TAKE THE BODY: LEAFS MANAGEMENT SHOULD PLAY NINTENDO
Tetris? Galaga? Dr. Mario? Double Dragon? Paperboy? No, Duck Hunt!
On Monday night, the Anaheim Ducks’ season came to an end. A hard-fought, borderline dirty series that unfortunately ended for them with their back-up goalie in net. It’s hard to win in the Conference Finals when your goalie lets in the first shot he faces in the game. Regardless of what it hit on the way in, that is the Johnny Berns’ routine that Maple Leaf fans know all to well.
The off-season officially begins today for the Ducks’ management team and with the upcoming expansion draft, it appears they have a lot of decisions to make on who to protect. It showed in the playoffs that they have some serious depth on the blueline, a rarity in the league, and a serious point of leverage should they choose to make some moves before Vegas has a field day. With the option to protect seven forwards and three defencemen, it’s going to be hard, if not impossible, for the Ducks to keep this group of defencemen together for next season. Young studs Brandon Montour and Shea Theodore are exempt because of their service time in the show, so it would not make any sense for the team to deal either of them. Hampus Lindholm will need to be protected and will be. This means they have only two more protection spots left, and Vatanen, Manson, Bieksa, and Fowler to protect.
Also worth noting is that the Leafs and Ducks have been linked to each other in the past, through transactions of players, management figures, and maybe more importantly, draft picks. To give you an idea, since 2010, the Leafs and Ducks have made 14 trades together. 14!!! That is insane. The Leafs once dealt a 1st-round and 2nd-round pick to move up in the 1st round and select Tyler Biggs. The Ducks used the picks and took Rickard Rakell and John Gibson. That one stings a bit.
Let’s not dwell on those past what-ifs, but instead take a look at some future what-ifs. How do these deals sound:
1. Sami Vatanen for JVR. May be a tough pill to swallow for both sides but it very well could happen. A pure hockey trade where both teams fill a need with comparable contracts. Vatanen is under control longer at a reasonable price that is less than Reilly. JVR is going to want a raise soon, and, unfortunately for him, so will Marner, Nylander and Matthews. I would make this deal.
2. Josh Manson for Nikita Soshnikov and a 2nd-round pick. Manson, who loves to ‘Take the Body’, is a much nastier player than Vatanen and the Leafs could use his size and style of play, especially if Roman Polak is going to take pucks through his face for another team next year. Manson is under control for the foreseeable future and his next contract will be around 3 million per season. Very affordable. Soshnikov has some game and plays with an edge. He is stuck in the numbers game, and possesses some value on the trade market. The 2nd-round pick is essentially the minimum price for a solid defenceman, and there is no chance that the Ducks deal Manson without getting an NHL ready body back. Again, I would make this trade.
3. Cam Fowler and Max Jones for JVR and Jeremy Bracco. Sure, there would probably need to be a couple more pieces on either side to make this work, but could be a conversation starter. Jones and Bracco are both signed prospects. Jones has an edge, he has good foot speed, and played in London. Don’t underestimate Mark Hunter relationships when thinking of the Leafs’ future. He is the captain of the ship when it comes to picks and prospects. Bracco has more potential for 60-plus point seasons, but he also is a lot like several other current Leafs prospects with his size and style of play. The only thing that scares me about Fowler is his next contract. He’s a UFA after this upcoming season, so an extension would be signed almost immediately after the deal. And assuming he would be asking for at least 6.5 million/ 7 million, will the Leafs give him that money with other young guys to sign? Hard to say, but fun to think about, isn’t it?
It was no secret that Babcock and Lou followed this series extremely close… so close that they denied a spot in an offered suite to sit amidst the crowd, closer to the action. The Leafs’ management team should grab their plastic gun, get as close to the television as possible, and fire away!
That about does it for the first installment of ‘Take the Body’. Follow me @ShaneSeney on Twitter for a healthy dose of sports chatter.
One last thing to mention anytime we are discussing the Toronto Maple Leafs and player transactions – In Lou We Trust.