Dec 31, 2013; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis at a press conference during practice the day before the Winter Classic hockey game against the Detroit Red Wings at Michigan Stadium. Phaneuf signed a 7-year contract extension with the Maple Leafs. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Dave Nonis Not Expecting Deadline Deal For Maple Leafs


NHL hockey is back and Leafs fans are excited to see if the team can maintain the strong play they had going into the break.

Working in the Maple Leafs favour is that most players had the Olympics off. The Leafs sent only three to the Sochi games, so most should be rested and relaxed which is good considering the Leafs have 22 games in 45 days.

But there are still a lot of questions about not just who and what this team is, but what will it look like just eight days from now?

Wednesday, March 5th is the trade deadline and the Leafs are left with a lot of questions.

Dave Bolland, Nikolai Kulemin, Mason Raymond and Jay McClement are all set to be UFA’s. That’s a significant portion of the lineup that could walk away for free.

To make matters worse, Nonis has a terrible record when it comes to letting talent walk for free. He bought out Mikhail Grabovski, who has 33 pts in 49 games, and let Clarke MacArthur walk for free to a rival. MacArthur has 42 pts in 58 games for the Senators.

MacArthur would be second in Leafs scoring. Grabovski would be fifth. That’s some pricey talent to lose for nothing.

So what are the other options? The Leafs won’t get better by signing the same players every year, moves have to be made.

Now Nonis told the Toronto Sun he doesn’t see that happening.

I don’t anticipate us making any major moves and I definitely don’t see us getting involved in a rent-a-player transcation that sees us move resources for someone we only have a handful of weeks.” – Dave Nonis

On the surface that’s not bad, as the Leafs should not be in the rent-a-player business. That being said, losing talent at season’s end for nothing is bad business, so the Leafs have to be looking at a deal.

The good news is that Nonis’ track record on trades is far superior to his track record on signings, which borders on dreadful. The bad news is his track record on trades isn’t very good either.

On deadline day last year, Nonis made only one move, giving up a fourth round pick in 2014 for Ryan O’Byrne. O’Byrne played eight games for the Leafs. You’d think a fourth rounder would be worth more.

Later that same year he traded Frattin and Scrivens to Los Angeles for Jonathan Bernier. Plenty have grumbled about just how good Bernier is, but he’s better than Scrivens (who couldn’t beat out James Reimer for playing time) and Frattin is a replaceable piece. To make the deal look ever so slightly worse though, he kept $500,000 in salary for a cap strapped Leafs team.

He then traded the 2012 second and fourth round picks and the 2014 fourth rounder for Dave Bolland, who is currently set to be a free agent. Of note Bolland’s career high in points is 47.

Follow that up with the blunder of trading Joe Colborne for nothing and losing the Leafs depth at centre. He only got a fourth for that.

After Bolland and Bozak went down with injuries, and with no Colborne to call on, Nonis traded what became a second round pick for Peter Holland. Now in defence of the deal Holland is a very useful player who may be a piece of the Leafs future, but it’s a deal that doesn’t need to get made if he keeps Colborne.

So with all that in mind, what does Nonis do?

Bolland is probably too expensive to keep. He also has never proved to be a great player and has a history of lengthy injuries. Rather than letting him walk for free (in which case you gave up three draft picks for 15 games of action, so far) why not trade him and try to recover some of those picks? The Leafs have Holland sitting in the minors, ready to fill that void.

Also on the block is Russian Olympian Nikolai Kulemin. Kulemin makes $2.8-million per season and will likely ask for similar money on his next contract. Trading him for picks or prospects may open up a spot on the wing but it may also be the right move in terms of landing another piece of the puzzle.

Thomas Vanek, Matt Moulson, Paul Stastny, Ryan Callahan and Milan Michalek are all set to be UFA’s. granted they won’t all make it there, but freeing up cap space to be able to make a move is how your team gets better.

Signing Vanek, Moulson, Callahan or Michalek would give you a second line with Lupul and Kadri as the other pegs.

Stastny is the only centre 30 or under of much worth to the Leafs and while it’s unlikely he’ll hit the market if he does he could be offered the role between Van Riemsdyk and Kessel, which would appeal to any centre.

Bozak could then be dropped to the second line with Kadri shifted to the wing.

It’s hard to justify being a seller at the deadline when the Maple Leafs are fifth in the conference and six points up on the other wildcard team, but does anyone believe the Leafs can make a real Stanley Cup run?

If they can’t then shouldn’t the goal be towards building a team that can? Trading an asset now to free up cap space, bolster their depth and give them the option of signing a free agent is a step in that direction.

That’s why the Leafs should make a trade, even though they probably won’t.

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