Sorting Through the Latest Toronto Maple Leafs Trade Rumours
Since the Toronto Maple Leafs replaced head coach Randy Carlyle on an interim basis with Peter Horachek, not a lot has changed in Toronto.
The team continues to play poorly as a combination of mental lapses and sub par effort highlight what has been a miserable stretch of play.
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Amidst their recent slump, the same old issues off the ice continue to plague the Leafs, as trade rumours and fights with the media have become the main talking point in Toronto. Front and centre of all the drama is star forward Phil Kessel, whose rumoured to be on the trade block.
The most recent team linked to Kessel? The Nashville Predators.
Last week, Sportsnet’s Luke Fox mentioned how Predators general manager David Poile was on TSN radio defending the 27-year-old winger. Since Poile had great influence in constructing the 2014 USA Olympic hockey team that Kessel thrived on, rumours linking Kessel to the Predators made sense theoretically. Fox goes on to further mention that Poile was interested in acquiring Kessel back in 2009 before he was traded to the Maple Leafs.
From there you can see how the rumours of Kessel to Nashville were ignited.
However, TSN’s Bob McKenzie shares a different sentiment on the Kessel to Nashville rumours, cautioning fans to not use Poile’s comments to mean that Kessel could be traded to the Predators. Instead McKenzie believes that the Leafs will evaluate their roster leading up to the trade deadline and are simply open to fielding offers for Kessel, not actively shopping him.
If the Leafs poor play continues and the right deal comes along for Kessel, it’s hard not to see the team accepting it. As much as it would pain Leafs’ fans to see Kessel go, a player of his calibre could help a playoff team immensely, while hauling in a modest return for the Leafs.
Jan 2, 2015; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf (3) in the first period against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. The Minnesota Wild win 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Another high-profile name on the trading block is captain Dion Phaneuf. While fans love to criticize the maligned Leafs’ captain on a regular basis, the harsh reality is that Phaneuf probably isn’t going anywhere. With Phaneuf set to make $7 to $8 million over the next five seasons, moving him is a tough task, especially when most teams view Phaneuf as a second pairing defencemen — not a first like his contract would dictate.
While many fans would like to see big moves made, high salary trades involving players like Kessel or Phaneuf rarely take place in-season. More likely trade candidates are pending UFAs like Cody Franson, Daniel Winnik and Mike Santorelli.
With minimal defensemen available this upcoming free agency period, Franson could be a hot commodity come trade deadline day. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman thinks that Franson could be the first Leaf dealt this season.
Dennis Bernstein of The Fourth Period shares a similar viewpoint to Friedman’s, saying that a team executive feels the Leafs are not a playoff team and it is important for them to get value on their pending UFAs.
According to hockey insider Pierre LeBrun, the Maple Leafs kicked the tires on embattled Los Angeles Kings centre Mike Richards. But with five years left on his 12-year, $69 million deal, which carries a cap hit of $5.75 million, moving Richards is easier said than done.
On the contrary, I’m sure many Leafs’ fan would swap Richards albatross of a contract for David Clarkson‘s in a heart beat. One egregious error for another essentially.
Aside from the rumours mentioned above, the usual laundry list of players are sure to circulate through the Maple Leafs rumour mill shortly, as the inevitable talk of a potential rebuild gains steam. With that being said, expect to see players like Joffrey Lupul, Tyler Bozak, Roman Polak, Stephane Robidas, Jake Gardiner, Nazem Kadri and James Reimer all in some sort of rumour leading up to the trade deadline.
With a cloud of uncertainty hanging over the 2015-16 salary cap, any player would appear to be fair game at this point, although the unknown financial ramifications do make things slightly more difficult.
On top of the unknown salary cap number, the Leafs collection of long-term, overpaid contracts makes them a difficult in-season trading partner. Plus, let’s face it, the declining Canadian dollar doesn’t help matters either.
So while Leafs nation would love to see a change take place immediately, financial factors like the unknown salary cap and declining dollar make many of the rumours above just that, rumours.