Toronto Maple Leafs: What is Brendan Shanahan’s Idea of a Rebuild?

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Apr 14, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Newly appointed Toronto Maple Leafs president and alternate governor Brendan Shanahan (left) talks with TSN broadcaster Rod Black (right) during a break in the action of a game between the Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks during the first half at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Maple Leafs: What is Brendan Shanahan‘s Idea of a Rebuild?

Feb 10, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs center

Daniel Winnik

(26) celebrates his tying goal in the third period with center

Mike Santorelli

(25) and defenseman

Cody Franson

(4) against the New York Rangers at Air Canada Centre. The Rangers beat the Maple Leafs 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

When the Toronto Maple Leafs traded Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli to the Nashville Predators many believed that it signalled that start of the rebuild for the Leafs.

It was reported by the Globe and Mail last week that the board members at Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment are willing to let President Brendan Shanahan take a broom and get rid of the players that do not fit in the long-term plans of the team and do a proper rebuild.

Brian Burke once stated in an interview with the Hockey News  back in 2010 that he was not interested in a full-out rebuild when he came to Toronto. He specifically said that, “I know it doesn’t have to be five years because it wasn’t in Anaheim”. When he was asked about the Phil Kessel trade he said that when the time comes people are going to know whether it was the right deal.

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Dave Nonis took over for Burke, he inherited the players that Burke brought in, he had a chance to make improvements or move out pieces of the core and reconstruct it, better known as a retool. Now it looks like the retooling route is gone because all these core players are signed to long-term contracts which makes adding to the core practically impossible.

This takes us to Shanahan’s idea of a rebuild and whether he is willing to do what Burke and Nonis were unwilling to do, which is rebuild the core players on this team from the top six forwards to the defence. The only way to do that is to try to break free of some these contracts that are hurting the team.

With Dion Phaneuf and Kessel being the Leafs biggest trade chips, those players will be easier to try to move either before or at the draft when teams have a better understanding of the salary cap and what players they will lose to free agency. The real challenge for Shanahan comes with players like Tyler Bozak, Nazem Kadri, Jonathan Bernier,  Jake Gardiner, and Joffrey Lupul.

Feb 7, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

(93) knocks the puck away from Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri (43) at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Edmonton 5-1. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Determining the right value for these players is going to be difficult, especially if the Leafs want to give Bernier and Kadri new contracts. When a team goes into a rebuild the things they have to avoid is giving out long-term contracts and not departing with assets that will improve the future of the team.

My issue with Kadri and Bernier is that they seem to overestimate their skill. Kadri may talk a good game but when he plays he does not always show that skill that he claims to have. Bernier feels that because he played well last season he deserves to be given more even though his performance has not given him much credibility. So if either player wants the Leafs to make a major commitment to them, they are going to have to earn it, which is what they have until the end of the season to do.