Ottawa Senators

Ottawa Senators: The Maple Leafs Are Coming!

Let’s take a look at what the Ottawa Senators have done so far in free agency. 

Ceci/Zaitsev Swap

The Ottawa Senators and the Toronto Maple Leafs finally completed the Zaitsev trade. I am a little confused at this one. Ottawa paid Toronto to take on a bad contract, shouldn’t it be the other way around? I don’t like Cody Ceci as a player whatsoever and the Sens management finally answered longtime prayers from the fanbase by trading the struggling defenseman.

I believe that if Ceci were used in the right capacity, he could be an effective top 4 defenseman in the NHL. However, he was never used in the right capacity in Ottawa. Ceci is a puck moving defenseman who was used as a shutdown defenseman and he simply does not have the skill set to be a shutdown defenseman. Let’s see what happens with Ceci next, does he re-sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs? Or does he move on?

Ron Hainsey

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Next, the Ottawa Senators signed Ron Hainsey to a one year contract at a 3.5 million cap hit. I like this signing, he can help mold guys like Thomas Chabot and Erik Brannstrom into high caliber defenseman. While Chabot and Brannstrom are remarkable talents, it doesn’t hurt having a guy like Hainsey in the locker room to help them mature.

Hainsey is a decent defenseman, but he brings a lot more to the table than his on ice play. Remember, this guy won the cup his first two times playing in the postseason. He knows what it takes to win, he is a voice in the locker room and he can mentor everyone. As much as I think Ottawa overpaid for him, we need to get to the cap floor, and I think the signing is actually a pretty good one.

Tyler Ennis

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The next move was signing Tyler Ennis. Ennis signed with the Sens at 800k for one year.

I don’t know how to feel about this signing. He has jumped around the league recently and I don’t really get the point in this signing. Tyler Ennis went from Buffalo to Minnesota and then he went to Toronto. Does this show that he isn’t the most coachable player? Or does it mean that new Sens coach, D.J. Smith likes him a lot and just wanted him to come along?

Former Sens coach Guy Boucher had a few players like this, Tom Pyatt and Nate Thompson to name a few. I think Tyler Ennis is the same type of signing that Pyatt and Thompson were a few years back. Let’s see what happens.

Sticking To Rebuilding

Instead of using the massive amount of cap space the team to sign superstars, Pierre Dorion sticked to his rebuilding plan and made a few depth signings. I do not believe that Dorion is done yet tho, he has a few more things up his sleeves. For example, he needs to sign Colin White and he should sign Thomas Chabot as quickly as possible to avoid a situation like in Toronto where it took half the season to sign Nylander.

stats from hockey-reference.com

research from CapFriendly.com

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals

Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs: Dubas Gets A Right Handed Defenseman

The Toronto Maple Leafs have made an upgrade on the right side of their defensive unit. 

Earlier today, the Toronto Maple Leafs announced via twitter that they had brokered a trade with the Colorado Avalanche. The Maple Leafs have traded Nazem Kadri, Calle Rosen and a 2020 third round pick to the Avalanche for Tyson Barrie, Alex Kerfoot and a 2020 sixth round pick.

With the addition of Barrie, the Toronto Maple Leafs have successfully upgraded the right side of their blue-line.

But, there is even more news. Per Dan Rosen of NHL.com (see above), the Colorado Avalanche retained 50% of Barrie’s AAV in the deal. With that being said, Barrie will only eat 2.75 million in cap space for the Maple Leafs.

The Hunt For A Right Handed Defenseman

Toronto Maple Leafs fans have been waiting a while for this day. Over the past two seasons, we’ve heard names such as Brett Pesce, Colin Miller, P.K. Subban, Erik Karlsson, Justin Faulk and others be thrown out as potential options on the right hand side. Finally, the rumours are put to bed. The Toronto Maple Leafs have acquired Tyson Barrie from the Colorado Avalanche and now Barrie is their top right handed defensive option. He’ll likely replace Ron Hainsey on the top line and play alongside Morgan Rielly. While Barrie is far better than Hainsey, it’s still worth showing a comparison between the two defensemen.

In the below visual from CJ Turtoro, you’ll see an in-depth comparison of the two defensemen.

visual from CJ Turtoro, data from Corey Sznajder

Barrie is a lot better than Hainsey. There is no doubt about it. As you can see from the visual, Barrie is far more efficient at shot contributions, possession entries and possession exits than Hainsey. The only category that Barrie is worse than Hainsey in is entry defense. But, just because Barrie is worse at entry defense then Hainsey doesn’t mean that the trade for Barrie makes no sense. It’s the opposite. Barrie is more consistent across the board and is far better suited to play top line minutes in the NHL than Hainsey. 

Kerfoot

In addition to Barrie, the Toronto Maple Leafs acquired Alexander Kerfoot in the trade. Kerfoot provides the Maple Leafs with solid centre depth and will compete with Jason Spezza for the the third line centre spot. 

Kerfoot has a tremendous amount of upside and has been rather efficient in his time with the Avalanche. But, the challenge for Kerfoot has been his line-mates. Aside from the top line in Colorado, forward depth has been a concern, especially on the wings. Kerfoot didn’t have consistently strong wingers in Colorado and that will change in Toronto. He could end up playing with Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, Ilya Mikheyev and/or Trevor Moore. 

The only immediate issue with Kerfoot is that he’s a restricted free agent. He’ll need to be paid quite quickly and if he demands too much, the Maple Leafs could be forced to trade his rights as they still need to lock up Mitch Marner.

Losing Kadri & Rosen

Unfortunately, Maple Leafs fans are losing a fan favourite. Nazem Kadri has been with the organization for a long time. If you remember, former general manager Brian Burke and former Ottawa Senators Bryan Murray had a minor confrontation at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft prior to Burke selecting Kadri. Burke went up to Murray, asked him who he planned on taking and then he informed Murray that he was going to be taking Kadri off the board. It was evident from the exchange that Murray had his eyes on Kadri and had to go to plan B.

Sadly, Leafs Twitter has been up in arms about Kadri’s role in Toronto. Since the two altercations against the Boston Bruins this past playoff series and in the year prior, Kadri has been put on the hot seat in Toronto. His character in the playoffs has been alarming and it’s clear that Dubas wasn’t prepared to give him another chance.

In addition to Kadri being dealt, the Maple Leafs also part ways with depth defenseman Calle Rosen. Rosen, since coming to Toronto has spent the bulk of his time with the Toronto Marlies, but was looking prime to play on the third defensive pairing next season. Instead, he’ll fight for a third pairing spot in Colorado.

Recap

All-in-all, the Toronto Maple Leafs have finally improved their right side on the blue-line. Barrie is quite the upgrade over Hainsey. Plus, they add a centre with a ton of offensive upside in Kerfoot. With that being said, it’s extremely hard to hate this trade.

stats from hockey-reference.com and Corey Sznajder

visual from CJ Turtoro

featured image photo credit – Josh Tessler

 

Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs Have Clinched, But Now It’s Time For The Real Test

So here we are Toronto Maple Leafs fans, the playoffs are on our radar once again and we will play our arch rivals: The Boston Bruins.

Just over a year ago we fought a hard series against the Bruins, but it all came undone in the 3rd period of game 7, stop me if you heard that before.

For some reason though, people are counting out the Leafs given their past experiences in a playoff scenario. It’s been over 10 years since we have seen the second round in Toronto, so what needs to go right against Boston?

Skill and Speed

The Leafs forward core is stacked on paper. Having players like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and John Tavares are the top three on the teams scoring amongst forwards. Morgan Rielly has had an incredible offensive season amongst defenders in the league with over 70 points this season, the highest since Tomas Kaberle‘s 67 points in 82 games back in 2005-06. The team has had so many different contributions as well with emerging pieces such as Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen stepping up, and having William Nylander back into the fold helps a lot. The team arguably has more depth in scoring than the Bruins with guys like Zach Hyman, Patrick Marleau, Nazem Kadri and even Tyler Ennis. The team sits 3rd Overall in goals for per game (3.5) and 8th on the power-play (22.1%) which definitely shows that this team can score their way out of trouble and provide stable offence.

Hands down this team is one of the fastest and most-skilled among the league. But, there is a perception that the Toronto Maple Leafs needed to add some grit and toughness (like Wayne Simmonds) at the deadline and that the Leafs need to match the Bruins’ physicality to get by them. Yet, you can make the argument that isn’t true. After all, the Tampa Bay Lightning got passed them last season in six games because of how fast and skilled the team was, so I’m sure the Leafs could do the same.

Here is what I presume the Leafs Forward core will be come playoff time:

Hyman-Tavares-Marner

Johnsson-Matthews-Nylander

Marleau- Kadri- Kapanen

Moore- Gauthier- Ennis

With these forward lines, the Leafs should be able to dominate the Bruins defensive core. 

Defence, Defence, Defence

This is one of the most crucial aspects to the Leafs becoming threats in the playoffs: their blue-line. Over the past couple of years, it’s been hands down one of the most criticized aspects of the team. Yes, the team is getting scoring from Morgan Rielly, but defencemen are supposed to help keep the puck from going in your net. With the addition of Jake Muzzin to the core, it could help take pressure off of some other guys as he has quite a bit of playoff experience from his time in Los Angeles. However, the team still has some gaping holes. It’s not perfect, no team is, but it goes without saying the teams defensive play has been an issue throughout the season, especially against Boston. With Travis Dermott now back and Jake Gardiner appearing to return before the playoffs, the team will be fully healthy again.

However, the team and Mike Babcock need to put together the lines that actually work and click together. Now if I was a betting man, the pairings would look something like this come game 1.

Rielly- Hainsey

Gardiner- Zaitsev

Muzzin- Dermott

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Why is Muzzin playing bottom 6 minutes with Dermott?” Well, these were the pairings Babcock was using up until Gardiner went down with an injury. I could see why it was done given that Dermott is one of the players expected to take a big leap with the team next season, and having a guy like Muzzin on his line helps bring mentorship to the young up and coming Leaf. Obviously fans have come to not like the Rielly-Hainsey pairing, given how much Hainsey is taxed. I agree that a 38-year-old playing over 20 mins a night is not great, but he has grown on me a little over the past few games.

If I was in charge; here is what I would do for the playoffs defence lineups:

Gardiner- Rielly

Muzzin- Zaitsev

Hainsey- Dermott

Now, why these pairings? Well for one you take Hainsey off the top pairing, taking less minutes to preserve his body. You can still have him kill penalties, but also help provide more mentorship to Dermott, who has played with Hainsey briefly after acquiring Jake Muzzin. 

I do understand why Gardiner and Zaitsev is an odd pairing, I question it myself in all honesty, but it’s what the team would likely do. I would rather put Muzzin with Zaitsev, so that Muzzin could take some of the pressure off of that pairing and provide more safety on the ice.

In terms of the top pairingm, Rielly and Gardiner have played together before, even under Babcock, and the two have generated some success together. Yes they are both left-handed shots, but Rielly could play the right side. Also, the pair’s skating abilities could help move the puck into more offensive scenarios during play.

Frederik Andersen

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Now, it’s no surprise that Frederik Andersen is going to start in the playoffs for Toronto. Rightfully so, as he is the reason this team has made it to the playoffs in his 3 seasons wearing the blue and white. So what’s the issue here? Well, Freddie hasn’t always been steady. This past month, we saw that he was most likely very tired and beat up due to the gruelling schedule. The other night on Long Island, we saw what our goaltender is with a very tight 2-1 win over the New York Islanders. Despite his great numbers during the regular season, Andersen has struggled in the playoffs. With a .896 save percentage last year, Andersen has something to prove this year. We know he can steal games, heck he practically helped force a game 7 last season, but the biggest worry for me is consistency. I believe there’s still a lot more potential to Andersen’s game that will be shown in the playoffs. So, we just need to wait and see.

The Fans

Yes, I’m talking to you Leafs Nation. Us as fans need to step up and be optimistic of our team. Don’t let the recent slump phase you. Teams struggle all the time. Sure the media has to downplay the Leafs, it’s their job. Every team has its faults, but remember the best team is not guaranteed to win the whole thing. Sure, we have our faults, we have our inconsistencies and our doubts, but are we seriously going to throw in the towel before the playoffs even start? What kind of fanbase does that? You ever hear Ric Flair saying “To be the man, you got to beat the man.” That applies here, to be the best, you got to beat the best. Heck did Boston even have a good last few games? No. Prior to their win against Columbus, they lost their last 2 being outscored 10-4 against non playoff teams.

Also, we (Leaf Fans) are quickly jumping to the negatives. The what ifs. The collapses. The disappointments. What about all the glorious moments? The playoff runs of the past where the team showed what winning was all about. The infamous 1945 comeback, which saw the team go from 3-0 in the series, to storming back and winning 4 straight to win their 4th Stanley Cup. Or better yet, how about 1967? The year everyone jokes about. The oldest team to ever win the Stanley Cup, the group being known as the “Over the Hill” team. Little do some know, the team lost 10 games in a row that season, dealt with countless injuries, the absence of their coach Punch Imlach and having to go through the two best teams in the league in Chicago and Montreal. Yeah, the league was small back then, but it goes to show you that nothing is impossible. The Washington Capitals won the Stanley cup last year against all odds, so who is to say the Leafs can’t defy them too? The teams in 1945 and 1967 proved a lot of people wrong back then, and I’m sure that this team could too.

Leafs Nation, we stand witness for a reason. I expect Scotiabank Arena and Maple Leafs Square to be loud and proud of this blue and white team. As Steve Dangle always asks us.

Are. You. In?

stats from hockey-reference.com, NHL.com and foxsports.com

featured image photo credit – Josh Tessler

 

Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs: Mid-Season Report Cards

As we start the back half of the NHL season, now is the perfect time to assess all of the Toronto Maple Leafs players first half performance.

All players who played a game in the first 49 games will be given a grade from A-F except for Jake Muzzin and Justin Holl for lack of games played.

Frederik Andersen: A+

Is there anything more we could have asked for from Frederik Andersen? Cause I can’t think of anything. He has an unreal .923 save percentage and is third in the NHL in wins. The only thing that has gone wrong for Andersen was a groin injury that kind of sent the Leafs on their recent skid, which just proves how valuable he has been to this team. He has easily been this teams MVP so far.

Mitch Marner: A+

The beautiful thing about Mitch Marner is this isn’t it. There is no way that Marner has hit his ceiling at only 21 years old, and yet he is leading a top team in the league in points. This year he has 62 points in 49 games, this is the fastest he’s reached the 60 point mark and the 20 goal mark. Mitch has been this teams best offensive player, which is why every team in the league is going to offer sheet him.

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Morgan Rielly: A+

I don’t think anyone expected this out of Mo. We all knew he had potential to be a top 4 defenceman but we didn’t know he would end up being a number 1 defenceman in the Norris conversation. Truly one of the best performances by a Maple Leafs defenceman since the 70’s.

John Tavares: A

This may be the best season that John Tavares has ever had. Yes the John Tavares has had some incredible seasons, he once finishing second in NHL scoring. But the only reason I’m not giving him the + is because most of his goals Matt Martin could have scored.

Auston Matthews: A

What a start. Auston Matthews put up 10 goals in his first 11 games and other than the injury and the bad month of January he has been unbelievable. Once again the only reason there’s no plus is the month of January which has been bad for everyone including Matthews who only put up 2 goals in 10 games far from the month of October.

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Kasperi Kapanen: B+

Kasperi Kapanen has been one of the leafs best wingers this season. He was a great replacement for William Nylander during his absence and is on pace for a 30 goal season, that is something no one could have predicted.

Travis Dermott: B

I love Travis Dermott. He has been the second best defenceman on this team for a year or two now and he’s far away from his ceiling. He is going to be a good defenceman for a long time for the blue and white.

Andreas Johnsson: B

Aside from a very rocky start that had Johnsson not being a roster regular he has been great. Johnsson has been moved all over the lineup and he has never looked bad. He has 10 goals and 10 assists and there is no sign of stopping so far.

Zach Hyman: B

This kid has been working his bags off since he made the NHL. He is one of the only players with true old school grit and it pays off. He has been stapled to a star player his entire Leafs career and he never fails to show up and work hard.

Nazem Kadri: B-

This has been such a strange year for Kadri . He’s either been scoring on a Wayne Gretzky like pace or he’s scoring on a Nikita Zaitsev type pace. The reason why he’s so low is because the bad stretches have been much longer than the good stretches.

Jake Gardiner: B-

Gardiner has been a controversial topic in leafs nation. You either love Gardiner and what he bring to the Leafs or you hate him and what he brings to the Leafs. I love Jake but some of the mistakes are too big to ignore so that’s why he’s a B-.

Connor Brown: B-

He hasn’t been the most noticeable player on the leafs this year but he has worked hard. He has just as many points as Zach Hyman (18) he’s just not looked as good, so Zach’s a B and he’s a B-.

Trevor Moore: B-

Moore has only played 7 games this year but he has looked amazing. Moore is fast, he works so hard and he immediately makes the 4th line much better. In fact in 33 games without Moore Frederick Gauthier has 0 goals, in 7 games with Moore he has 2 goals.

Garret Sparks: B-

Despite what people are saying Garret “Auto L” Sparks has been pretty good this year. A 6-2-1 record is very good and exactly what teams want in a backup goalie.

Patrick Marleau: C+

I know he’s the resident dad and everyone loves him but boy Marleau has looked invisible sometimes. Babcock has tried him with Matthews so many times this season and they’ve never looked that good. But with all of that said he is still contributing a fair amount (11 goals, 11 assists). Hopefully he turns into playoff Marleau by April.

William Nylander: C+

I am in Nylander’s corner 100% of the time but facts are hard to argue with. Nylander has looked better than some players ahead of him on this list, but he can be an A-A+ player so that’s why he is so low cause I know he can do better. To be fair we saw a glimpse of old Nylander against Washington when he notched 3 assists.

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Tyler Ennis: C+

Ennis has either looked really good or you forget he even played that night. I have loved Ennis’ game when he is on. Just like Moore he makes the 4th line way better and he brings speed and skill to this team.

Michael Hutchinson: C+

I thought Hutch played well in his time here. The only problem is that the team playing in front of him was awful so we didn’t win a lot of the games he played.

Par Lindholm: C

I’ve actually really liked Lindholm’s play so far, it’s just the production hasn’t been there and neither has he in some games this year. To be fair this is exactly what I expected out of him when the announced the signing.

Igor Ozhiganov: C

Oz has had his moments but overall he has been bad most of the time he’s played this year. The only bright spot this year is that he is tied with Auston Matthews in goals since Christmas.

Frederik Gauthier: C-

Gauthier has looked way better this season. The fact that he is still getting a C- should show you how bad Gauthier was in previous years. Glad to see he is finally becoming an “Elite 3rd liner”.

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Martin Marincin: C-

Every time I’ve watched Marnincin this year I always think he’s doing really well… until he touches the puck. He has been an alright 7th defenceman but we could and should improve and move on from Marincin.

Ron Hainsey: D 

Oh boy, Ron Hainsey has been really bad this year. He can’t make a lead pass for his life and he doesn’t know what he’s doing when he’s in his own end unless he’s on the penalty kill. Thank god his contract is up unlike the worst player on the Leafs so far.

Nikita Zaitsev: D-

Where should I start with Zaitsev? Is it the play in his own end that has cost us I don’t know how many goals this season? Or is it the inability to contribute anything offensively since he stepped on the ice in October? To make matters much worse he is signed on for the next 6 seasons at 4.5 M a year. Word is Dubas is looking to deal Zaitsev and that would be a huge relief on the cap and on my eyes every Leafs game.

stats from NHL.com, hockey-reference.com

featured image photo credit – Josh Tessler

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs: What Is Mitch Marner’s Contract Value?

The Toronto Maple Leafs have some serious contract negotiations coming their way this summer. The hardest one could be Mitch Marner.

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Mitch Marner has been nothing short of spectacular since he cracked the Toronto Maple Leafs roster. That could prove to be costly though.

Since joining the NHL, Mitchell Marner has scored 185 points in 201 games played (averaging .92 points per game). This season though has been his best to date scoring 55 points in just 42 games. Marner has been driving his line, which has regularly been John Tavares, Zach Hyman and himself. Marner is averaging 19:38 time on ice with a 104.5 PDO (sum of a team’s shooting percentage and its save percentage). This means when he is on the ice the puck goes in the opponents net significantly more than his own. Marner also has 51 CF% (corsi for percentage) which seems low, but does tell us his team posses the puck the majority of the time he is on the ice. 

Cost Breakdown

The Toronto Maple Leafs are getting their monies worth from Mitch Marner this year. Currently, he ranks 9th in league scoring and 3rd in cost per point. The Toronto Maple Leafs are paying just $16,258 per point from Mitch Marner this season. That’s only behind Mikko Rantanen and Brayden Point. It is worth noting that all 3 players are on their final year of a 3 year entry level deal. Looking at the players ahead of Marner in scoring this season 6 of them are on standard NHL contracts (Point and Rantanen being the exceptions) the average cost per point in $124,354. Assuming that Marner is on pace for 110 points this season at $124,354 per point, then the Leafs would be paying Marner $13,678,940. But, that won’t happen.

Likely Scenario

Mitch Marner’s agent, Darren Ferris (same agent that represents Taylor Hall, Nolan Patrick and Shea Weber) said they will not negotiate a contract in season. This isn’t surprising since his client is putting up career numbers.

In addition, they likely want to see what Auston Matthews signs for. As they know that Marner will have to slot in somewhere under him. Marner will likely earn more than what his teammate, William Nylander signed for (6.9 million), but he’ll more than likely earn less than Matthews.

Current Salary Cap

The Toronto Maple Leafs are in a safe spot with their cap situation with just over $4.7 million in space free.

Next season, they have Jake Gardiner, Ron Hainsey, Martin Marincin, Par Lindholm and Micheal Hutchinson coming off of the books. All-in-all, assuming none of those players are re-signed that will free another $8.5 million (roughly). This now means that the Leafs have about $13.2 million in cap relief after their unrestricted free agents.

In addition, the Toronto Maple Leafs also have a few restricted free agents to sign in the off-season. The aforementioned Marner and Matthews as well as Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, Igor Ozhiganov and Garret Sparks. All of which would require a pay raise. Of that $13.2 million, the rest of the RFAs (excluding Matthews and Marner) would account for roughly $8 million of that (Kapanen at 4, Johnsson at 2, Ozhiganov and Sparks both at 1 million).

Where does the extra money come from?

The salary cap is going up from $79.5 million to $83 million next season as per Gary Bettman that allows for $3.5 million not already calculated.

Additionally, the Toronto Maple Leafs have a couple of contracts that are movable assets. If need be, the Maple Leafs could look to trade Connor Brown and/or Zach Hyman to free up some cap space.  Brown makes $2.1 million for 1 more year and Hyman makes $2.25 for 2 more. Both, Hyman and Brown are quality NHL players and do help the Toronto Maple Leafs win games even though neither contribute a whole lot offensively. The unfortunate reality is the Leafs have a lot of top end talent and when you pay the top end talent, it sometimes means that you to trade useful assets. 

Assuming that Brown and Hyman are dealt, Kyle Dubas, the general manager of Toronto Maple Leafs will have to continue to find players like Tyler Ennis on bargain deals who can fill the void left by Brown and Hyman.

Conclusion

If I had to guess, Marner will be asking for $10 million. He wont get $10 million, but I expect his average annual value to be close to $9 million.

If Marner signs for anything less than $8.5, Kyle Dubas deserves a raise.

Salary cap research – CapFriendly.com

Stats – Hockey-reference.com

featured image photo credit – Josh Tessler