the third pair the rest of the time. Barrie has the distinction of having a very high Corsi For impact that he erodes from his own effect on offensive quality down to something barely above replacement level. Keefe’s usage made sense, and was a good example of making the most of what he had. Continuing to use Barrie on the first power play once Rielly was healthy is another story, however.
Tyson Barrie’s boomer of a shot from the point right into someone’s shin pads became a classic moment of this Leafs season.
And we will never have to see that again.
Oh, Cody. It was the best of times:
CODY CECI!— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 7, 2020
SHORTHANDED GOAL!!! pic.twitter.com/9VoixBPIE7
It was the worst of times:
Cody Ceci and Cody Ceci's Shot pic.twitter.com/HqQ7DEOVjb— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 8, 2020
It’s easier to just shrug off all the Ceci-ness of Cody Ceci than it is Barrie’s Barrie-ness. Ceci was always meant to be something we endured as a way to get out from under the term on the Zaitsev deal without buying it out (which was clearly how Lou planned on coping). And Ceci always gave it his all. He just doesn’t have all that much to give.
He rates out as almost exactly a replacement level player, playing too many minutes over his head against competition he shouldn’t have been facing. He should have been the third-pairing right defender, but Tyson Barrie took that job from both Ceci and Justin Holl. A truly amazing feat.
I wish Cody Ceci all the best wherever he goes next, and even if he’ll take a sweetheart deal, the Leafs have all the third-pairing guys they need, so no thanks. Good luck Cody! Maybe you can take over for Luke Schenn with the Lightning.
At long last, our David Clarkson nightmare is over. Both his and Nathan Horton’s contracts expire this offseason, and that means the Leafs can start next season, barring actual injuries, with no one on LTIR.
I have to admit the moment when I figured out why the Leafs had traded for David Clarkson’s contract last summer is a fond memory. (They needed a higher total cap hit if Mitch Marner had not signed by opening day in order to effectively use the LTIR room created by Nathan Horton.) But that’s about all of the long, tortured story of Clarkson that is a fond memory.
Nothing that happened because of him was his fault. He was offered a contract that was ludicrous, and he wasn’t going to turn it down. But if you’re feeling low right now, remember how far the Leafs have come from the day that deal was signed.
No more dead money on LTIR. That phase of the rebuild is over.
Frederik Gauthier is a faceoff and PK specialist who isn’t very good at PK the way the Leafs do it these days. The playoffs proved that even his legitimate ability at taking defensive-zone faceoffs wasn’t enough to make up for his unassertive play the rest of the time.
Pierre Engvall was fine as a fourth line centre, and Keefe’s decision to scratch Gauthier may lead to an end to the faceoffs matter theory of the 4C of the Leafs.
On the other hand, he will likely re-sign to a cheap contract for next year that might vault him right back into the lineup of the cap-strapped Leafs.
So maybe this isn’t goodbye to Gauthier but only au revoir.
Kyle Clifford is a UFA, but is he absolutely destined to leave? Re-signing him upgrades a draft pick owed to LA to a second-rounder from a third, so that seems to make it an instant no.
But, he was effective with Jason Spezza (sure to return if he wants to) and Engvall, and while they weren’t offensively dangerous, he can make space on the ice in ways other players sometimes struggle to duplicate.
But he seems destined to cost too much for what the return is, so I think it’s likely that we’ve seen the last of that part of the only meaningful deadline trade the Leafs made.
The Formerly Unthinkable
Before this loss, Kyle Dubas was 100% committed to the core of his team. “We can and we will” was his motto, and he stuck to it. Will he keep that up?
It’s hard to imagine him watching what’s just happened against the Blue Jackets and running back the exact same core of Matthews, Tavares, Marner, Nylander, Andersen and Morgan Rielly.
It says here that at least one of those players will be sacrificed as part of wider changes before the start of next season and — spoiler alert — there’s no chance it’s Matthews.
I’m not sure I find Johnston’s argument convincing, and I don’t think the playoff performance is really the thing that should be deciding the future. The regular season performance should be. But do you agree with this take? Have we seen the last of one of the core?
Will one of the core Leafs be traded this offseason?
|No, none of them.