Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Love in the Time of Trade-Season: Setting Expectations to Ease the Pain

"I think this trade deadline can only be a disappointment for me"

"You'll have to define success beforehand --  condition yourself to be happy with a given return."

The preceding was an excerpt from a conversation a friend and I had this morning.  He makes a good point.

When it comes to this trade deadline, it seems that all my favourite Leafs are the ones whose names are constantly being mentioned.  Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin, and Carl Gunnarsson would all find themselves solidly in my top-five favourite players on this team.  Luke Schenn is a guy that I've liked since he was a Kelowna Rocket.

If the scuttlebutt is to be believed, none of these players are safe.

Inspired by this conversation, and some of the commentary in PPP's From The Branches, I decided to do a little preparatory therapy for what seems like the inevitability that some of my favourite Leafs are unlikely to be Leafs much longer.

What return would be acceptable to me for the Leafs who are on the block?

Luke Schenn

"Wisdom comes to us when it can no longer do any good." There is no player in the Leafs' lineup where I feel this is more true than in the case of Luke Schenn.  Since being drafted 5th overall in 2008, Luke Schenn has both tantalized and frustrated Leaf fans.  At times, he looks like he may be developing into an elite shutdown defenseman and at other times he looks too slow (both physically and mentally).

Despite the frustration that many rightly feel toward Schenn's play of late, he still has the chance to develop into one of the league's better defensive defensemen.  Defense, in the NHL, is a position with a shallow learning curve.

Acceptable Return: I would be satisfied if Schenn landed a young top-six forward with the potential to grow into a first line player. IE) James van Riemsdyk, Chris Stewart

Clarke MacArthur

I know that the advanced stats love this guy; I just don't.  Do I think he's been poorly used on the Leafs this season? Yeah.  Do I think he could pull a Versteeg-in-Florida after he's dealt? Absolutely.  I just don't feel like MacArthur is a much better player than a Matt Frattin and I feel like his cap-hit would be better used elsewhere.

Acceptable Return:  A solid prospect. IE) Ryan Ellis  OR a second round pick and a secondary prospect IE) Philip McRae

Mikhail Grabovski

As things stand today, I would say Grabovski is my favourite Leaf.  My fear of the possibility of his being traded is what prompted this post.  He's the kind of player that every playoff team is seemingly looking to add and with the thin forward market, it seems like Grabo could likely fetch a good return.

Acceptable Return: It may be unrealistic, but I would be disappointed if Grabovski didn't fetch a similar package to the one Edmonton got last deadline for Dustin Penner. If the Leafs move Grabo for less than a first rounder and a reasonably solid prospect, I will probably do a lot of swearing.

Nikolai Kulemin

Nikolai Kulemin is another player that I really don't want the Leafs to move.  His production is down across the board this season after a stellar 2010-11 campaign and moving him now feels an awful lot like selling low.  Kulemin is an RFA at the end of the year, so he's controllable, and he's the type of player that can play down in your lineup if he's struggling offensively.

Acceptable Return: Given his modest production this season, there probably isn't a one-for-one package out there that would satisfy me.  The only way I would be comfortable moving the young Russian would be as part of a package for a top-line forward and I really don't know if that player is actually on the market this trade deadline.

Carl Gunnarsson

Gunnarsson has been a catalyst on the Leafs' backend this year.  It seems like whoever he's been paired with has raised the level of their game and I don't think that's a coincidence.  Gunnarsson has been incredibly reliable and has been called, "one of the most underrated defensemen in the league." He's solid in his own zone, and provides a little offense as well which makes him probably the Leafs' only defenseman that defies the traditional 'offensive defenseman' or 'defensive defenseman' monikers.

Acceptable Return: Like Kulemin, there probably isn't a one-for-one deal that would satisfy me.  If he were part of a package for a top-line player then I wouldn't be overly disappointed but barring that, I'd hate to see him go.

Cody Franson

After struggling to get into the lineup early in the season and earning Ron Wilson's ire for being frustrated about it, Franson has started to play some very solid hockey of late.  He's an offense first guy, to be sure, but he puts up some pretty respectable hit totals as well and has the large frame that a lot of teams look for in their d-men. 

Acceptable Return: As much as I think Franson has some pretty solid potential, I also recognize that the Leafs' defense is pretty crowded at the moment.  Given the choice between shipping Franson or Gunnarsson, I wouldn't hesitate to move Franson. If Franson moved for a second round pick, I wouldn't lose sleep over it.

Matthew Lombardi

Lombardi is a speedster and is widely considered to be a good defensive forward.  He carries with him a pretty hefty price tag however and with the Leafs' lack of cap flexibility heading into the offseason and Frattin looking NHL-ready, Lombardi might be a prime candidate for a salary dump.

Acceptable Return: You'd obviously like to get some kind of value for Lombardi but I honestly wouldn't care if someone just took his salary off our books for next season.  A fourth round pick would be great.

Nazem Kadri

Nobody seems to illicit such divergent opinions as Nazem Kadri.  My own opinion is that he's rarely been put in a position to succeed in Toronto and a change of scenery would likely do him a world of good.  I think he will likely be a productive top-six forward next season but it feels like a coin-flip as to whether that will take place in Toronto or elsewhere.

Acceptable Return: If you're moving a prospect like Kadri, he's going to be a part of a package to land an impact player.  There's no chance Burke would move him for an aging rental like Hemsky, but an opposing GM is never going to trade a van Riemsdyk-type for Kadri straight up.  Suffice to say, if Kadri goes anywhere, I'm pretty sure that I'll like the return as I'm confident Burke wouldn't undersell him.

Anywhere that you think I'm out to lunch?  Check us out at @bcphockeyblog and let us know where we went wrong.


Paul said...

Those are fair expectations. Good post.

Jordan said...

second round pick for Franson seems low to me. he's young, we dont know his full upside yet. Anything less than a first would be dissapointing to me.